"Through the eye of a needle": The Role of Pietistic and Mystical Thought among the Anglican Elite in the Eighteenth Century Lowcountry South
Institution Granting Degree
University of South Carolina
Pietistic, Mystical, Thought, Anglican, Elite, Eighteenth century, Low-country South, Colonial, Revolutionary
Arts and Humanities | Christianity | Cultural History | History | History of Christianity | History of Religion | History of Religions of Western Origin | Intellectual History | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Social History | United States History
This dissertation examines the transmission and eventual manifestation of Christian pietistic and mystical thought into the Colonial and Revolutionary lowcountry South. The facilitators of this transmission include the Continental Pietists, who were themselves heavily influenced by the mystics, and British Evangelicals such as John Wesley and George Whitefield, who, even in their public denials of mysticism, nevertheless demonstrated its strong influence in their ministries. Mystical and pietistic expressions impacted the religious, social, and political life of the lowcountry more than has been previously recognized. Evangelical Pietism's mid-eighteenth century infusion prompted some to correctly recognize its subjective (i.e. inwardly focused and feelings oriented) roots in medieval Catholic mysticism. Such association led them to wrongly conclude, however, that Evangelicals were secret emissaries of Rome sent to disrupt social and religious stability in the region. "Enthusiastic" religion did not play the disruptive role that many feared it would. Granted, misguided notions led to early concerns in the lowcountry, but in the end, Evangelical Pietism's transcendent and flexible qualities contributed to the formation of political and social consensus, provided a new means to obtain significance in the larger British world, helped transform the image of slavery into a uniquely Christian institution, and supplied impulse for unified action during the Revolutionary Era.
Smith, Samuel C., ""Through the eye of a needle": The Role of Pietistic and Mystical Thought among the Anglican Elite in the Eighteenth Century Lowcountry South" (1999). Faculty Dissertations. 53.
Christianity Commons, Cultural History Commons, History of Christianity Commons, History of Religion Commons, History of Religions of Western Origin Commons, Intellectual History Commons, Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion Commons, Social History Commons, United States History Commons
Dr. Smith has since written a book that developed out of the material he studied for his dissertation.
The book, A Cautious Enthusiasm: Mystical Piety and Evangelicalism in Colonial South Carolina (2013), is published by the University of South Carolina Press.
"A carefully considered exploration... Smith contributes a valuable new dimension to the history of the Awakening."—Dr. Kevin Lewis, University of South Carolina School of Religion
"Samuel C. Smith's discovery of pietism and evangelicalism in colonial South Carolina joins the late Rhys Isaac's path breaking work on Baptists and Methodist in Virginia and Daniel Thorp's on North Carolina Moravians in demonstrating the social efficacy of primitive Christianity in the colonial South.... With curiosity and insight, the author probes the psyches, consciences, and devotional disciplines of all sorts of people."—Robert M. Calhoon, author of Political Moderation in America's First Two Centuries (Cambridge University Press, 2009).