John Kenrick and the Transformation of Unitarian Thought
This thesis is a study in the history of ideas which discusses the work and thought of the Unitarian biblical critic, classical historian and philologist John Kenrick (1788-1877). It examines evidence to suggest that during his productive life Kenrick made an intellectual transition from the ideas of the radical English Enlightenment to the more Romantic perspectives of the nineteenth century. The first part of the discussion as a whole is concerned largely with the nature of the context from which Kenrick emerged as a thinker while the second is related to Kenrickâ€™s own changing ideas. Chapter two reveals the monist philosophical and theological tendencies which supported the Socinian beliefs of the polymath Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), who was the dominant influence on Unitarians in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This discussion of Priestleyâ€™s thought, which is brought into relief by means of a comparison with that of the moral and political philosopher Richard Price (1723-1791), has two objectives, the first to reveal something of the context of Unitarianism of the time and the second to establish a foundation from which the nature and extent of later intellectual change may be measured.
Chapter three concentrates on another aspect of the Unitarian context closely connected to Socinian beliefs, and that is the tradition of historical biblical criticism which contained the seeds of a new historical consciousness. The fourth chapter is an analysis of the relationship between these radical Unitarian biblical critics and scholars in Germany and discusses some similarities and differences between the two sets of thinkers. Chapter five focuses upon John Kenrick himself and the integration of his Unitarian historical biblical ideas with elements of German thought on the interpretation of classical myth. It points out the implications for his own ideas in terms of the development of Romanticism and cultural relativism. Chapter six is concerned with Kenrickâ€™s historical approach to language and shows how it may be compared with the ideas of the German philologists of the time.
The seventh chapter is an account of Kenrickâ€™s opinions on the truth of Genesis and the origins of man. It considers in what ways the uneasy relationship between theology and the science of the mid-nineteenth century helped to bring about changes in his thought which linked it to a transformed Unitarianism and also to the intellectual milieu of the later nineteenth century. Chapter eight concludes the thesis with an assessment of the nature and extent of the changes which had taken place since the domination of the ideas of Joseph Priestley. The thesis offers a study of the transition in thought of an eminent scholar whose work has never been examined before. It opens up some new perspectives with regard to the linkages between the radical English Enlightenment and the historical consciousness and Romanticism of the nineteenth century.