Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
David D. Hall’s Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Relief in Early New England is a multilayered and subtle portrayal of popular religion in seventeenth century New England. Drawing on letters, diaries, books, and church and town records, Hall leads his reader through a fascinating tour of an ambiguous cosmos in which competing claims are thrust and held together by the necessities of spiritual and material survival. Mostly, the book concerns what theologians call “theodicy,” only this book is not about theologians. Rather, Hall describes how the persistence of obstacles to the ideals of social and natural order were practically and theoretically reconciled to the conviction of God’s providential omnipotence by both the laity and a clergy which sought to shape the laity’s point of view.
Hall does not mean to present yet another book about “the puritans.” The term, as he observes in his introduction, seems to conjure up images of unwavering consistency and unstinting spiritual rigor, and such an image distorts the religious stops and starts, the ambivalence, and, in the case of the large number of “horse-shed” Christians, even the relative laxity of the majority of New Englanders. Hall argues that their religious beliefs were characterized by three broad marks. First, theirs was a different brand of “folk religion” from that characteristic of Europe. In the European context, it makes sense to speak of two...
(The entire section is 1960 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Booklist. LXXXV, March 1, 1989, p.1071.
Boston Globe. March 26, 1989, p.45.
Kirkus Review. LVII, January 15, 1989, p.102.
Library Journal. CX IV, March 15, 1989, p.74.
The New York Review of Books. XXX VI, November 9, 1989, p.26.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXV, January 27, 1989, p.460.
The Wilson Quarterly. XIII, Summer, 1989, p.96.
(The entire section is 40 words.)