Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
Wilson_2024.pdf (1.28 MB)

Alexander Campbell's covenantal baptism and its Presbyterian debaters on the American frontier(s) in reformed focus

Download (1.28 MB)
posted on 2024-03-12, 16:47 authored by Craig Wilson

This thesis represents Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), one of Ulster’s most impactful Presbyterian immigrants to America, as an Ulster-Scot who contributed intellectually to America’s religious frontier by debating aspects of Scottish/Ulster-Scottish theology.

The thesis represents Campbell in debate over baptism, with other Ulster-Scots, namely Nathan Rice (1807-1877), John Walker (1784-1845), Samuel Ralston (1756-1851), William Maccalla (1788-1859) and Henry Cooke (1788-1868). It maintains that Campbell and his UIster-Scottish compatriots contributed intellectually to the American religious frontier. Importantly, the thesis maintains that there are two features of Campbell’s intellectual contribution. These features are his sacramental theology and his challenge to paedobaptists to develop a New Testament baptismal theology. The thesis contributes to current academic discussion by correcting a misrepresentation alleged by some historians that Ulster-Scots made no intellectual contribution to the American Frontier.

The thesis interacts with Campbell’s assertion that he restored New Testament baptism by representing it as a sacrament, not merely as a sign, that is a response of faith. This involved an amalgamation of a Catholic sacramentalism with Protestant Evangelicalism. Essentially, it is salvation by both decisional and baptismal regeneration. In part three, the thesis also interacts with Campbell’s five-point challenge to paedobaptists to construct a New Testament baptismal theology.

Part three is crucial for the thesis’s coherence because it demonstrates that Campbell’s intellectual contribution was scholarly by affirming not so much its veracity but its validity as a theological perception with which other perceptions can interact. Accordingly, part three of the thesis shows that Campbell’s ideas have currency, beyond his 19th century situation in life, into the 20th and 21st centuries through a wider discussion with Reformed theologians. Specific evidence of this currency is provided by references to two famous 20th century baptismal debates, together with the 21st century debate known as the Federal Vision.



Anglia Ruskin University

File version

  • Published version

Thesis name

  • PhD

Thesis type

  • Doctoral

Thesis submission date


Legacy Faculty/School/Department

Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

Usage metrics

    ARU Theses


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager