The Puritan as Yankee: A Life of Horace Bushnell. By Robert Bruce Mullin. Eerdmans, 296 pp., $21.00 paperback.

Horace Bushnell (1802-1876) is "more often talked about than read," this volume in Eerdmans's Library of Religious Biography series declares. Church historian Robert Bruce Mullin sheds new light on one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of American theology. Rather than giving the usual interpretation of Bushnell as a pioneer of 19th-century American theological liberalism, Mullin portrays him as an orthodox figure who attempted to redefine the earlier Puritan theological and cultural heritage of his native New England. Although Mullin concedes that Bushnell was an important theological innovator, he was also "a great tinkerer, always interested in improving that which he found before him."

Mullin's interpretation of Bushnell as a theological "tinkerer" works well in his reassessment of Bushnell's major theological writings, including the seminal volumes Christian Nurture, God in Christ and Nature and the Supernatural. Mullin paints a portrait of a conservative yet innovative thinker, a theologian who sought to modify New England theological orthodoxy to meet the needs of Americans living in his generation (for example, many of Bushnell's early writings were attempts to heal the theological breach that existed in the early 19th century between trinitarian Congregationalists and their Unitarian counterparts). Ultimately, Bushnell's innovative theology was driven by his staunch fidelity to upholding the worldview of the homespun New England "Yankee" culture that reared him--a culture rapidly disappearing during his lifetime.