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The nature of spiritual experience.

Ryrie, Alec (2016) 'The nature of spiritual experience.', in The Oxford handbook of the Protestant Reformations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 47-63. Oxford handbooks in history.


This article surveys the question of how early Protestantism was experienced by its practitioners, using the perspective of the history of emotions. It argues that justification by faith derived its power from its emotional impact, and that the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, too, could be emotionally attractive and absorbing as well as, to some, repellent. It considers how Protestant spiritual experience varied during the life course from childhood to old age. It argues that doctrinal controversies, notably those over the Eucharist, were decisively shaped by emotional and experiential factors. It argues that the Protestant encounter with the Bible was itself experiential, based on what Calvin called the “feeling” that the Bible’s authority is self-authenticating. It concludes by suggesting that historians need to attend to devotion in the daily lives of ordinary believers as well as to polemics and controversies.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Publisher statement:This is a draft of a chapter that was accepted for publication by Oxford University Press in the book 'The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations' edited by Ulinka Rublack and published in 2016.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:04 May 2017
Date of first online publication:02 June 2016
Date first made open access:No date available

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