Issues And Answers

Religious Issues in American History, edited by Edwin Scott Gaustad (Harper & Row, 1968, 294 pp., $3.50) is reviewed by Robert G. Torbet, executive director, Division of Cooperative Christianity, American Baptist Convention, Valley Forge, Pa.

This volume in the Harper “Forum Books” series is intended to provide a new generation of students with source materials that confront them with the religious roots of American culture and with the relation between beliefs and various areas of life. Dr. Martin E. Marty, of the University of Chicago Divinity School, is general editor of the series, and Edwin Scott Gaustad of the Department of History at the University of California, Riverside, edited this volume. Gaustad’s selection of source materials and his introductory essays to each show the care and judgment of a competent historian and literary analyst. He also brings the insights of a Christian.

In eighteen sets of paired selections, the story of religious conflict in American life is highlighted with sensitivity and historical insight. Gaustad probes into and illustrates the issues that lie behind the clashes and confrontations in America’s religious history. From the traditional review of denominational triumphs and rivalries the reader is led to examine the nature of American religion—its pluralism, its acculturation, its struggle to survive.

Many of the issues have not been fully resolved and continue to demand attention: Was William Penn right in seeking diversity within unity? Or was Thomas Barton correct in warning that religious toleration only breeds “a swarm of sectaries” that threaten an orderly society? In a time of renewal of the church, as the Great Awakening certainly was, Gilbert Tennent’s stress ...

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