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“How the West was Won”: Christian Expansion Before and After the Protestant Reformation

By Kevin Burrell


It is certainly more than a truism to say that Protestant Reformation theology has impacted Christian faith and practice in a myriad of ways, including giving rise to a vibrant Protestant missiology. Yet, what remains relatively unexplored in the context of the Reformation and Christian mission is the impact of Reformation political theology on empire-building; specifically, the connection between Protestant mission and the extension of European political hegemony over distant lands, which began in the early modern period. This study attempts to show first that the Reformation reframing of the relationship between church and state failed to challenge the “theology of empire” inherent in Roman Catholicism, and second, that Protestant imperial expansion was equally buttressed by a religious ideology which assumed an equivalence between colonization and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In the case of Christian expansion into the Americas both before and after the Reformation, the results were disastrous for indigenous peoples and their cultures. This assessment calls for a rethinking of Christianity’s historical relationship to empire, its modes of propagation in the modern period, and the nature of its mission in the twenty-first century

Topics: Protestant Reformation, imperialism, mission, Roman Empire, Protestantism, Luther, missionary, American Indian, indigenous, natives
Publisher: Digital Commons @ Andrews University
Year: 2018
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Provided by: Andrews University
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