Enlightenment or Orthodoxy?: The Historicization of Theology, c. 1580-1700
Dmitri Levitin, Research Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge University
It is commonly assumed that the historicization of religion and theology only occurred in the wake of an ‘early enlightenment’, and against the forces of confessionalisation and dogmatic theology. I will argue that in England the process occurred much earlier, and crucially, at the service of confessional identity. Due to structural changes in the nature of theology tuition—most of the evidence for which remains hidden in untapped manuscript sources—English divines invested both materially and intellectually in leading European scholarship. This led them to some remarkable speculation on the history of the biblical text, and on the relationship between the Judeo-Christian tradition and paganism, whether between the biblical Jews and the ancient Egyptians and Zoroastrians, or between early Christians and Hellenistic philosophy. It was this confessionalised investment in erudition, rather than tolerationist politics or explicit opposition to clerical learning, that had the most profound impact on attitudes to faith in early modern England.
Dmitri Levitin is a historian of early modern British and European intellectual and religious culture. He received his PhD at Selwyn College, Cambridge, before moving to a Research Fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. He has recently been appointed to a Chancellor’s Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh, and is currently spending two months as a visiting scholar at the Folger Library in Washington D.C. He has published on various aspects of early modern history of scholarship, history of science and history of religion. His first book, <em>Ancient Wisdom in the Age of the New Science: Histories of Philosophy in Seventeenth-Century England</em> is due out next year.
Co-presented by the Department of History and the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies.
Introduction: Jonathan Sheehan, Professor of History and BCSR Director, UC Berkeley