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Science, Religion and the ‘New Reformation’ of the Nineteenth Century

S & CB 31 (1)
April 2019


The concept of a ‘New Reformation’ has a long history among Protestant intellectuals. Protestant theologians, philosophers, historians and men of science have all called for another reformation of religion, a purification of Protestant Christianity rather than its abandonment. But in the hands of nineteenth-century scientific naturalists, dissident intellectuals and even liberal Anglicans, the trope of ‘New Reformation’ underwent a dramatic transformation. From a Protestant self-critique, the trope became a polemic against orthodox Christian belief. While the new ‘reformers’ continued to use the language of Protestants, they ultimately rejected the doctrinal beliefs of traditional Christianity.

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