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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The different kinds of Puritans

I apologize for this quibble, but the word is
"Presbyterian" with a "b". Are you typing in the quoted passages because if the
books are being published with such a spelling error there is something wrong
with their editors.

I think it is a miss spelling on my part. I was typing it and I put a "p" instead of a "b". My bad.

You choose to lump them together under one name
where others do not. I understand that and as I wrote, this seems to be a point
on which we must agree to disagree.

Thank you also for the references to
both books. Is the orange line in parentheses on the quote from The History of
Christianity in the United States" by Nancy Koester your emphasis or did you put
it in to show what you consider an important point?


It's ok, we can agree to differ. I'm fine with that.

yeah, it was a quote from what Nancy said. I just never high lighted that part from the larger quote. I'll high light it in red now.

"New England: The Puritan Society of visible Saints

The first Puritan colony in New England was Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620); it was followed by the colonies of Massachusetts bay (1628) and Boston (1630). Between 1630 and 1640, the "great Migration" brought some twenty thousand English Puritans to the NEw England colonies. Puritans also settled in the middle colonies, mingling with other types of Protestants. The Puritan movement did much to shape Christianity not only in the New England colonies but in the United States more broadly. So before continuing with the story of the Puritan colonies, we must sketch the broad range and reach of Puritanism.

As we have seen, Puritanism was a late-born child of the Reformation, dedicated to purifying the Church of England. theologically, the Puritans drew from the Reformed wing of the Reformation, as articulated by John Calvin and his heirs. The challenge was how to put Calvinist theology into practice in an English context.
Not all puritans agreed on how this was to be done. Their various reform strategies gave rise to several groups: Congregationalists, Prespyterians, Baptists, the Society of Friends,(Quakers), and many small radical sects.
Later on, in the United States, Uniterianism split off from Congregationalism to become a sort of free-thinking grandchild of Puritanism. Many nineteenth-century reforms, including abolitionism, had deep roots in the Puritan tradition. Puritans saw themselves as God's chosen people, devlivered from bondage and given a divine mission in a promised land. As David Gelernter points out, this set of beliefs arose from the Old Testament story of Israel as God's chosen people which, animated Puritanism and lives on today as the essence of "Americanism". This belief(in a divinely chosen people with a special role to play in the World) runs like a red thread from the first Puritan settlements down to politics and foreign policy in the early twenty-first century. To be sure, there are also discontinuities between then and now. The Remnant in the wilderness has become a superpower, and the old Puritan sense of accountabiltiy to divine judgement has all but vanished. Yet the chosen nation idea lives on. One need not accept this worldview to recognize its power in history.

The original Puritans wanted a godly society- a fully reformed church and nation. When they lost their political power in old England, New England became their last chance to complete the Reformation. This "Holy Experiment" was guided by religious convictions.""

pages 15 & 16 from the book "The History of Christianity in the United States" by Nancy Koester

I would like to post what Dr. Alister Mcgrath said. I was looking at it last night. I'll highlight the important stuff in red.

""When Charles appointed the high Churchman William Laud as archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, the Puritan faction within the Church of England was incensed. At this time, Puritans were divided into factions-such as Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Separationists. Presbyterians believed in an organic church, with a graded hierarchy of government; Congregationalists held fast to the idea of the Sovereignty of local congregations. There is no greater disruptive force, no greater incentive to fragmentation, than a common creed held with a difference. The perception of a difference often leads to its accentuation, sometimes to the point where what is held in common seems to recede into the background, overshadowed by the suspicion and hostility evoked by the division. A seemingly minor divergence tus had the potential to become the cause of division and strife within Puritanism-if it was allowed to do so.

Yet the increasing perception of a dangerously hostile establishment caused Puritans to see their differences from a somewhat different perspective and to bring a sense of realism to their differences. Internecine hostilities were suspended in order to concentrate on the greater threat that confronted the movement. Puritanism became an increasingly well organized movement, alert to both dangers and opportunities. Whether, taken in isolation, that would have led to anything much remains open to question. In the context of the growing tensions between Charles and Parliament, however, the position of Puritans could be seen as much more serious."


pages 136-137 from the book "Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution-A history from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first" by Dr. Alister Mcgrath.

On pages 153-154 he says:

"The Pilgrims Fathers were not, it must be appreciated, typical of Enhlish Puritanism at this time. They were separatists whose beliefs were more characteristic of the Anabaptists than of Calvin: they were convinced that each congregation had the democratic right to determine its own beliefs and choose its own ministers. Most English Puritans of the age were Presbyterians who were committed to the notion of a single mother church with local outposts-a "universal church" with "particular congregations" bound together by shared beliefs and leaders. It was only a matter of time before the defining conflicts of the Old World would find themselves being replayed in the New. But this time, decentralization would win.

