BOOK PROJECT: "The Soul in Paraphrase": Prayer and the Secular Mind in Early Modern Europe

Everybody talked to God in early modern Europe. But even though prayer was the central ritual of early modern Christianity, historians have barely studied the ways prayer evolved over three centuries of religious conflict. This book will be the first to look at the evolution of prayer across this entire period. It will argue that prayer became a source of acute conflict in early modern Europe as men and women struggled to know how to pray in light of shifting ideas about God’s providence, the intercession of saints, and the possibility of miracles. Drawing on sources ranging from humanist treatises on education to utopian novels,it will show that late-medieval Europe’s devotional consensus shattered in the sixteenth century under the hammering of humanist and Protestant polemicists. These reformers, however, failed to create a unified devotional culture. Over the next two centuries, Calvinists, French Jansenists, English Puritans, and Enlightenment rationalists labored with limited success to place the practice of prayer on a stable intellectual foundation. Many Europeans continued to pray as their ancestors had, but increasing numbers began to use prayer as a means of disciplining themselves rather than altering their material or spiritual circumstances.

LINK: "'To whom say you your Pater noster?': Prayer on the Eve of the Scottish Reformation."

Reformation & Renaissance Review, 20.1 (Feb/March 2018).

ABSTRACT: In 1551, the Dominican Richard Marshall sparked a fierce controversy in St Andrews, Scotland by arguing in a sermon that the Lord’s Prayer—the ‘Our Father’—should be prayed to God only and not to the saints. According to John Foxe, the dispute led to much cursing, a regional synod, and one Franciscan fleeing the city in disgrace. The St Andrews affair was one of many controversies about prayer in sixteenth-century Europe. Why was prayer such a contentious topic? Scottish prayer controversies reveal a fundamental struggle between traditional and reformist views about the value of ritual in relating to God. Protestants like George Wishart, moderate humanists like Marshall and Archbishop John Hamilton, and more radical ‘devotional humanists’ like the poet Sir David Lindsay promulgated new understandings of prayer that undermined the structures of traditional devotion by pitting the verbal aspect of prayer against the ritual.

"The New Calvinism"

FORTHCOMING, The Oxford Handbook of Calvin and Calvinism, ed. Bruce Gordon and Carl Trueman.

ABSTRACT: This article looks at the origins and distinguishing features of the stream of American evangelicalism that has come to be known as New Calvinism. New Calvinism emerged at the end of the twentieth century among evangelical Christians frustrated by the perceived pragmatism and doctrinal shallowness of evangelical churches. It is classically evangelical in its theology and preaching, eager to build coalitions across denominational lines (in particular, among Baptists and Presbyterians), founded on a selective appropriation of Reformed doctrine (especially the Reformed doctrines of God and soteriology) and committed to a complementarian view of gender roles. However, the New Calvinism’s most distinctive features are its energetic expansion into new geographical and denominational spaces and its cultivation of a unique form of revivalism and affective spirituality drawn from the writings of Puritans like John Owen and Jonathan Edwards.

“Archbishop Hamilton and Catholic Reform in Pre-Reformation Scotland”

FORTHCOMING, A Companion to the Scottish Reformation, ed. Ian Hazlett.

ABSTRACT: In the late 1540s, the archbishop of St Andrews, John Hamilton, launched an ambitious programme of reform aimed at correcting the teaching and morals of the Scottish Church. He took as his model earlier, European efforts like the Christian humanist-inspired, provincial Council of Cologne (1536). Hamilton convened a series of reforming councils with the twin aim of increasing the quality and availability of preaching and improving the occasionally scandalous behavior of the clergy. He had also published the so-called “Hamilton’s Catechism” (1552), a vernacular exposition of Catholic faith defending traditional doctrines like the intercession of saints while also teaching justification by faith. This chapter argues that these reforms were motivated by both concern about Protestantism and the perception that popular contempt for the priests and ceremonies of the Church was increasing. The reforms ultimately failed because complacent Scottish bishops and others showed little enthusiasm for their implementation.