[文摘] Rewriting the History of Evangelicalism—W. R. Ward, 1925-2010

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Rewriting the History of EvangelicalismW. R. Ward, 1925-2010

By Mark Noll and Bruce Hindmarsh

The British historian William Reginald (Reg) Ward, who died on October 2 of last year, accomplished more in his retirement than most scholars accomplish in their entire careers. We shared in a special session at the American Society of Church History in Washington, D.C., in January 2008, honoring him as one of the most distinguished religious historians of the past half century. It was one of his last appearances at an academic conference, and at 82 years of age he was still in good form. Ward’s responses to the panelists displayed his characteristically droll sense of humor, his pleasure in defending controversial positions, his vast erudition and delight in the arcane, and, always, his unparalleled command of early modern European history. It was a great occasion.

Statue of John Wesley outside Wesley Church in...
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That was a meeting of specialists, though, and it may be a little while yet before the insights of Ward’s scholarship make their way into the textbooks. His scholarship is dense, and his writing does not suffer fools gladly. (Mark once offered Bruce $10,000 to translate Reg from English into English.) Above all, what readers of Books & Culture will want to know is that Reg Ward decisively changed the way historians understand the origins of evangelicalism. No longer can the history of modern evangelicalism be told as an Anglo-American story, beginning with, say, John Wesley‘s strangely warmed heart in London in 1738, or the phenomenon of revival in Northampton, Massachusetts, under Jonathan Edwards, a few years earlier. There is an Anglo-German axis that is every bit as important as the Anglo-American; once those Central European roots of evangelical religion are understood, the entire tradition takes on a fresh appearance.

It is difficult to find strong enough adjectives of commendation for the body of work in which W. R. Ward developed this fresh, creative, and deeply researched rendering of evangelical history. Essays from the 1970s and 1980s, many of which were gathered in his 1993 collection Faith and Faction, anticipated the key arguments. They were then given full airing in three magisterial books: The Protestant Evangelical Awakening (1992); Christianity under the Ancien Régime, 1648-1789 (1999); and Early Evangelicalism: A Global Intellectual History, 1670-1789 (2006). Ward’s pan-European reconstruction of early evangelical history also informs, to a less obvious degree, the massively learned and often deliciously humorous annotations that he provided for seven volumes of the new critical edition of John Wesley’s Works.[1] The books and editions we’ve just mentioned (along with others) were all published in less than two decades, and all after Ward had « retired » from his longtime post in the history department at the University of Durham.

Never from within the Anglo-American community of historians working on the modern history of Christianity has there been such an encompassing challenge to received historiography, nor such a well-documented appeal to reorient evangelical history away from the narrow precincts of the North Atlantic to the broad plains of Central Europe. The challenge that Ward’s scholarship mounted for the rest of us very ordinary historians was extraordinary. Ward’s achievement provided what not even German scholars have attempted, which is a general interpretation of the history of evangelicalism from within the standpoint of German history and German historical scholarship.

The Central European roots of evangelical religion have changed perceptions of evangelical origins in at least five ways. First, by situating evangelical history against the backdrop of 17th-century European political history, Ward demonstrated that distinctly evangelical beliefs and practices emerged in response to political pressure from powerful states, such as those in the Habsburg empire, or powerful state-churches, both Protestant and Catholic. What he summarized as « the almost universal history of revival as resistance to assimilation » led Ward to Central European beginnings for such essential evangelical themes as the opposition of « true Christianity » to formulaic, systematic, or imposed orthodoxies; and to small-group enclaves被包圍的領as the necessary nurturing medium in which « true Christianity » could flourish. By showing how the political power of nation-states and state-churches played a defining role in the earliest evangelical movements, he showed all scholars the often covert隱蔽的, 隱密的political protests found in almost all evangelical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, and probably later as well.

  • Comment: 這些歷史根基有助於重啟「福音派」的政治神學和政治參與。基本上也跟Bonheoffer 研究連接上了(德國、政治、福音、倫理)。

Second, Ward insisted on the foundational significance of 17th-century events and circumstances for evangelical history. By so doing he made a convincing case that accounts of Anglo-American evangelicalism are necessarily stunted被阻礙發育if they do not include figures like Johann Arndt, Jakob Böhme, and Pierre Poiret (who are almost never mentioned) as well as those like Philip Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke (who occasionally appear as mere anticipations of what came later 這些人被當作施洗約翰般的先行者而不受福音歷史學界重視).

By insisting on the importance of 17th-century politics and 17th-century European religious history for all later evangelical history, Ward, thirdly, also showed how necessary it is to connect events in the 18th century back to the era of the Reformation and Catholic Reformation. Reformers like Spener returned to Luther for inspiration; in him Spener and like-minded Pietists discovered precedents that would come to mark all evangelicals. Even more, Ward showed that complex lines of influence continued to link mystically minded Catholics and pietistically inclined Protestants straight through the 17th and 18th centuries, and that those links can be best explained by common patterns of reaction to the orthodox state-church establishments that defined European religion after the Reformation.

