- Hardcover: 228 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 7, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521864046
- ISBN-13: 978-0521864046
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,163,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History, 1670-1789
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"In his path-breaking book Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History, 1670-1789, Ward offers a bold new geneolopgy of evangelicalism that transforms our understanding of its intellectual roots...it is one of the most ambitious books about evangelicalism ever written."
Catherine A. Brekus, Books and Culture
"Ward's comand of primary sources is impressive...the scholarship is admirable...Early Evangelicalism is a valuable resource."
Religious Studies Review
"This fascinating volume ... 'pioneering study'."
The Historical Journal
Evangelicalism contributed to the great transformation of ideas in the modern world. In this 2006 investigation, through a global study of the major figures and movements in the early evangelical world, Professor Ward traces the discussions from Central Europe to the American colonies about the nature of evangelical identity.
Top customer reviews
Marketing and history have two characteristics in common. One is the ability to represent an old problem in a new way. And secondly, regardless of how much history passes the solutions are always the same. In Reginald Ward's, Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History, 1670-1789 he investigates the thoughts of early evangelicals to bring about a rigorous structure of new thoughts in all areas that affect not just theology but the entire scope of intellectualism. The problem is not necessarily a new one, but one that has always occurred throughout the centuries, and from history one learns how to avoid its mistakes. Also known as W.R. Ward, he served as Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the University of Durham. He attempts to prove in his thesis that across the discussions in evangelical thought occurring in Central Europe and the American colonies to show the rise of early stages of where evangelicalism started. In essence this is in many ways a genesis story of evangelicalism and how it started. In addition to this, he even seeks to show how the early evangelicals contributed to the intellectual history of their days. Even though the evangelical movement did not initially begin as an intellectual one primarily, it did however, constitute to significant changes that influenced the culture. This book is unique in focusing mainly on the apex of evangelical thought leaving minor narratives, nonetheless interesting, for other books. Examples like leaving out the split between Spener and Jonathan Edwards, and ignoring the developments in Scotland, Ireland, and Hungary. Consequently, one must keep in mind that W.R. Ward has a narrow focus contrary to the general, implied understanding of a global intellectual history since he only focus on Europe and the Americas. This book is one of the first in its kind, and a pioneer attempt to trace early evangelical thought. As a result, it is cumbersome to read, and difficult to find clarity. Due to the great depth of knowledge at the disposal of W.R. Ward's mind he frequently references obscure works, and subjects. Nonetheless, the contribution to this specific field of study will make this book invaluable to future study, for anyone seeking to further their understanding in this subject.
Beginning in chapter one W.R. Ward provides the "thought-world" as he calls it, of the different beliefs and occults held during the rise of evangelicalism. Each of which all of the evangelicals had crossings with in their theology, that inevitably influenced them in some meaningful way, thus a thorough understanding of each one will follow accordingly. The first was a strong attitude of anti-Aristoteliansism. That is to have a view against the dogmas of Aristotle, which as Ward shows has the power to move the mind, the understanding (13). The Evangelicals thought this was hostile to their movement because it did not have the ability to move the heart. This is along the doctrinal convictions of the Moravians, but more specifically mystical theology. God, after all was a God to be experienced not studied by and through scholasticism. As it will be shown later this had a serious impact on Zinzendorf and John Wesley, including others as well. Another strong influence in the atmosphere of the evangelicals was Radical Mysticism. This view went as far to say that the only way to come to knowledge of saving faith was through divine illumination, self-contemplation and self-surrender. A view consistently held among many mystics especially Ana Magdalena Francke, the wife of August Hermann Francke, which sadly lead to a deteriation amongst the family (46).
Another thought, or rather theology that was emphasized among early evangelical thought was ones doctrine of eschatology, the apocalypse. Depending on ones view towards the end times it had a serious affect on their evangelicalism. Many of the evangelicals were against the view of postmillennialism, the view that Christ's reign over the earth from heaven would progressively get better until the fullness of Christ is revealed. The view argues that there is no literal one thousand years, in represents symbolic language to mean a long time. So as one can see that if one's theology is oriented this way, evangelicalism, and seeking after holiness, and righteousness are not serious concerns because as history progresses the Lord will make himself more fully known in time. In contrast, premillennialism states that Christ will come back immediately and redeem his people before the establishment of the millennial kingdom. The final two determining ideas that affected evangelicalism were ones position on the theosophy, and cabbalism. These two views do not present themselves as frequently as the others, but both are occults founded on mysticism.
An evangelical first of all is one who is devoted to biblical truth. They are committed to praying, fasting, preaching, evangelism, and orienting their entire lives around the Bible. Johann Arndt was the first evangelical that established the metaphorical ceiling of what an evangelical should be characterized by. His main work Books of True Christianity had a wide influence among evangelicals during the 17th and 18th century. Arndt was of primary importance because of his "resolute turning away from doctrinal polemic towards improvement in life (8)." Arndt stated in his book "God himself is the essential life and the life of all living things. Man's life is nobler than that of any creature; the angels life is nobler, Christ's life is the noblest (10)." This was to set the standard for the rest of evangelical thought and practices. Frankfurt also formulated a society for devotional discussions, and intense fellowship.
