Orthodoxy and Enlightenment

Orthodoxy and Enlightenment: George Campbell in the Eighteenth Century

Jeffrey M. Suderman
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Orthodoxy and Enlightenment
    Book Description:

    George Campbell (1719-1796) has long been regarded as a seminal figure in the development of modern theories of persuasion, but modern students of rhetoric seldom look beyond his Philosophy of Rhetoric to his equally important religious writings. Campbell is portrayed as a secular figure, and his contributions to eighteenth-century Christian apology have been largely forgotten. In his own time, however, Campbell had an international reputation as a champion of the Gospel miracles against the sceptical assaults of the philosopher David Hume and as a respected biblical scholar and authority on Church history.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6925-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Abbreviations Used in the Notes
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    Who belonged to the Enlightenment, and to whom did the Enlightenment belong? We know the infidels and the sceptics, the Voltaires, Humes, Diderots, d’Holbachs, and Gibbons. We know their programs and pogroms, their wars against religion and theancien régime, their determination toécraser l’infâme. But did these famous few speak for the eighteenth century? Did they compel their contemporaries to choose between enlightenment and orthodoxy? What of the many who catalogued nature, joined convivial societies, preached toleration, and uncovered the anatomy of human nature without ever abandoning church and traditional social loyalties? There were many such in England, America,...

    (pp. 7-8)
    • 1 The Making of a Christian Philosopher (to 1771)
      (pp. 11-30)

      On 22 January 1765, the Aberdeen Philosophical Society debated a question posed by George Campbell, “Whether the manner of living of parents affects the genius or intellectual abilities of the children.”¹ Perhaps Campbell had reason to wonder. His father, Colin Campbell, from the little we know of him, was quite unlike his son in temperament and outlook. This is not surprising when one considers Scotland’s turbulent transition into the eighteenth century.

      Colin Campbell was born in 1678, at the height of the government oppression of the Covenanters, adherents of the Presbyterian form of church government. He was the son of...

    • 2 The Years of Achievement (1771–1790)
      (pp. 31-51)

      In an often-repeated story, Marischal College’s professor of divinity Alexander Gerard supposedly said that his successor George Campbell was indolent, a remark that, when repeated to Campbell, roused him to a hitherto unknown diligence.¹ Though the justness of the accusation, and perhaps also the anecdote itself, seem doubtful, we can be certain that the charge of indolence was impossible to sustain after Campbell added the duties of professor of divinity to his other activities.

      John Lumsden, Campbell’s former divinity professor at King’s, died in July 1770. Alexander Gerard, who had already held Marischal’s divinity post for a decade, was translated...

    • 3 The Height of Reputation (from 1790)
      (pp. 52-68)

      In the midst of his efforts for the relief of Scottish Episcopalians, Campbell was nearly brought to his own end. The illness struck quickly in January 1791. A cold became a violent asthma and fever, and soon those around him were resigned to his imminent death. Grace Campbell was so distraught at her husband’s suffering that she thought him better at rest. Campbell even spoke what he thought were the dying words of a Christian man. Within days, those around him began the flurry of letters concerning the distribution of his offices after his death. Campbell intimated to Beattie that...

    • 4 Philosophy in Theory
      (pp. 71-120)

      George Campbell was not alone among eighteenth-century philosophers in striving to align his philosophical activities with Christian ends. But what were these Christian ends, and how were they to be realized? What kind of Christian was Campbell? John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, that inveterate observer of eighteenth-century Scottish personalities, characterized Campbell’s theology as perfectly orthodox in the manner of late seventeenth-century Anglican divines.¹ Indeed, Campbell’s defence of Christian truth bore a striking resemblance to the apologetic works of those English churchmen who have come to be known as latitudinarians. William Chillingworth, Edward Stillingfleet, and John Tillotson, like Campbell, all countenanced a...

    • 5 Philosophy in Practice
      (pp. 121-158)

      George Campbell intended his philosophy to be practical rather than theoretical. He dealt with problems that were very much in the eighteenth-century mainstream, such as the nature of effective communication, the possibility of belief in testimony concerning miracles, the standards of historical proofs and explanations, and the uses of biblical criticism. But as we have seen, all of these practical problems were grounded in a well-reasoned, though not fully explicated, theory of human nature and of evidence. Testimony was of particular philosophic concern for Campbell, because “to this species of evidence … we are first immediately indebted for all the...

    • 6 The Limits of Enlightenment
      (pp. 159-178)

      In the eyes of Christian moderates, the Enlightenment was a powerful ally of truth. Campbell employed an enlightened theory of evidence to defeat Hume’s sceptical attacks on testimony concerning miracles. He openedThe Four Gospelswith a thoroughly enlightened declaration of intellectual independence: “I have always laid it down as a rule in my researches, to divest myself as much as possible of an excessive deference to the judgment of men.”¹ He believed that the extreme claims of the papacy were being checked not because his age was unusually honest but because his age possessed more historical knowledge: “This is...

    • 7 Campbell’s Theology
      (pp. 181-207)

      Christianity, declared Campbell, cannot convince by rational argument alone. “No arguments unaccompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit, can convert the soul from sin to God.”¹ The human mind is incapable of discovering all the necessary principles of true religion solely by its natural abilities. Natural religion is the basis but not the sum of the Christian religion. Natural religion carries within itself the evidence of its own insufficiency. It also indicates that the God of nature will provide for his creatures’ needs with a particular revelation. This revelation, by its very nature, must contain information that cannot be...

    • 8 Religious Problems and Controversies
      (pp. 208-235)

      George Campbell’s religion, like his philosophy, was meant to be practical. The religious problems that occupied his attention were hotly-debated issues in his day, and their solution required the use of both natural and revealed sources of knowledge. Campbell believed that there are certain things we can know about the nature of miracles, Scripture, and the Christian church by means of our natural understanding alone. Thus he could argue with Hume concerning the philosophical possibility and merit of miraculous claims without invoking revelation or divine inspiration. So too could he invoke the authority of the Roman Catholic critic Richard Simon...

    • 9 The Limits of Moderatism
      (pp. 236-253)

      “In all great questions,” said George Skene Keith of Campbell, “he belonged to what is called themoderate partyin the church; and generally supported the laws of the state with respect to patronage.”¹ Campbell was acknowledged by his contemporaries to be a Moderate in the narrow, political sense of the term. From what we have already seen, he was certainly a moderate in the broader sense of the term. He was politically conservative, though he defended the Glorious Revolution settlement and advocated freedom of religion and expression. He was a latitudinarian, though he preferred the Presbyterian discipline of his...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 254-260)

    “That we may reflect light on others,” said Campbell to his fellow ministers, “we must ourselves be previously enlightened.”² George Campbell was thoroughly a man of the Enlightenment. This is not to say that he was enlightened because, like David Hume, he developed a systematic theory of evidence and grounded the rhetorical arts in the study of human nature. Nor is it to say that he was enlightened because he produced a critical history of the Christian church that looked much like Edward Gibbon’s, or exposed the conspiracy of the priesthood in the manner of Voltaire. Campbell needs no comparison...

  12. Appendix 1: Schedule of Divinity Lectures Given by George Campbell and Alexander Gerard during the 1786–87 Term
    (pp. 263-266)
  13. Appendix 2: Campbell’s Creed
    (pp. 267-267)
  14. Appendix 3: A Checklist of Campbell’s Correspondence
    (pp. 268-272)
  15. George Campbell in the Eighteenth Century: A Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 273-288)
  16. Index
    (pp. 289-294)