Godly Learning attempts to establish the relationship which Puritans worked out between faith and reason in the eighty years before the Civil War. This was a period of rapid expansion of educational facilities, of a clash between humanist values of the Renaissance and the fideism of the Reformation, and of confrontations between traditionalist (primarily Aristotelian) approaches to knowledge and the new experimental path signalled by Bacon. Taking an existential approach to the question of meaning, Puritans sought their solution in the development of a covenant theology based on a life of active faith. They argued vehemently that natural reason was incapable of finding the path to salvation; as well, only faith could regenerate reason to its proper capabilities. At the same time, Puritans emphasised the value of learning for comprehension of Scripture and preparation of sermons. Starting with a fresh approach to the question of defining Puritans, Godly Learning proceeds to delineate the infrequently studied puritan mentalite which informed the better-known public political and ecclesiological positions.
Not since the work of Perry Miller has there been such a thorough attempt to comprehend the Puritan view of reason, and the implications of that view.
'The central tension between faith and reason lies at the core of Dr Morgan's book, thoroughly researched, thoughtfully argued, generally a treat to read ... when the blurb claims that 'not since Perry Miller has there been such a thorough attempt to comprehend the Puritan view of reason', it seems a wholly justified claim.' The Times Higher Education Supplement 'Among the books which have proliferated in the past two decades, John Morgan's study of the English Puritan view of learning and education is especially welcome for its clarity, scholarship, and utilisation of recent research ... the student interested in the English Puritan 'mind' can do no better than begin with Morgan's book'. History of Education