Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stick around (please)

I want to thank all of you that have returned here from time to time to see what's happening at the Conventicle. We really appreciate it. Here's an update about me personally and about this site:

  • I'm still above ground, as you've probably deduced by this point in your reading. I have moved back to Texas and finished my doctoral thesis (the pre-examination draft), the abstract to which I've attached below, for anyone who's curious. My examination (viva) is scheduled for December. I appreciate your prayers.
  • For the time being, I've taken up full-time blogging as a profession. To this end, I launched The Daily Scroll last month -- a site that features links to posts and articles by Christians from an array of theological backgrounds. I think it will be useful for people who are interested in hearing what different individuals and groups are saying, in their own words. I welcome your feedback about the site! Email me here. I am hoping it will be lucrative, as well as edifying. (A site dedicated to discussion of my own hermeneutical tradition is also in the works, and should be 'ready for prime time' within the next month.)
  • The Conventicle is down, but most certainly not out! As I've mentioned here before, we are planning on launching an expanded Conventicle site, with a wealth of puritan-related resources. I am expecting this to go live within the next six months. In the meantime, the other contributors and I will continue our trickle of posts here. (I haven't forgotten that summary of Collinson's Elizabethan Puritan Movement I need to finish!)
Once again, thanks for your patience. Let's all keep the memory of the puritans alive!



As promised, the abstract to my thesis, "Puritanism's Ascetic Pedigree: Catholic Treatises and Protestant 'Counterpoysons' in Early Modern England":

Some scholars researching the puritans have noted parallels between their approach to spiritual formation and that of the monastic communities of the medieval and early modern periods. Specifically, an ascetic or pietistic orientation, emphasizing the methodical practice of spiritual disciplines such as meditation, has been acknowledged in both groups. Some have suggested that early puritan writers knowingly adopted elements of the Catholic ascetic tradition, but relatively little has been done to prove or disprove this claim.

An analysis of popular religious writings circulating in Elizabethan England reveals evidence supporting the notion that similarities between the two traditions were more than coincidental. During the Elizabethan period, several Catholic texts were illegally circulated in England, which taught monastic devotional methods in a basic format suitable for lay readers. These Catholic ascetic treatises, written by authors such as the Spanish Dominican, Luis de Granada (1505-1588), and the English Jesuit, Robert Persons (1546-1610), were patently unique among the approved religious texts sold in Protestant England. Their originality was underscored by Catholics, in fact, who criticized English Protestants because they had produced nothing similar.

However, in 1603, the puritan Richard Rogers (1550/1-1618) published a devotional guide called the Seven Treatises, significant features of which are reminiscent of this ascetic genre. Rogers and others portrayed his work as a “counterpoyson” to Catholic books, expressing confidence that it would effectively silence the boasts of Catholic writers who claimed to hold a monopoly on devotional instruction. It appears that Rogers composed much of his Seven Treatises in conscious emulation of the Catholic texts whose influence he hoped to suppress. What’s more, it is likely that his work inspired many seventeenth-century puritan writers, whose devotional manuals reflect the same ascetic emphases.

Such evidence suggests that the observed similarity between the puritans’ spiritual approach and that of the more ancient monastic-ascetic tradition was, in part, a result of their conscious imitation and adaptation of that tradition’s teaching, as it was expressed in these sixteenth-century Catholic ascetic manuals.


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