Avihu Zakai analyzes Jonathan Edwards's redemptive mode of historical thought in the context of the Enlightenment. As theologian and philosopher, Edwards has long been a towering figure in American intellectual history. Nevertheless, and despite Edwards's intense engagement with the nature of time and the meaning of history, there has been no serious attempt to explore his philosophy of history. Offering the first such exploration, Zakai considers Edwards's historical thought as a reaction, in part, to the varieties of Enlightenment historical narratives and their growing disregard for theistic considerations.
Zakai analyzes the ideological origins of Edwards's insistence that the process of history depends solely on God's redemptive activity in time as manifested in a series of revivals throughout history, reading this doctrine as an answer to the threat posed to the Christian theological teleology of history by the early modern emergence of a secular conception of history and the modern legitimation of historical time. In response to the Enlightenment refashioning of secular, historical time and its growing emphasis on human agency, Edwards strove to re-establish God's preeminence within the order of time. Against the de-Christianization of history and removal of divine power from the historical process, he sought to re-enthrone God as the author and lord of history--and thus to re-enchant the historical world.
Placing Edwards's historical thought in its broadest context, this book will be welcomed by those who study early modern history, American history, or religious culture and experience in America.
"Perhaps the most remarkable contributor to [the] recent explosion of interest in Edwards is the Israeli historian Avihu Zakai."--Gerald McDermott, The Weekly Standard
"This book places important themes from the theology of Jonathan Edwards in the context of the Enlightenment. An intellectual history, it makes a bold case that Edwards was not primarily a provincial social figure nor an American literary figure, but a European philosophical figure whose context was the great international movement of modern thought."--Mark Valeri, Union Theological Seminary, Virginia
"What most impresses me about this erudite and well-researched book is the deep contextualization of Edwards's philosophy of history within the intellectual world of the Enlightenment. This is a very learned piece of scholarship, and several features set this study apart from other major accounts of Edwards."--Stephen J. Stein, Chancellor's Professor, Indiana University
"A signal contribution in the ongoing rehabilitation of colonial America's greatest mind."--David W. Kling, American Historical Review
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