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Christianity: Liberal

study. The most important work of this kind is that

undertaken by Ammerman (1997) who studied 23
representative congregations across the USA and
surveyed almost 2,000 individuals. Her discovery was
that respondents fell into three categories: liberal or
Golden Rule Christians (51 percent), evangelicals
(29 percent), and social activists (19 percent). On the
basis of her research Ammerman challenges the
assumption that religious liberalism is a spent force,
and that liberal religiosity is a paler reection of
conservative Christianity. The Golden Rule Christianity she describes is characterized by an emphasis
on the primacy of good deeds motivated by love, care,
and compassion, and by a belief in the importance of
religious tolerance.
It may be that Ammerman has discovered a fth
variety of Christian liberalismone which might be
labelled relational, and whose signicance on the
ground in the second part of the twentieth century has
been largely overlooked.

4. Sociological Interpretations
At least three clusters of explanations have been
oered by sociologists of religion to account for the
rise of liberal Christianity in modern times. It has
been explained as (a) an accommodation or even a
capitulation to modernity (Peter Berger), (b) a natural
outgrowth of Protestantism and, in particular, of the
latters emphasis on personal subjective conviction
(Ernst Troeltsch), and (c) a means by which the clergy,
their social status undermined by modernity, have
attempted to protest and regain a social role (Jerey
Hadden). Woodhead and Heelas (2000) have also
drawn attention to liberal Christianitys compatibility
with modern socio-economic formations and wider
cultural trends such as the turn to the self.
Sociologists have also developed theories to account
for liberal Christianitys apparent decline. Kelley
explained this by drawing a contrast with conservative
religion. Where the latter was strict and challenging, the latter was the opposite. As such, he argued, it
was unable to generate or sustain commitment, consensus or strong community. Peter Berger oered a
more rigorous version of this explanation by arguing
that plausibility is a function of unanimity. The strong,
unied communities that characterize conservative
religion are better able to sustain plausibility than are
the more diuse and less disciplined communities of
liberalism. Meanwhile sociologists like Talcott
Parsons and David Martin have also argued that
liberalism is a victim of its own success: because its
beliefs and values are so close to those of the wider
culture it is no longer able to sustain a distinctive
identity nor to hold or attract adherents.
Much of this theoretical work depends on a contrast
drawn between liberal and conservative Christianity.
It is also important to note another boundary: that be1770

tween liberal Christianity and radical or alternative

forms of spirituality. For whilst the fate of liberal
Christianity is bound up with that of conservative
Christianity, it is also bound up with that of new forms
of religiosity like the New Age. In some ways the latter
seems to represent an intensication of key liberal
themes like individualism and freedom, but without
liberal Christianitys continuing commitment to some
form of institutional church. It remains to be seen
whether the apparent growth of such religiosity will in
the end have the eect of strengthening or of weakening liberalism.
See also: American Studies: Religion; Christian
Liturgy; Civil Religion; Feminist Theology; Liberalism; Liberalism: Historical Aspects; Protestantism
and Gender; Rationalism; Rationality in Society;
Reformation and Confessionalization; Religion and
Politics: United States; Religion: Evolution and
Development; Religion, Sociology of; Religiosity:

Ammerman N T 1997 Congregation and Community. Rutgers
University Press, New Brunswick, NJ
Hunter J D 1987 Eangelicalism. The Coming Generation.
University of Chicago Press, Chicago
Hutchison W R (ed.) 1968 American Protestant Thought in the
Liberal Era. University Press of America, Lanham, MD
Hutchison W R 1976 The Modernist Impulse in American
Protestantism. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
Kelley D M 1972 Why Conseratie Churches are Growing.
Harper & Row, New York
Michaelsen R S, Roof W C (eds.) 1986 Liberal Protestantism:
Realities and Possibilities. Pilgrim Press, New York
Miller D E 1981 The Case for Liberal Christianity, 1st edn.
Harper & Row, San Francisco
Reardon B M (ed.) 1968 Liberal Protestantism. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA
Roof W C 1978 Community and Commitment. Religious Plausibility in a Liberal Protestant Church. Elsevier, New York
Roof W C, McKinney W 1987 American Mainline Religion. Its
Changing Shape and Future. Rutgers University Press, New
Brunswick, NJ
Woodhead L J P, Heelas P L 2000 Religion in Modern Times.
Blackwell, Malden, MA

L. Woodhead

Christianity Origins: Primitive and

Western History
This article considers Christianity in the rst 300 years
of its existence, before it achieved a close alliance with
the Roman state. It pays particular attention to the
social forms of early Christianity and their relation to
wider society.