Spener on the other hand, encouraged catechizing, "he claimed to have learned from experience that the inner man was more often reached by catechizing than by the most challenging sermons (32-33)." He was against the idea of a lazy Christian and desperately sought to abolish ignorance among Christian circles. He even tried to establish Sundays as a day fully devoted to the reading of devotional literature or to sermon discussion, as a way to also keep people from the bars, drinking and playing cards. The study met in his office where those who came had an intense fellowship around the word. The Bible was read to those who were not able to read it, but the main push for Spener was to "dissuade lay people from the delusion that simple attendance on the preaching and sacraments of the church was what was required of them (31)." All Christians in Spener's mind had to be active participants in the church. He did not entirely reject the personal, mystical side of faith either. The reason why the Church was dead in Speners mind was due to dead theological propositions and a lack of "personal trust, which led indeed to knowledge through divine illumination (33)."
During this time, due to the rise of spiritual vitality, pietism began to grow out of Germany. Within the circles of the rational orthodox, they sought to "foster a return to the biblical text unencumbered by the controversial language of Reformed scholasticism and to promote a practical form of theology acceptable in the parishes (72)." This especially encouraged the vitality of Calvin's work. In the Swiss reformed groups they developed devotional groups of prayer, where they would study the Bible, and read spiritual literature in addition to singing together. They wrote hymns and valuable works for the mission fields, including some English literature. This was a way in which the Swiss Pietists tried to fight back against the ideas of the enlightenment. Some revivalist like Hieronymus Annoni (1697-1770) used theosophy to counteract the affects of the enlightenment.
Another significant contributor to Early Evangelicalism was John Wesley. W.R. Ward shows that John Wesley had established a society where literature was read, as well as briefly mentioning John Wesley's emphasis on teaching the doctrine of Christian perfectionism (132). That is the doctrine concerning Christians achieving the highest possible purity. John Wesley had a lot of interaction with the mystic theologians and for a part of his life was desperately seeking that experiential side of faith. Which is what lead him to the Moravians. Similar to Zinzendorf a faith that lacked experience and only an intellectual ascent was no saving faith. However, even Wesley knew that, "professional mysticism was a product of the leisure industry, and that a post conversion diet of endless `dark nights of the soul' did not one any good (131)." Jonathan Edwards also rejected the mystical experience because it was above all, "an experience of radical passivity (143)," and thus as Wesley saw it a religion that encouraged lazy Christians who were indifferent to the truth. Overall, each of the evangelicals encouraged rigorous devotion to the study, which lead to the rise of spiritual vitality.
A final analysis and criticism follows accordingly. The book has a few strengths. The first is that W.R. Ward does a through job in providing evidences for his main thesis. He provides numerous examples to how evangelicalism started, and how it contributed to the overall thought world during this time. The second strength in this book is that as a writer he does restrain himself to the framework that Ward established in the beginning of Chapter one. Ward successfully integrated and showed how at-least one if not all six of the thoughts occurring during the evangelical lives, impacted them in their overall theology. These include those that have already been mentioned, cabbalism, mysticism, the view on end times, and theosophy. The third and final strength of this text is that it does deal with what Ward had intended to accomplish. He dealt primarily with the higher tear of thoughts occurring in evangelism and, despite how difficult it may have been; stayed within the boundaries he set and produced an academic masterpiece.
The audience largely determines the significance of this book for Christianity that Ward was primarily targeting. That is to say the wideness, and popularity of this book is not going to be as popular as some other books simply because his main audience is too small. His audience is mainly those who are seriously interested in the studies of this specific period in time, and the genesis of early evangelism. Those who will most likely be reading this text will be PhD. students or students who specialize in this one subject. Thus, this book will not be helpful to the average church member, or even the curious.
This book is highly specialized and difficult to read. Personally, the book was not compelling because of Ward's lack of clarity. He uses specialized jargon that makes it very cumbersome to read, and trivial. This book is by no means a foundational book, but requires one who is extremely familiar with this specific time period and the thoughts occurring during this time. Those who have studied this subject in great depths would enjoy this book, but certainly for the average reader this is not a good book. Ward has an extensive knowledge of this time period and frequently he references obscure passages, names, authors, and beliefs. Including subjects on alchemy and magnetisms. He never explains why this is important to early evangelicalism and assumes too much out of the reader. Furthermore, he fails to define key terms, and exactly what he means by evangelism, such as what limits does he define it, how wide is Ward willing to extend to it and many other words that had the same effect. He also does not deal with a global history of evangelism but specifically the Americas and Europe. As a pioneer in this subject, Ward has produced an exceptional work that will be valued by many academics seeking to learn more about this subject. If any one were to continue their knowledge and career on this field of study, Ward's book will be appreciated for its details and significant connections across evangelism during the 18th century.