Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 74:2 (Fall 2012)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Dewey D. Wallace, Jr., Shapers of English Calvinism, 1660–1714: Variety, Persistence and Transformation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. 246. $74.00, cloth.

Since at least 1950, when G. R. Cragg wrote From Puritanism to the Age of Reason, it has been accepted that the exclusion of a majority of Church of England ministers sympathetic to Reformed theology by the Act of Uniformity of 1662 brought on the decline and eventual “eclipse” (Cragg’s term) of Calvinism in England. Thereafter, it existed only in the religious subculture of Nonconformity. Dewey Wallace is not the first to challenge the adequacy of Cragg’s dictum; most recently its inadequacy was shown by Stephen Hampton’s Anti-Arminians: The Anglican Reformed Tradition from Charles II to George I (Oxford University Press, 2008, reviewed in WTJ 71 [2009]: 511–13). Yet Wallace has, in Shapers of English Calvinism, provided us with the most substantial evidence to date for toppling this misrepresentation.

Wallace’s earlier study of predestinarian thought in the English Puritan period (Puritans and Predestination, 1982, reprinted 2004) and numerous journal articles touching on the church history of the Elizabethan and Stuart periods have prepared him for this close interpretation of the theological developments in England following the restoration of monarchy in 1660.

In the opening survey comprising his first chapter, “English Calvinism in a New Era,” Wallace provides what this reviewer considers to be the finest compact survey of the relation in which the indigenous English Reformed tradition stood to its Continental counterpart from the reign of Edward VI (commenced 1547) forward. Here is a healthy antidote to the common tendency to evaluate the English Reformed tradition (inside or beyond the Church of England) purely in terms of its degree of correspondence to models provided on the Continent. Yet this section simply prepares the ground for what follows.

Wallace provides, in five succeeding chapters, descriptions of the theological trajectories of various individual preachers/theologians (in one chapter, a trio of such). In each case, attention is given to the creativity and individuality of the figure(s) as they responded to both a changing intellectual climate—characterized by renewed interest in Platonism and the emergence of the early phase of the Enlightenment—and a changing political climate in which one’s allegiance to Reformed theology brought with it suspicion of being out of sympathy with royal supremacy in religious matters. Thus adaptation and innovation (in the sense of creative response to a changed situation) became the order of the day.

The emphasis of the fi...

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