Christianity Origins: Primitie and Western History

1. The Jesus Moement

The movement that centered around Jesus of Nazareth
in his own lifetime seems an unlikely candidate for the
eventual transformation of Western society. It appears
to have been one of many such movements in early
rst century Palestine led by a charismatic Jewish
teacher appealing to a poor and mainly rural audience
(Theissen 1978). Jesuss message, which is only comprehensible within a framework of contemporary
Jewish beliefs and expectations, centered round the
proclamation of the imminent reign of God. From this
expectation arose the urgent and sovereign demands
to repent and believe in the gospel. All other concerns
were secondaryincluding on occasion those of
Jewish law and custom. Yet this message was presented as good news: what Jesus oered his followers
was the most intimate relationship with a God not of
wrath and judgment but of love and mercya father
who cares with loving tenderness for each one of his
children. This God places no barriers on relationship
with himall are welcomed into his kingdom irrespective of their moral, social, or religious status.

2. The Pauline Reolution

Whilst Jesus mission was primarily to the Jews, the
unrestricted address of his message gave it a universalist momentum which would make possible the later
spread of Christianity beyond Israel. As a universal
religion, Christianity provided an alternative to the
national or civic religions, both Roman and Jewish, of
the time. It appears to have been the apostle Paul,
whose letters are preserved in the New Testament,
who played the decisive role in drawing out these
universalist implications and giving theological justication to a mission to the gentiles.
A Jew as well as a Roman citizen, Paul was
converted by a vision of the risen Jesus. The faith
whose spokesman he subsequently became was centered on this risen, cosmic Christ rather than on the
historical Jesus of Nazareth. There were important
sociological implications in this shift. As Troeltsch
(1931) noted, Jesuss original message was individualistic in the sense that it was focused on intimate
relation between the individual and God. Whilst its
universalist and egalitarian message fostered a broad
sense of community between all those called to love
God and neighbor, it neither fostered new communities nor made any attempt to inuence wider society. It
remained a reforming faction within Judaism (Sanders
1985, Elliott 1995).
Pauls reinterpretation of Christianity altered these
dynamics of the early Jesus movement very signicantly. As Schweitzer (1931) argued, Paul developed a
Christ-mysticism in which the believer is incorporated through faith into the body of Christ. Though
this mysticism also has an individualist emphasis,

incorporation into the body of Christ is corporate

those who have faith are united not only with Christ
but with one another. This corporate Christ-mysticism
undergirded the development from the mid-rst century of a church (ekklesia), which took the form of
local communities linked together in a catholic
(universal) alliance by their common possession of the
Spirit of Christ.

3. The Emergence of Catholic Christianity

Until at least the second century these early
Christian communities were charismatic communities
(communities of the Spirit), in which social authority
was not institutionalized, but conferred by the Spirit.
There seems to have been no clear hierarchy of
authority, with dierent functions (such as apostle,
teacher, prophet, and miracle-worker) being regarded
as mutually constitutive of the body of Christ. In a
development that Troeltsch (1931) categorizes as the
emergence of catholic and sacramental Christianity,
however, the spirit gradually became institutionalized
in the sacraments, particularly those of baptism and
the eucharist. Here the presence of Spirit is, as it were,
guaranteed. The sacraments are material signs of the
freely given grace of God and the ecacious tokens of
The development of a sacramental Christianity
allowed for the development of stable and enduring
communities not based on the unpredictable outpourings of the spirit. It went hand in hand with the
emergence of a clergy whose authority was bound up
with their exclusive authorisation to handle and
distribute the sacraments. Their status was not based
on personal charisma, superior religious achievement,
or inheritance. Rather, they were the authorised
representatives of the wider Christian community.
Early documents defending a sacramental priesthood
reveal that this development was not uncontroversial.
On the one hand it made possible catholicity and
order. On the other it led to exclusions, most notably
the exclusion of women from positions of authority in
the church.
The development of catholic Christianity also involved the denition and maintenance of uniformity
in belief and liturgical practice. This achievement was
also a dicult and remarkable one given that early
Christianity was never as unied as that title implies.
Despite the idealized backward glance of a later era
(such as that of the fourth-century church historian,
Eusebius), Christianity came into being as a diverse set
of largely autonomous communities spread around
the Mediterranean basin and in Syria and Asia Minor.
Many were centered around a particular apostle and a
particular gospel (whether in oral or written form),
and developed distinctive forms of belief and practice.

