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William Ellery Channing: An Essay on the Liberal Spirit in America Hardcover – April 6, 1981

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Andrew Delbanco is Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. Among his many publications are The Puritan Ordeal and The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope (both from Harvard).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1st edition (April 6, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674953355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674953352
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,118,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Joseph M. Hennessey on November 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
William Ellery Channing: An Essay on the Liberal Spirit in America is not and does not pretend to be a full-scale biography of Channing; the book has only 179 pages of text. Channing was the pre-eminent Congregationalist-turned-Unitarian minister in Boston in the first half of the 19th century, and while he became more radical politically (abolitionist), he never joined those Congregationalists turned Unitarian who became Transcendentalist agnostics like RW Emerson.

At age 18, Channing wrote to a friend that "I am most cheerful when i am most religious," which is how it ought to be, for Christians who believe in the Resurrection. Unfortunately, on p. 97, we learn that Channing thought that it was an 'either/or proposition' between faith/mystery and reason in religion, while there is no reason it cannot be both/and. On p. 102, Channing shows how he connects backwards in history to Jonathan Edwards, and forward to Emerson, in their emphasis on the individual's relationship with God. But isn't Christianity an essentially social faith, both/and with the individual, that 'faith comes through hearing,' and the first evangelizing voice is our mom or dad, who bring us to church to be baptized into the faith community?

On p. 109, Delbanco quotes a writer that the dominant emotion of the liberal clergy was "a terror of living burial." On p. 126, Delbanco shows that the absence of a vivid Devil leads to the absence of a vivid God.

On p. 155, Delbanco quotes Peter Gay that the central objective of the enlightenment was to "disenchant" the world. But what about when we become disenchanted with Peter Gay and friends?

On p.
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