Civil Religion and the Enlightenment in England, 1707-1800 [Hardback]

Ashley Walsh(Author)

ISBN: 9781783274901 | Published by: Boydell Press | Series: Studies in Modern British Religious History | Volume: 40 | Year of Publication: 2020 | 268p, H9.25 x W6.25, 1 b/w illus.
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Civil Religion and the Enlightenment in England, 1707-1800


This innovative book reveals how Enlightened writers in England, both lay and clerical, proclaimed public support for Christianity by transforming it into a civil religion, despite the famous claim of Jean-Jacques Rousseau that Christians professed an uncivil faith. In the aftermath of the seventeenth-century European wars of religion, civil religionists such as David Hume, Edward Gibbon, the third earl of Shaftesbury, and William Warburton sought to reconcile Christian ecclesiology with the civil state and Christian practice with civilized society. They built their arguments in the context of England's long Reformation, syncretizing 'primitive' gospel Christianity with ancient paganism as they attempted to render Christianity a modern version of Roman republican civil religion. They believed that outward observance of the reformed Protestant faith was vital for belonging to the Christian commonwealth of Hanoverian England.
Uncovering a major theme in eighteenth-century intellectual and religious history that connected classical Rome with Italian Renaissance humanism and the Enlightenment, this deeply interdisciplinary book draws from recent post-secular trends in social and political theory. Combining intellectual history with the political and ecclesiastical history of the Church of England, it will prove as indispensable for historians as studentsof political theory, theology, and literature.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Hanoverian Civil Religion and its Intellectual Resources
1: Building Athens from Jerusalem: Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury
2: The Politics of Priestcraft: John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon
3: The Church-State Alliance: Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, and William Warburton
4: The Civil Faith of Common Sense: David Hume
5: The Legacy of Ancient Rome: Edward Gibbon and Conyers Middleton
6: Subscription, Reform, and Dissent: Civil Religion and Enlightened Divinity during the Late Eighteenth Century
Conclusion: Hanoverian Civil Religion and its Aftermath

Reviews & Quotes

"Well-researched and clearly written...this book has deftly unearthed a vein of opinion in the eighteenth century which gives further meaning to the increasingly prevalent phrase, the English Enlightenment."


"This impressive new book...succeeds in covering broad ground while maintaining clarity and focus, with complex ecclesiological arguments swiftly explained in clear and often entertaining prose"


"Professor Walsh has written an important book. His defense of Hanoverian civil religion is original, thoughtful, and provocative in the best sense of the term. Historians, philosophers, and political theorists will be forced to rethink standard interpretations of canonical thinkers, reexamine the relationship between elite intellectuals and political society, and constantly remind themselves that God was not dead in the eighteenth-century English Enlightenment."

Eighteenth-Century Studies ()

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