God’s Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience

Book Cover: God's Caress
Charles L. Cohen. God’s Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience. Oxford University Press, 1988.

Although scripture demands rebirth for all of God’s chosen people, the actual experience of religious conversion is largely determined by the complex interaction between individuals and clergy. This book focuses on the Puritan experience of conversion, which culminated in the celebration of strength liberated for divine purposes, to examine how ministers elaborated the psychological imperatives of faith and their listeners modified and internalized them. Looking at firsthand accounts of personal conversion as well as at sermons and tracts, Cohen discusses how clergy and laity together defined the norms of religious experience, how the Bible influenced Puritan self-perception, and how theology molded the behavior of Saints in a covenanted community. Winner of the Allan Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians, this study advances Max Weber’s discussion of the Saint’s psychology of work and illuminated the function of rebirth in Puritan culture as both a religious and a psychological phenomenon.


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