JoBloggs (h/t Faith and Theology) has been reading some unpublished letters of the early Methodists and quotes a very moving piece to Charles Wesley from his wife, informing him of the death of their child
It’s a deeply moving letter. And I am struck that at the most intimate level of this eighteenth-century woman’s grief over her dead son, theological debates mattered. So much English history is written as though theology had meaning only for the elites, while ‘popular’ religion was a matter of superstition and learned ritual. The letters I’m reading suggest that quite complicated theological debates were a matter of genuine and practical concern for the working classes. Where theology dealt with life and death (including who would be saved and how) people took notice.
I’m sure Jo is right: previous generations of Christians were (I think) much better informed about theology than we are today. But then, as Neil Postman has demonstrated, western culture has exchanged an engagement with ideas for an obsession with image, to the impoverishment of us all.