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Character of God: Recovering the Lost Literary Power of American Protestantism (Thomas E Jenkins) Hardcover Book, (Oxford University Press, 1997) 9780195112023
Character of God: Recovering the Lost Literary Power of American Protestantism (Thomas E Jenkins) Hardcover Book, (Oxford University Press, 1997) 9780195112023
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Title: The Character of God: Recovering the Lost Literary Power of American Protestantism

Author: Jenkins, Thomas E

Publisher: Oxford University Press; Publication Date: 1997

Hardcover; ISBN: 9780195112023

Volumes: 1; Pages: 288

List Price in Cloth: $98.00 Our price: $79.99

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It is a truism that modern theology is mostly dull and irrelevant to religious life. Only other theologians read it, and even well-educated Christians use "theological" as a pejorative term, implying that an argument is needlessly abstruse and beside the point. Indeed, at no other time in the West have educated people been so bereft of sophisticated ways to develop and discuss their religious inclinations.Thomas Jenkins maintains that theology became boring--more precisely, the depiction of God as a character in theology became boring. To a large extent, argues Jenkins, theologians have fashioned the character of God according to their own notions of character. These notions, he says, come from many places, but in the nineteenth-century, theologians in America were especially strongly influenced by literature. This should not be surprising, Jenkins notes, because imaginative fiction remains one of the most authoritative ways to depict personality. Jenkins shows that in the early nineteenth-century American theologians depicted God according to the dominant literary styles of the time, resulting in neoclassical and sentimental characterizations. these styles persisted in theology long after they lost favor in the larger culture, where the romantic character had come to be seen as most admirable and interesting. The serene benevolence of neoclassicism, and the effusive sympathy of sentimentalism came to seem corny, flat, and insipid-and so did the God of theology. Jenkins considers why it proved difficult for theologians to adopt a romantic characterization of God, and how this hurt theology. Pointing a way out of this impasse, he urges a reassessment of nineteenth-century romantic theologians like W. G. T. Shedd and Horace Bushnell, and a return to the character of God as found in scripture."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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