The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible

Mercer University Press
Free sample

This book examines how biblical interpretation promoted both violent persecution and religious liberty in colonial America. Frequently, the Bible was a violent force in Puritan New England, where ministers and magistrates used biblical passages to justify the punishment of many religious radicals. Encouraged by the Bible, Puritans whipped and imprisoned Baptists, banished a variety of radicals from the Puritan colonies, and even sent Quakers to the gallows. Among those banished was Roger Williams, the advocate of religious liberty who also founded the colony of Rhode Island and established the first Baptist church in America. Williams opposed the Puritans' use of the Bible to persecute radicals who rejected the state's established religion. In retaliation against the use of scripture for violent purposes, Williams argued that religious liberty was a biblical concept that offered the only means of eliminating the religious wars and persecutions that plagued the seventeenth century. Empowered by his interpretation of scripture, Williams posed a serious challenge to a colonial society in which the Bible was the paramount guide in every aspect of life, both public and private.

As Byrd reveals, Williams's biblical case for religious liberty was multifaceted. He drew from a wide range of scriptural texts and wrestled with a variety of interpreters. By focusing on Williams's biblical opposition to religious persecution, this book demonstrates the importance of the Bible to violence, religious liberty, and the relationship between church and state in early American history. Included is a reference guide to Williams's biblical interpretation which features the only biblical indices to hispublished works, accompanied by rankings of his biblical citations in various categories, including his most cited biblical passages throughout his career.

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About the author

James P. Byrd, Jr. teaches American religious history at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. His research focuses on theology and biblical interpretation in American history, and especially the history of Baptists in North America.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Mercer University Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 2002
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Pages
286
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ISBN
9780865547711
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Religious
Religion / Christian Theology / General
Religion / Christianity / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Winner of an Award of Merit in the Christianity Today Book Awards, History/Biography category On January 17, 1776, one week after Thomas Paine published his incendiary pamphlet Common Sense, Connecticut minister Samuel Sherwood preached an equally patriotic sermon. "God Almighty, with all the powers of heaven, are on our side," Sherwood said, voicing a sacred justification for war that Americans would invoke repeatedly throughout the struggle for independence. In Sacred Scripture, Sacred War, James Byrd offers the first comprehensive analysis of how American revolutionaries defended their patriotic convictions through scripture. Byrd shows that the Bible was a key text of the American Revolution. Indeed, many colonists saw the Bible as primarily a book about war. They viewed God as not merely sanctioning violence but actively participating in combat, playing a decisive role on the battlefield. When war came, preachers and patriots alike turned to scripture not only for solace but for exhortations to fight. Such scripture helped amateur soldiers overcome their natural aversion to killing, conferred on those who died for the Revolution the halo of martyrdom, and gave Americans a sense of the divine providence of their cause. Many histories of the Revolution have noted the connection between religion and war, but Sacred Scripture, Sacred War is the first to provide a detailed analysis of specific biblical texts and how they were used, especially in making the patriotic case for war. Combing through more than 500 wartime sources, which include more than 17,000 biblical citations, Byrd shows precisely how the Bible shaped American war, and how war in turn shaped Americans' view of the Bible. Brilliantly researched and cogently argued, Sacred Scripture, Sacred War sheds new light on the American Revolution.
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A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

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From the Hardcover edition.
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