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American Spaces of ConversionThe Conductive Imaginaries of Edwards, Emerson, and James$
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Andrea Knutson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195370928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195370928.001.0001

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A Believing Attitude

A Believing Attitude

Chapter:
(p.15) Chapter 1 A Believing Attitude
Source:
American Spaces of Conversion
Author(s):

Andrea Knutson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195370928.003.0002

Chapter 1 foregrounds the following chapters by offering a comprehensive examination of the Puritan Reformed concept and morphology of conversion and its expression within Puritanism’s preparatory theology, specifically as the minister Thomas Shepard and his congregants adapted it to the New World context after the migration to the Massachusetts Bay colony. It argues that the rhetorical pattern associated with the conversion narratives collected by Shepard is a communal response to the crisis in belief caused by the migration to New England and the disappointment the saints felt when New England failed as a means to grace. Through an examination of Shepard’s sermons and the discursive nuances of the testimonies expressing his preparatory theology and its reliance on Ramist logic, faculty psychology, and the method of technologia, it sets forth the theory that the “formulaic” aspect of the narratives represents a powerfully modern expression of the provisional nature of the idea of New England, that its meaning is contextual – grounded in experience and history. Although the testimonies don’t actually contain confessions of “closing with Christ,” they perform Shepard’s ministerial imperative of converting the idea of New England back into a means to grace, an urgent necessity for establishing a covenantal community.

Keywords:   conversion narrative, belief, Puritanism, preparation theology, ramist logic, Thomas Shepard, faculty psychology, norphology

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