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The Path to Enlightenment: The Life of Pentecost Barker (1690-1762)
Matthew Kadane, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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Original Sin and the Path to the Enlightenment (Article)
Title: Original Sin and the Path to the Enlightenment
Author: Matthew Kadane
Abstract: This article focuses on the unexamined and previously unknown life of Pentecost Barker (1690-1762), a British ship’s purser and wine merchant, to try, in the first instance, to explain his transition from the Puritan outlook detailed in his spiritual diary to the Enlightenment outlook detailed in a long correspondence with a unitarian minister. The motives for Barker’s change were intermingled, having as much to do with emotion, economics, drinking, and empire as with the criterion of reasonableness. The key moment of his transition, however, is conceptually more straightforward. It was his rejection of the doctrine of original sin. And in this sense Barker points to something much larger: a doctrinal shift that stands at the threshold between confessional and Enlightenment Europe. The article therefore blends social and intellectual history to try both to contextualize this watershed moment and to contribute to our understanding of why ordinary people, in particular, abandoned what to them counted as tradition and embraced the values that we now associate with Enlightenment culture.
Year: 2017
Primary URL:
Access Model: Subscription
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Past and Present
Publisher: Oxford University Press