Fourth, Ward insisted that reforming, revivalistic, anti-statist, and small-group Protestantism was always and everywhere a pan-European phenomenon governed minimally, if at all, by national and linguistic boundaries. If the later development of national historiographies and the sad myopia of historians working only with materials in their mother tongues have obscured those thick international connections, Ward insisted that history as it actually developed deserves precedence over history as it has come artificially to be perceived. In his vision, there should be many books in French treating the Puritans because of how widely Puritan devotional literature was read by French– and German-speaking believers in the 17th century and because of how much English-speaking evangelicals were encouraged by Madame Guyon and Francois Fénelon. Studies today of German-English-American evangelical connections, in Ward’s perspective, only return to what for Wesley, Theodore Frelinghuysen, and even Jonathan Edwards was their standard spiritual purview範圍; 視野; 許可權; 要項 . The challenge to monoglot 單言語使用者(). history here is sharp. While American historians were debating whether the whole notion of the Great Awakening might be an « interpretive fiction » or « invention » created largely by 19th-century historians, Ward responded with a characteristically dense account of evangelical religion across the whole North Atlantic region that made this conversation look provincial.

Finally, Ward’s revised history of early evangelicalism includes an account of the evangelical mind. He argued that in its origins, evangelical piety was typically hostile toward Aristotelian scholasticism, especially when such intellectual system building was used to buttress用扶壁支撐; power, privilege, and territory among the Lutheran or Reformed orthodox, leaving the man and woman in the pew literally without a prayer. This anti-Aristotelianism, which worked its way into the intellectual character of evangelicalism as it emerged after the wars of religion in the 17th century, meant that evangelicals often also had an affinity for mysticism and were attracted to vitalist or typological understandings of nature. Early European evangelicalism, like other more esoteric movements in the period, explained the relationship of nature to human nature in Paracelsian[2] terms of macrocosm and microcosm. At places like the Pietist University of Halle there were efforts to do serious scientific research within this intellectual outlook. It was difficult, however, for evangelicals to sustain a coherent intellectual framework for interpreting nature and history, and the 18th century’s new mechanical philosophy would leave the world disenchanted不抱幻想的; 不再著迷的. What Jonathan Edwards had tried to do through history and typology, Wüttemberger Pietists had tried to do through a « unitary science of reality » based on the old principle of « life. » In the end, both were fighting rearguard (政治的・経済的・社会的に)抵抗する. 守旧actions against the rise of materialist science. The result was that by the end of the 18th century, evangelicalism was a fragmented movement, and its piety, once embedded in a more comprehensive worldview, would now express itself in more limited terms within a modern intellectual framework.

  • Comment: 以對待自然的看法來說,早期福音派反而與煉金術這類的迷信思想有共通。將自然地位看得高,神秘而且需要被探索,而非亞理斯多德哲學和天主教的看法,僅以自然為人之用(virtue)。這種探索慾和好奇心因而成就了普及平民知識(常識)的基督教啟蒙科學。
  • Comment: 但他們意圖堅持以榮神益人為目的的科學,卻敗給了歷史上的無神論和懷疑論的物質科學,特別是在宇宙起源、進化、和神蹟一事上。最後落得支離破碎的世界觀,並轉進而產生一種基要主義的性格。

In at least these five ways, Ward changed the historiography of early evangelicalism. He turned the globe back a quarter turn toward Europe and turned the calendar back a century toward the post-Reformation era. Single-handedly, his herculean scholarship reconstituted 18th-century Anglo-American evangelical history in terms of 17th-century Central European history. This is one of the great contributions in all of modern historical scholarship.

Bruce saw Reg once more in June 2009 in Manchester. At 84 years of age and with cancer, Reg had taken the train up from his home at Petersfield near Portsmouth on the south coast to attend a lecture. They got to spend a couple of hours together on a sunny bench, him with his rosy cheeks, leaning on his cane, talking by turns about the 18th century and eminent German atheists. As always, it seemed that he had read everything. Among those of us who knew him, he shall be remembered fondly for his spirited, contrarian opinions, expressed always with a twinkle in his eye, and for his kind and generous manner on occasions like that—as well as for the way he spent his retirement re-writing the whole history of early evangelicalism.

Mark Noll is Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

Bruce Hindmarsh is James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C.


[1] Journals and Diaries, ed. W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater, vols. 18-24 of The Works of John Wesley (Abingdon, 1988-2003).

[2]帕拉塞爾蘇斯 [Paracelsus]

亦譯帕拉切爾蘇斯,原名菲利普斯‧奧雷奧盧斯‧特奧夫拉斯圖斯‧邦巴斯特‧馮‧霍恩海姆(Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim)
(1493.11.11/12,17,
瑞士 艾因西德倫~1541.9.24,薩爾斯堡大公國 薩爾斯堡)
醫學, 人物小傳
德裔瑞士醫師、煉金術士。自稱在費拉拉大學取得博士學位,取名帕拉塞爾蘇斯(para-Celsus),意思是超越塞爾蘇斯(羅馬醫學權威)。曾遊歷歐洲和中東,尋訪各地的煉金家。比起亞里斯多德加倫阿維森納的枯燥講義來說,他對一般人的常識較為看重,並強調自然的治療能力。他在巴塞爾大學講學時來者不拒(以德語而非拉丁語授課),但此種寬宏胸襟反而讓政府當局難堪,後被迫離開。著作有《外科大全》(1536)。幾個世紀以來,他率先使用汞劑治療梅毒,了解礦工的矽肺是吸入塵埃所致,提出順勢療法,同時也是第一個將甲狀腺腫與飲水中的礦物質關聯起來的人。

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