On Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Intersection of Literature & Theology

I just wrote a piece for the Gospel Coalition entitled “Darkening of the Light: Hawthorne and the Post-Puritan Conscience.” Some who enjoy probing the intersection of literature and theology may find it of interest. I personally love it, and don’t see enough folks doing it or even thinking it’s a valuable enterprise. It most certainly is. Some of the most astute theologians are and were writers, figures who might recoil at the designation but who nonetheless deserve the title.

A swatch:

Those who delve into Hawthorne’s writings will find themselves in the presence of a careful craftsman, one attuned to the complexities of human character, who never seemed to resolve his own internal tension. He loved beauty but never yielded to the God of truth, goodness, and the same; he prized innocence but was aware that his own was lost; he hungered for ultimate satisfaction but walled himself off from its source.

Whatever you conclude about Hawthorne, he is a figure worthy of study and contemplation. No mere scion of an enlightened age, he seemed to embrace the life of a post-Puritan while shrinking back from the proudly liberated character of this age. Not for him the triumphal narcissism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the warming glow of Transcendentalist devotees. Hawthorne preferred the shadows. 

Here’s the whole piece.

At the end, I say a few words about the upcoming SBTS trip to New England, on which we’ll actually visit the home of Hawthorne:

If this limited engagement with Hawthorne interests you, and if you enjoy thinking deeply about theology, history, and the Christian heritage of New England, consider Southern Seminary’s New England Expedition, taking place from May 19 to 26, 2013. Professors Greg Wills, Michael Haykin, and myself will be teaching numerous classes on theology and church history, including one I’m offering on “The New England Mind” that will look more closely at Hawthorne.

If that strikes your fancy, consider joining us.


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