Curtis W. Freeman
(Waco: Baylor University Press, 2017). 269pp, $29.95
This book was born in a grave yard, the Bunhill Fields Cemetery in London where lie the remains of some of the most honoured figures in English religious dissent including the three men whose enduring influence is discussed, namely, John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake.
Freeman outlines the rise of English dissent from the Reformation and charts its diverse expressions by creating a historical and theological conversation with the major literary work of each, these being Pilgrims Progress, Robinson Crusoe and Jerusalem. Discussing also the reception history of each leads to the development of three summary ideas of ‘Slumbering, Prosperous, and Apocalyptic Dissent.’
Each author is located in their historical, political and theological context, and as you would expect Freeman has researched the background thoroughly. The strength of this is the broad scope of topics encompassed in the chapters but at times I found the focus of the book blurred into discussion of a diverse range of spiritual and theological issues.
The final part of the book traces the translation of the dissenting tradition into the New World and the consequent enshrining of freedom of conscience and democratic society in the American constitution. I found the book an enjoyable read, illuminating and thought provoking in its sweeping view of the nonconformist tradition.
Scottish Baptist College