Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Rosemary Dixon


Age of Enlightenment, Francis Bacon, Diuinitie


Francis Bacon had little to say about the study of divinity in The Advancement of Learning (1605), his critical survey of the state of knowledge at the turn of the seventeenth century. In contrast to the other fields of learning Bacon explored, divinity needed but little encouragement: "For I can finde no space or ground that lieth vacant and vnsowne in the matter of Diuinitie, so diligent haue men beene, either in sowing of good seede, or in sowing of Tares:' Bacon did, however, have an intriguing suggestion for a hypothetical theological book:

that forme of writing in Diuinitie, which in my Iudgement is of all others most rich and precious; is positiue Diuinitie collected vpon particular Texts of Scriptures in briefe obseruations ... a thing abounding in Sermons, which will vanish, but defectiue in Bookes which wil remaine, and a thing wherein this age excelleth. For I am perswaded . .. That if the choise, and best of those obseruations vpon Texts of Scriptures which haue beene made dispersedly in Sermons within this your Maiesties Iland of Brittanie by the space of these fortie yeares and more (leauing out the largenesse of exhortations and applications thereupon) had beene set downe in a continuance, it had beene the best worke in Diuinitie, which had beene written since the Apostles times.