Wednesday, 29 February 2012

New Review of Enlightened Evangelicalism

There is a new review of Enlightened Evangelicalism, written by Andrew Atherstone and published in the Journal of Theological Studies. I only recently learned of the review when I coincidentally contacted Dr. Atherstone a few weeks ago to introduce myself and ask if he would look over the introduction and excerpt of the Anglican divine Charles Simeon that I had written for my forthcoming evangelical reader.

Below are some of the highlights of the review:

"Yeager’s major argument is that Erskine was a consistent proponent of ‘the reasonableness of Christianity’ or ‘enlightened orthodoxy’ (pp. 20–1)... This portrait of Erskine is significant as shedding new light on the relationship between evangelicalism and the Enlightenment, which are often assumed to be antithetical movements. The eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment is most commonly associated with the scepticism of David Hume, but Yeager presents Erskine as a prominent counter-example...

Yeager argues that Erskine’s greatest significance was not in fact as a preacher and theologian in his own right, but as a disseminator of evangelical literature. In particular he nurtured transatlantic friendships. He was a close ally of Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts and became Edwards’s champion and editor after the New Englander’s unexpected death in 1758...

Erskine was a bibliophile and adviser to the book trade, convinced that the best way to propagate and defend evangelicalism was the circulation of inexpensive texts from able theologians. Many American ministers received regular gifts of books from Edinburgh, as did the colony’s new Puritan colleges like Harvard and Yale. Erskine was Scotland’s most prominent American sympathizer, which brought accusations of treason and sedition during the American Revolution, but he saw evangelicalism’s
potential as a global movement...

Erskine’s significance for the development of evangelical theology is not in doubt and this monograph is a valuable contribution to our understanding of wider eighteenth-century religious thought.”

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