Guest Post: Cotton Mather and the Enlightenment in New England: Redefining the Holy Spirit

Philipp Reisner received his PhD from and teaches as a lecturer in the American Studies  Department at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. He approaches research multidisciplinarily and is particularly interested in New English and American literature, cultures, and theologies. His first book, Cotton Mather als Aufklärer. Glaube und Gesellschaft im Neuengland der Frühen Neuzeit, deals with the theological role that the New English theologian Cotton Mather (1663–1728) played in the context of early modern society and was published in the Reformed Historical Theology series with Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in 2012.

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My book Cotton Mather als Aufklärer. Glaube und Gesellschaft im Neuengland der Frühen Neuzeit examines Cotton Mather’s writings, identifying him as participating in Enlightenment thought through his various societal roles as pastor, physician, politician, and scientist. Mather studies have become an important part of early modern studies, not least because they touch on so many disciplines—such as natural and life sciences, philosophy, history, philology, and theology—and the ways these disciplines were transformed throughout the early eighteenth century. His oeuvre is currently undergoing revision, attention being drawn to his theology through the first publication of his Bible commentary Biblia Americana; this revision tends to reinterpret him as an early evangelical. It has not been fully recognized to what extent this reinterpretation depends on his pneumatology. In my book, I examine his pneumatology in his Bible commentary and his many publications in order to show how Mather’s redefinition of the Holy Spirit posits itself in relation to the unfolding of Enlightenment thought. Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAHO March! You herald spring and blooms and sun!
But lest you fear a change too swift to speak,
I now present our tidings of the week. Continue reading