David S. Sytsma, Richard Baxter and the Mechanical Philosophers. Oxford University Press, New York/Oxford 2017, 352 pp. ISBN 9780190274870. £ 64; US$ 99.The seventeenth-century Puritan divine Richard Baxter (1615–1691) has always been regarded a major practical theologian, famed for his The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650) and The Reformed Pastor (1656): both Max Weber and Robert Merton referred to Baxter as a leading author in their analyses of Puritan ethics and its ramifications. David Sytsma has now published a major book, arguing that Baxter’s prolonged engagement with the rise of mechanicism in natural philosophy demonstrates his importance as an accomplished metaphysician and natural philosopher. In the first chapter Sytsma points out that the largely dismissive character of Baxter’s response to the rise of ‘mechanical philosophy’ during the seventeenth century seriously undermines the views held by such historians as Hooykaas, Webster, Funkenstein, and Gregory about the compatibility of this ‘new philosophy’ with the Reformed tradition in theology. Tracing the early British reception of Gassendi’s Christian Epicureanism, Sytsma argues in his second chapter Baxter first grew worried over the growing popularity of the novatores, following the publication of Hobbes’s Leviathan in 1651. Once the Royal Society became associated with mechanicism, Baxter rolled up his sleeves,
Church History and Religious Culture (formerly Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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