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Title: Early anti-Methodism as an aspect of theological controversy in England, c.1738-c.1770
Author: Lewis, Simon
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis provides the first large-scale reintegration of anti-Methodism into the wider theological controversies of the eighteenth century. It argues that there was a close connection - and in many cases, a direct link - between anti-Methodist writers and those involved in other theological controversies. Moreover, it shows that anti-Methodist polemics interacted with and were informed by contemporary debates on such issues as Deism, miracles, and the afterlife. This study also explores authors who used anti-Methodism as a forum to voice heterodox views. The fact that these heterodox ideas were often disagreeable to both evangelicals and High Churchmen is significant because it suggests that - on various points of theology - John Wesley and George Whitefield differed little from their ‘orthodox' Anglican opponents. By highlighting these theological similarities between evangelicals and High Churchmen, this thesis challenges the traditional stereotype that the eighteenth-century Church of England had become indifferent to theology. Chapter One introduces Wesley and Whitefield's key Anglican opponents, and discusses the print culture of early anti-Methodist literature. Chapter Two locates the soteriological disputes between Methodist and anti-Methodist divines as part of a long-standing debate on faith and works, which can be traced back to earlier clashes between Reformed and Arminian divines during the Restoration period. Chapter Three analyses Methodist teachings on self-denial, and considers the ways in which anti-Methodist clergymen reconciled their attacks on evangelical asceticism with their seemingly contradictory charges of antinomianism. Chapter Four explores how anti-Methodism was used as a platform to voice heterodox views on original sin and the afterlife. Chapters Five and Six provide a fundamental reappraisal of the relationship (and perceived relationship) between evangelicalism and irreligion by showing that anti-Methodism overlapped with anti-Deism and the eighteenth-century miracles debate. The final chapter shows that anti-Methodist authors often adopted a decidedly partisan approach to historical writing, which was modelled on seventeenth-century polemical historiography.
Supervisor: Young, Brian Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Church history ; Eighteenth-Century England ; Anti-Methodism ; Methodism ; Theological Controversy ; Church of England ; Heterodoxy