The Puritan as Yankee: A Life of Horace Bushnell

The Puritan as Yankee: A Life of Horace Bushnell

The Puritan as Yankee: A Life of Horace Bushnell

The Puritan as Yankee: A Life of Horace Bushnell

Excerpt

Undertaking a biographical study is always a risky endeavor. Students approach their long-dead central character with a bucketful of assumptions and presuppositions, but as with any person-toperson encounter, the subjects all too often have surprises of their own. They will not stand there and be sketched in the author’s own image. The immense reality of the subject forces students to jettison some of their most cherished presuppositions and begin to see the subjects in their own terms.

The following study of the pastor-theologian Horace Bushnell is the product of such an encounter. For students of American religious history Bushnell is (or has been) one of the most familiar of figures. He has usually been recognized as the father of American theological liberalism, the great champion of Christian education, and the paradigmatic figure of nineteenth-century American Protestantism. Indeed, he is often seen as parallel to another famous New England pastortheologian, Jonathan Edwards. According to the standard account, both typified and shaped their given centuries—Edwards the eighteenth and Bushnell the nineteenth. Edwards responded to the challenges of the Enlightenment and forged the “New England Theology,” a creative reinterpretation of traditional Calvinism. Bushnell, respond-

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