Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Shapers of English Calvinism, 1660-174: Variety, Persistence, and Transformation

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Shapers of English Calvinism, 1660-174: Variety, Persistence, and Transformation

Article excerpt

Shapers of English Calvinism, 1660-1714: Variety, Persistence, and Transformation. By Dewey D. Wallace Jr. Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, Pp. x, 358. $74.00.)

The thesis of this thoroughly documented study is that the theologians it studies "shaped and reshaped Calvinism, showing in the process its variety, persistence, and transformation" (4)- variety among themselves and as foils to stereotypes of Puritans in Restoration England; persistence in their adherence to Reformed doctrines; and transformation of their Calvinist identity as they deployed those doctrines to respond to challenges. Wallace maintains that Calvinism exhibited continuing vitality despite limited religious tolerance for dissenters, advances in natural science, growing awareness of other (Western) religions, and unbelief, hypostasized as the unholy trinity of Socinianism, deism, and atheism. In doing so, he seeks to correct the consensus view that these trends diminished English Calvinism after the Restoration.

Following an illuminating introductory chapter which sets the writers in their political, social, intellectual, and religious context are five chapters devoted to seven lesser-known writers of the second rank: Peter Sterry, a mystical Calvinist; Theophilus Gale, a Calvinist exponent of the "ancient theology" of Greco-Roman antiquity and the Hermetic literature; Joseph Alleine, whose circle reconstructed him after his early death as an evangelical Calvinist saint; Richard Baxter, William Bates, and John Howe, Calvinist natural theologians and apologists; and John Edwards, a Church of England Calvinist. Of these, "evangelical Calvinist" is familiar and needs no explanation. Edwards hearkened back to sixteenthcentury English reformers when he appealed to patristic authority, dismissed as specious his contemporaries' efforts to read the Articles of Religion as other than Reformed, and cited Calvin's own writings (223-26, 232, 237). Sterry found in the doctrine of the mystical union grounds for experiential mysticism (75); Gale found in the limitations of ancient theology the need for special revelation (109). …

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