A DEFENSE OF CHRISTIANITY AGAINST ATHEISM

Atheomastix: clearing foure Truthes against Atheists and Infidels.

London, Nicholas Okes, 1622.

£3,750

FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp (xxxvi), 68, 99-362. Roman letter, text within box rule. Small woodcut ornament on title, floriated woodcut initials and headpieces. Title page very fractionally dusty. A fine copy, crisp and clean in handsome contemporary English calf, covers bordered with triple blind rule, spine with raised bands ruled in blind, remains of green silk ties, all edges yellow.

First edition of Fotherby’s interesting and important refutation of Atheism. Marin Fotherby was born in or around 1549 at Grimsby in Lincolnshire. He studied at Cambridge and eventually became a Fellow of Trinity. Having served as Rector of St Mary-le-Bow, Fotherby became Prebendery and Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1596 and Dean in 1615. He served as a chaplain to James I and was consecrated Bishop of Salisbury on 19th April 1618. “Martin Fotherby does not appear to have been a particularly memorable bishop. His entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that “His register for his brief episcopate contains only five folios of routine business, and he appears to have made very little impression on his diocese.”

However, his posthumous work Atheomastix is worthy of more attention from scholars than they have thus far given it. Atheomastix is a curious work. The Greek title seems to mean “the scourge of atheists”, but despite the fierceness of its title, Atheomastix is less a polemical work attacking unbelievers than an apologetic work seeking to persuade them of the truth of Christian doctrine. The character of the work is perhaps better expressed by its full title. The unusual apologetic strategy adopted by Fotherby is signaled in the statement that although this work cites Scripture and the Church Fathers “for the confirming of Christians”, it seeks to prove certain core Christian doctrines to sceptical readers “by Naturall Reasons, and Secular Authorities”. Fotherby recognises that he cannot adopt the normal course of a clergyman by appealing to the authority of Scripture in seeking to persuade those who reject divine revelation. It is for this reason that Atheomastix is full of citations from classical authors, usually with accompanying English translations.

Fotherby also cites sources such as early modern travel writing which, whilst largely written within a Christian framework, introduce knowledge from sources other than special revelation. It is these classical and secular authorities which Fotherby thinks are more likely to persuade the thinking infidel when employed in the service of Christian apologetic. Thus Fotherby’s principal rhetorical mode is appeal to authority, but he appeals to those authorities he deems to be most credible to his intended readership rather than those which he himself believes to possess the greatest intrinsic authority. Were it to have been completed, Fotherby’s treatise would have been of enormous length. The contents page outlines the eight projected books of the first part of the project, proving Fotherby’s first proposition that there is a God.

The work as we have it extends to over 350 pages, but only contains the first two books of this first part of the projected work. Fotherby, presumably in his final illness, concludes the work apologetically. “Heere wee should proceede to the third probation of our first generall head, argued, and vrged, from The Structure of Mans body, &c. But the Hand of Almighty GOD, at this present, on mine owne Body, heere stayeth my Hand.” David Parry. ‘The Trivium, the Trinity and the Theory of Everything: Education, Rhetoric and Religion in the works of Jan Amos Comenius and Martin Fotherby’. A lovely copy in a handsome contemporary binding.

STC, 11205. ESTC, S121334. Not in Lowndes.

L1285

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