The Character of God: Recovering the Lost Literary Power of American Protestantism (Religion in America)

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9780195112023: The Character of God: Recovering the Lost Literary Power of American Protestantism (Religion in America)
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Educated people have become bereft of sophisticated ways to develop their religious inclinations. A major reason for this is that theology has become vague and dull. In The Character of God, author Thomas E. Jenkins maintains that Protestant theology became boring by the late nineteenth century because the depictions of God as a character in theology became boring. He shows how in the early nineteenth century, American Protestant theologians downplayed biblical depictions of God's emotional complexity and refashioned his character according to their own notions, stressing emotional singularity. These notions came from many sources, but the major influences were the neoclassical and sentimental literary styles of characterization dominant at the time. The serene benevolence of neoclassicism and the tender sympathy of sentimentalism may have made God appealing in the mid-1800s, but by the end of the century, these styles had lost much of their cultural power and increasingly came to seem flat and vague. Despite this, both liberal and conservative theologians clung to these characterizations of God throughout the twentieth century.
Jenkins argues that a way out of this impasse can be found in romanticism, the literary style of characterization that supplanted neoclassicism and sentimentalism and dominated American literary culture throughout the twentieth century. Romanticism emphasized emotional complexity and resonated with biblical depictions of God. A few maverick religious writers-- such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, W. G. T. Shedd, and Horace Bushnell--did devise emotionally complex characterizations of God and in some cases drew directly from romanticism. But their strange and sometimes shocking depictions of God were largely forgotten in the twentieth century. s use "theological" as a pejorative term, implying that an argument is needlessly Jenkins urges a reassessment of their work and a greaterin understanding of the relationship between theology and literature. Recovering the lost literary power of American Protestantism, he claims, will make the character of God more compelling and help modern readers appreciate the peculiar power of the biblical characterization of God.

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About the Author:

Thomas E. Jenkins is at Weseleyan University.

Review:


"Jenkins is well equipped for his task. He is wonderfully and widely read, and his capacity for doing the tough work of intellectual history is as well manifested in the notes as in the text. Students of the history of interpretation, theology, and the religious culture of America over the past century and one half will find this book of enormous interest."--The New England Quarterly


"...an ambitious project whose main strength is its innovative treatment of many familiar American theologians in the context of literary and theological ways of thinking and modes of writing. All those interested in the ties between American theology and literature will be rewarded in reading this book." The Journal of American History


"Thomas E. Jenkins' The Character of God is an impressive...addition to this body of scholarship. Written in a vigorous, snappy style, The Character of God is an ambitious, opinionated book that deserves to be read by specialists and nonspecialists alike."--First Things


"Jenkin's elegant, succinct study sheds light on a theme infrequently treated these days: depictions of God in American literature."--American Literature


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 1997. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. It is a truism that modern theology is mostly dull and irrelevant to religious life. In this book, Thomas Jenkins maintains that theology became boring because the depiction of God as a character in theology became boring. To a large extent, theologians have fashioned the character of God according to their own notions of character, and especially from notions derived from contemporary literature. In the early 19th century, American theologians depicted God in terms of the serene benevolence of neoclassicism, and the effusive sympathy of sentimentalism. These styles persisted in theology long after they lost favour in the larger culture, where the romantic character had come to be seen as most admirable and interesting. Jenkins considers why it proved difficult for theologians to adopt a romantic characterization of God, and how this hurt theology. Seller Inventory # APC9780195112023

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 1997. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.It is a truism that modern theology is mostly dull and irrelevant to religious life. In this book, Thomas Jenkins maintains that theology became boring because the depiction of God as a character in theology became boring. To a large extent, theologians have fashioned the character of God according to their own notions of character, and especially from notions derived from contemporary literature. In the early 19th century, American theologians depicted God in terms of the serene benevolence of neoclassicism, and the effusive sympathy of sentimentalism. These styles persisted in theology long after they lost favour in the larger culture, where the romantic character had come to be seen as most admirable and interesting. Jenkins considers why it proved difficult for theologians to adopt a romantic characterization of God, and how this hurt theology. Seller Inventory # APC9780195112023

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Book Description Condition: New. Oxford University Press, 1998. 288p. Hardback. Series: Religion in America. Jenkins expounds his exemplary theologians with proper seriousness in a masterly exposition backed by an immense range of reference and scholarly detail. What emerges without intrusive emphasis is the way governing ideas control our take on the text, and the way they can achieve life after death in theologies claiming contemporary relevance. There is a brilliant choice of texts to illustrate the pressure of a selective hermeneutic: the I AM THAT I AM of Exodus 3: 14, the encounters of Jesus with his mother, the cries of agony in the garden and of dereliction on the cross. David Martin, TLS 01/04/1999 (Publisher's information). Condition: New Print on Demand. Printed on Demand. Seller Inventory # 39231

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