Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Religion in the Age of Enlightenment, review, Joris van Eijnatten


For decades, the eighteenth-century sermon has fallen into scholarly neglect, despite its role as the foremost performance of public self-definition. The sermon provides insight into the experience of daily life, evolving national self-definitions, and changing cultural trends. Indeed, it is difficult to absorb the complexity and paradoxes of the period known as the Enlightenment apart from the kinds of sermons it produced. The essays in this volume focus on the eighteenth century and cover all of Europe, casting some needed light on the sermon's theological foundations, its transformation throughout the course of the eighteenth century, its content, and, most interesting, its delivery. Some of the questions that emerge throughout the volume will merit additional attention: How secular was the eighteenth century? How blurred were the distinctions between Catholic and Protestant sermons? To what extent did the outpouring of printed material, including devotional material, replace the cultural role of pulpit oratory? And even the modest question, how long was the average sermon? Answers to these questions within this volume are not consistent, but the essays offer useful starting points for a cultural history of the sermon.