23 April 2014

Puritans, Politics, and the Law

Go here to read a thoughtful review of Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and a City on a Hill by Michael P. Winship.Winship argues--and with a large degree of success according to the reviewer--that English and colonial Puritans were far more fissiparous, sectarian, and republican than recent historical scholarship has suggested. Contemporary Americans, whether theologically indebted to Puritanism or vigorously secular--owe both gratitude and blame for America's current divisively democratic political culture to our Puritan forbears.

From a more narrowly theological perspective,
Many of us (perhaps particularly among the Reformed) have long been accustomed to proudly claiming the radical puritans as our theological and political ancestors, champions of freedom in both church and state, men who laid the first foundations of our cherished American republic. Winship's narrative helps ensure that we may continue to claim them as having left a deep mark on the American psyche and political system. But his microscopic attention to the petty feuds, pharisaical scrupulosity, and fevered apocalypticism of the radical puritan mind may cause us to wonder just how much we may want to claim them. ... Winship's study appears to vindicate the early worries of Elizabethan churchmen that puritanism was tending toward Anabaptism, Donatism, and an unstable dialectic of legalism and libertinism. What all this means is that the various attempts of Reformed historical theologians to posit some Fall within American Protestantism--the Second Great Awakening, or the First, or the Halfway Covenant, depending on whom you ask--that took it from the Reformational mainstream into an individualistic sectarianism, are doomed.
On a far more prosaic note, for my observations about the lack of influence of Puritanism on England's common law download and read The Puritan Revolution and the Law of Contracts.

No comments:

Post a Comment