Christianity Origins: Primitie and Western History

If we compare the four gospels contained in the New
Testament (probably the products of such communities), we get some idea of the range of beliefs they held
and of their very dierent understandings of Jesus.
In the face of this diversity, the establishment of an
authorised scriptural, creedal, and rhetorical tradition
was as important as that of a universal sacramental
priesthood (Cameron 1991). By the second century we
nd early representatives of catholic Christianity
listing the documents which should be treated by
Christians as authoritative, and which would eventually come to form the New Testament. These were
then bound up with the rst authoritative Christian
scripture, the Jewish Bible or Old Testament. The
formation of this scriptural canon went hand in hand
with the development of a canon of faith. Both were
later debated and dened by the councils and creeds
which would become such a distinctive feature of
Christianity. Together authorized scripture and doctrine came to dene the boundaries of orthodoxy.
Again, this process involved exclusions, including that
of a large number of gospels, lives, and acts of Jesus,
the apostles and saints which are now classied as
apocryphal, together with a large body of philosophicaltheological literature inuenced by Christian,
Jewish, Platonic, and Persian sources, which is often
classied together as gnostic.
Against the spiritualizing tendencies of the gnostics
(a tendency which took further the Pauline spiritualization of Christ), the emerging catholic church developed an emphasis which may be characterised as
materialist. The authority of the clergy, e.g., was said
to rest on an apostolic succession which consisted of
a historical and physical continuity established
through the laying on of hands by Christ and the
apostles down to the present generation. Likewise, the
church was the visible community of men and women
gathered together to receive these sacraments rather
than an invisible body of the elect, and the authorized
means of salvation were the visible and tangible
sacraments. In many cases too Christian hope continued to be focused on a physical resurrection, rather
than on the release of an immaterial soul from the
body. A more hostile attitude to the body and material
life would, however, become a feature of some of the
asceticism and monasticism that developed within
Christian circles from the end of the third century
Despite this materialist emphasis, however, early
Christianity was not involved in any direct attempt to
reform the society within which it found itself. Jesus
had directed his followers energies to the one thing
needfullove of God and neighborrather than to
social reform, and this emphasis continued in early
catholic Christianity. To the extent that Jesus commanded his followers to love all, including the Roman
soldier and the tax collector, it could even be argued
that the Jesus movement had a broader social reach
than the Pauline and post-Pauline communities whose

energies were focused on love of the brethren. Their

duty was to build up the body of Christ rather than to
change the worldthe latter being a category which
derived from this mentality.
The result, as Troeltsch (1931) argued, was that the
early Christian communities did not develop a social
teaching. The Christian response to social problems
such as poverty was to advocate individual acts of
charity rather than social reform. Ownership of
property was neither abolished nor condemned, but
possessions were to be used to help the Christian
community. Similarly, in relation to class and social
position, the early church initiated a revolution within
its own wallsslave and free, male, and female were
equal before Christ and in relation to salvation
which left wider patterns of social inequality (including
slavery and the position of women) virtually untouched. The state, even when persecuting Christians,
was regarded by most early Christians as the wielder of
a proper and God-given authority that should call
forth respect and obedience rather than attempts at

4. Alliance of Church and State

Despite its failure to develop a social teaching, it is
clear that early Christianity had a signicant impact
on its wider social context. It appears to have initiated
an inner revolution within the Roman Empire whose
eect was felt in a number of waysnot least through
the new educational and welfare opportunities it
oered, and through the model of an inclusive society
which it provided. Whilst it is impossible to reconstruct
the nature and extent of the growth of Christianity in
the rst three centuries of its existence, it is estimated
that by the beginning of the fourth century it may have
accounted for up to 10 percent of the population of the
Empire. Its success appears to have been due to its
ability to form a compact, even massive, constellation
of commitments (Brown 1997). Morality, philosophy,
and ritual, which formally had formed separate
spheres of activity in the pagan world, were brought
together by the church, and fused into a universal
It was these new characteristics and potencies which
eventually enabled Christianity to serve as a unifying
and legitimating force for an empire which had once
persecuted it. Constantine formalized the process
whereby church and state grew into alliance with one
another after AD 312, and church leaders rapidly
exploited the new opportunities that this opened. In
this way a decisive alteration in Christianitys relation
to the social order took place, one which would have
the most far-reaching consequences not only for the
evolution of the church, but for the social and political
ordering of Christianitys territories in the East as well
as in whatunder Christian inuencewould eventually become Western Europe.

