R.B.C. Howell and the theological foundation for Baptist participation in the benevolent empire
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This dissertation examines the theological writing and preaching of Robert Boyte Crawford Howell, Southern Baptist pastor, editor, author, and denominational leader in the mid-nineteenth century. It argues that Howell promoted Baptist denominational participation in what many historians call "the benevolent empire" by demonstrating in his soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology the consistent connection between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in God's mission to the world. The dissertation demonstrates that Howell responded to the challenges brought to the burgeoning missions and benevolent movement among Baptists, particularly from antimission Baptists, populist Arminian, the Restoration Movement, pedobaptists, and Landmarkers, by constructing a theological foundation for the church's mission built upon a carefully integrated view of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Chapter one outlines the rise of the missions and benevolent movement among American denominations in the nineteenth century, known by historians as "the benevolent empire," giving attention to the beginning of Baptist denominational work. The chapter further describes Howell's ministerial labors on behalf of missions and benevolence throughout his ministry and the desire he articulated to provide a solid theological foundation for the movement. The dissertation is organized according to systematic-theological categories in order to demonstrate the integration Howell endeavored to achieve in each doctrine in the midst of pressures from various opponents. Chapter two analyzes Howell's view of the divine decrees, providing analysis of his position on election and reprobation. Chapter three analyzes Howell's views on human depravity and the role of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of the soul and revival in the church. Chapter four analyzes Howell's view of Christ's work on the cross, focusing on the covenant of redemption, the nature and extent of the atonement, justification, faith, repentance, sanctification, and perseverance. Chapter five sets forth Howell's convictions about God's mission for the church, the polity that God had ordained for the accomplishment of that mission, and the proper perspective on cooperation with other believers for the sake of missions. Chapter six explains Howell's postmillennial convictions and the impetus his missions and benevolent work received from this doctrine. Chapter seven contains a summary, conclusion, and prospects for future research.