Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Bob Tennant


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, British Enlightenment


The past two decades have seen a collective reconsideration of the positions occupied by religion in the eighteenth century, amounting to a fundamental shift in historiography. The revived study of the period's sermon literature seems to contribute to this. The present essay suggests the need for more interdisciplinary cooperation in better defining sermon studies and presents four questions about sermons to scholars working on the British Enlightenment, and, more generally, the Long Eighteenth Century, which will be referred to as "our period": What are the characteristics of the corpus? What is distinctive about the relationship of sermons to theological and doctrinal development? What sort of evidence do sermons offer the historian? What is distinctive about the sermon in critical terms? The essay also offers a specific contribution to discussing the fourth of these questions: the demonstration of a simple but powerful analytical tool.