Chronic Illness, Psychosocial Coping with

See also: Classical Archaeology; Historiography and
Historical Thought: Christian Tradition; Historiography and Historical Thought: Islamic Tradition;
Judaism; Near Middle East\North African Studies:

logical outcomes, particularly in the area of coping

with pain, the enthusiasm for the empirical study of
coping in general has dampened signicantly over the
course of the past several years. Indeed, recent reviews
of coping research have harshly criticized the literature, particularly assessment methodologies (see
Coyne and Racioppo 2000). Thus, much of the initial
promise for coping research to enhance clinical practice has not been realized.

Brown P 1997 The Rise of Western Christendom. Triumph and
Diersity AD 2001000. Blackwell, Malden, MA and Oxford,
Cameron A 1991 Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire. The
Deelopment of Christian Discourse. Berkeley, CA, Los
Angeles, Oxford, UK
Elliott J H 1995 The Jewish Messianic movement: from faction
to sect. In: Esler P F (ed.) Modelling Early Christianity: SocialScientic Studies of the New Testament in its Context.
Routledge, London and New York
Hazlett I 1991 ed. Early Christianity. Origins and Eolution to
AD 600. SPCK, London
Meeks W A 1983 The First Urban Christians: The Social World
of the Apostle Paul. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT
Sanders E P 1985 Jesus and Judaism. Fortress Press, Philadelphia
Schweitzer A 1931 The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle. A & C
Black, London
Theissen G 1978 Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity.
1st American edn. Fortress Press, Philadelphia
Troeltsch E 1931 The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches
(trans. Wyon O). George Allen and Unwin, London,
MacMillan, New York, Vol. 1

L. Woodhead
Copyright # 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.
All rights reserved.

Chronic Illness, Psychosocial Coping with

1. Background
Improvements in health care technologies and treatments have resulted in increased life expectancies and
improved disease management for individuals with
chronic illnesses. To a great degree, quality of life for
many individuals with these illnesses may be determined by the ways they deal with the illness. Thus,
identifying eective and ineective ways of coping
with these diseases may lead to the development of
more ecacious interventions for these individuals.
Since 1980 there has been a substantial amount of
research devoted to understanding the relation between coping with chronic illnesses and psychological
adaptation. Although there have been some consistent
ndings regarding coping and its impact on psycho-

2. Historical Perspectie and Current Concepts of

The psychological study of coping dates back to
Sigmund Freud (1896\1966), who put forth the concept of defense mechanisms, dened as mental operations that kept painful thoughts and feelings out of
awareness. The next major shift in the study of coping
was brought about as a result of cognitive theories.
The focus on intrapsychic processes that intervene
between events and responses to events increased with
the introduction of other cognitive theories such as
Beck (1976). According to cognitive theories, cognitive
coping mediated between stressful events and psychological and physical responses to stressful events. It
was hypothesized that, by examining individual coping
dierences, a greater understanding of why people
react dierently to the same events would be achieved.
Research on stress and coping exploded with the
work of Lazarus and Folkman (1984), who put forth
the transactional stress and coping paradigm. According to Lazarus, coping refers to cognitive and
behavioral eorts to manage disruptive events that tax
the persons ability to adjust (Lazarus 1981, p. 2).
Chronic illness can pose a number of life stressors
including loss of physical and social functioning,
alterations in body image, managing dicult and
complex medical regimens, and chronic pain. According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984) coping
responses are a dynamic series of transactions between
the individual and the environment, the purpose of
which is to regulate internal states and\or alter personenvironment relations. The theory postulates that
stressful emotions and coping are due to cognitions
associated with the way a person appraises or perceives
his or her relationship with the environment. There are
several components of the coping process. First,
appraisals of the harm or loss posed by the stressor
(Lazarus 1981) are thought to be important determinants of coping. Second, appraisal of the degree of
controllability of the stressor is a determinant of
coping strategies selected. A third component is the
persons evaluation of the outcome of their coping
eorts and their expectations for future success in
coping with the stressor. These evaluative judgements
will lead to changes in the types of coping employed, as

International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences

ISBN: 0-08-043076-7