Concepts of predestination and reprobation were central issues in the Protestant Reformation, especially within Calvinist churches, and thus have often been studied primarily in the historical context of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In Versions of Election: From Langland and Aquinas to Calvin and Milton, David Aers takes a longer view of these key issues in Christian theology. With meticulous attention to the texts of medieval and early modern theologians, poets, and popular writers, this book argues that we can understand the full complexity of the history of various teachings on the doctrine of election only through a detailed diachronic study that takes account of multiple periods and disciplines. Throughout this wide-ranging study, Aers examines how various versions of predestination and reprobation emerge and re-emerge in Christian tradition from the Middle Ages through the seventeenth century. Starting with incisive readings of medieval works by figures such as William Langland, Thomas Aquinas, and Robert Holcot, and continuing on to a nuanced consideration of texts by Protestant thinkers and writers, including John Calvin, Arthur Dent, William Twisse, and John Milton (among others), Aers traces the twisting and unpredictable history of prominent versions of predestination and reprobation across the divide of the Reformation and through a wide variety of genres. In so doing, Aers offers not only a detailed study of election but also important insights into how Christian tradition is made, unmade, and remade.
Versions of Election is an original, cross-disciplinary study that touches upon the fields of literature, theology, ethics, and politics, and makes important contributions to the study of both medieval and early modern intellectual and literary history. It will appeal to academics in these fields, as well as clergy and other educated readers from a wide variety of denominations.
David Aers is James B. Duke Professor of English and Historical Theology with appointments in both the English Department and in the Divinity School at Duke University. His many publications include Sanctifying Signs: Making Christian Tradition in Late Medieval England (2004) and Salvation and Sin: Augustine, Langland, and Fourteenth-Century Theology (2009), both published by the University of Notre Dame Press.
“This is a marvelous and original monograph, both deeply learned and eloquently written. I have no doubt that Versions of Election will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and students of religious history and thought, both in the medieval and early modern periods.” —Nicolette Zeeman, author of The Arts of Disruption
"While Langland, Aquinas, Calvin, and Milton are the major figures in the chapters devoted to them, Aers's reach extends to many more thinkers.... Versions of Election serves as a solid primer for the entirety of predestination theology over the period." —Milton Quarterly
"Aers has spent his career exploring soteriological questions of election and his expertise shines on every page through detailed and sophisticated readings of complex doctrinal texts." —Sixteenth Century Journal