One of the most remarkable features of the early history of New England Protestantism in the 1620s and 1630s is that most Puritan communities appear to have abandoned a Presbyterian view of church government within months of their arrival and adopted a congregational polity instead. The Plymouth COlony Separatists appear to have been significant in bringing about a major shift in how congregations organized themselves and related to other congregations. Reacting strongly against the rigid hierarchical structures of the European state churches, the American settlers opted instead for a democratic congregationalism. Local congregations made their own decisions. Instead of centralized authority stuctures-such as presbyteries or dioceses-the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay area developed "a highly decentralized and well-nigh uncontrollable Congregational church order which licensed any individual congregation to revise Calvinist theology as it saw fit. And revise it they did."


And in regards to the American Revolution he says:

"Protestantism and the American Revolution

The Historical roots of the American Revolution are complex, and it is difficult to assign priority to any factor as the ultimate cause of the rebellion against British rule. The burdens of taxation, the lack of due representation, and the desire for freedom were unquestionably integral ingredients in the accumulation of grievances that drove many colonials to take up arms against the kings. Yet religious ussue also played their part, not least in intensifying a sense of injustice over the privileged status of the Church of England in the British colonies. The Church of England had become established by law in the southern states of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, and even in four counties of New York State. Although dissent was permitted, the situation rankled Baptists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians. Opposition began to grow.

In the early 1770s, Congregationalist ministers in New England regularly preached on the theme of religious and political freedom, linking both with resisting English tyranny. Throughout Puritan Massachusetts, pamphlets appeared offering a religious justification for the use of armed force against an oppressor and urging young men to join militias. The rhetotic and theology were not entirely unlike the rhetoric and theology that prevailed during the prelude to the English civil War.

So was the American Revolution actually a war of Religion? It is difficult to make the case for its being so. Religious elements were involved-above all a desire to ensure religious freedom and eliminate the privileges of the established church. Yet it would not be true to say that these concerns dominated the agenda of those driving the Revolution. The Patriots came from a wide variety of relious backgrounds, only some of which were driven by the theological backgrounds, only some of which were driven by the theological vision of the New England Congregationalists. The "black Regiment" of preachers such as Charles Chauncy, Samuel Cooper, and Jonathon Mayhew(so-called on account of their clerical dress) criticized the British from their pulpits. Yet the Great Awakening had renewed a sense of vision among Lutherians, Methodists, and Baptists, and that renewal widened and diversified the theological base of the Revolution."


pages 160-161

I will also quote something from the handbook of Denominations in the USA regards to Congregationalism. The important stuff will be highlighted in red.

"The proper from of church polity of structure of authority has been an issue in Christianity since New Testament times. the dominant Catholic/Orthodox tradition resolved that issue in favor of episcopacy or rule by bishops. As the protestant Reformation developed in the sixteenth century, polity became one of the key issues. The Reformed tradition, associated with John Calvin (1509-64) and John Knox (ca. 1513-72), rejected episcopacy in favor of a presbyterial system in which a council of clergy had authority.
In England, dissent took corporate form in the Puritan movements, of which Congregationalism represented the most radical wing.
page 120 [4]

"Between 1630 and 1640, 20,000 more Puritans arrived at Massachusetts Bay. Even less inclined toward Separatism than was the Plymouth colony, the sttlers of the bay established an effective "theocratic" government. Church and commonwealth were that society's two instruments. Contrary to popular belief, it was not a stern and rigid regime of the saints, but it was strict and could be as intolerant of religious dissent as the church of England was. The story of the banishment of radicals like Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) and Roger Williams (1603-83) are well known. When four quakers (see Friends), including a woman, were hanged on Boston Common in the 1660s (after the end of the Puritan Commonwealth in England), there was a public outcry in England. Following the Golden Revolution, New England was forced to accept the Act of Toleration in 1689.

Congregationalists like Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) of Northhampton played leading roles in First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s. That revival was marked not only by the eloquence of george Whitefield (1715-70) but also by vigorous writings and preaching of Edwards, whose books are now regarded as American classics.

Congregationalists in New England were leaders in the American Revolution, and during the next century Congregationalism played a major role in developing American institutional and religious life. In the field of education, this church had already made tremendous contributions. Members of this church founded Harvard in 1636. Yale (dounded 1797) was a project for the education of Congregationalist clergy in Connecticut. Dartmouth (founded 1769) developed from Eleazer Wheelock's (1711-79) school for Native Americans. These schools were among the first colleges in North America."
pages 120-121 [5]


[1],[2],[3] from the book "Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution-A history from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first" by Dr. Alister Mcgrath. Copyright 2007, published by Harperone.

[4],[5] from the book "Handbook of Denominations: in the United States" 11nth edition by Frank S. Mead & Samuel S. Hill revised by Craig D. Atwood. last copyrighted in 2001. published by Abingdon Press Nashville


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