The Religious Formation of John Witherspoon : Calvinism, Evangelicalism, and the Scottish Enlightenment book cover
1st Edition

The Religious Formation of John Witherspoon
Calvinism, Evangelicalism, and the Scottish Enlightenment

ISBN 9781032174723
Published September 30, 2021 by Routledge
224 Pages

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Book Description

This book explores in unprecedented detail the theological thinking of John Witherspoon during his often overlooked ministerial career in Scotland. In contrast to the arguments made by other historians, it shows that there was considerable continuity of thought between Witherspoon’s Scottish ministry and the second half of his career as one of America’s Founding Fathers.

The book argues that Witherspoon cannot be properly understood until he is seen as not only engaged with the Enlightenment, but also firmly grounded in the Calvinist tradition of High to Late Orthodoxy, embedded in the transatlantic Evangelical Awakening of the eighteenth century, and frustrated by the state of religion in the Scottish Kirk. Alongside the titles of pastor, president, educator, philosopher, should be a new category: John Witherspoon as Reformed apologist.

This is a fresh re-examination of the intellectual formation of one of Scotland’s most important churchman from the eighteenth century and one of America’s most influential early figures. The volume will be of keen interest to academics working in Religious History, American Religion, Reformed Theology and Calvinism, as well as Scottish and American history more generally.

Table of Contents



Other notes on sources

Introduction John Witherspoon as Reformed Apologist

1 ‘The Sound, Calvinistic, Reformation Divinity’ Witherspoon’s Debt to Late Reformed Orthodoxy

2 ‘A Little Tinctured with Fanaticism’ Witherspoon and the Rise of Evangelicalism

3 ‘How Is the Gold Become Dim!’Witherspoon’s Ministry in the Church of Scotland

4 ‘An Age in Which Infidelity Greatly Prevails’ Witherspoon and the Enlightenment

5 ‘The Calvinist Doctrines in Popular Form’ Witherspoon’s Work in America

Conclusion ‘The Infinite Importance of the Salvation of Your Souls’ Witherspoon the Politician and Preacher

Appendix Satirical Poem to the Presbytery of Paisley (c.1764)


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Kevin DeYoung is the Senior Pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Charlotte, North Carolina (USA) and an Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He blogs for The Gospel Coalition and has published more than a dozen books and a number of scholarly articles on theology, history, and Christianity.