The Crisis of Calvinism and Rise of Arminianism in Cromwellian England
thesisposted on 20.06.2017, 12:32 by Andrew James Ollerton
Historians of religion have long been fascinated with the crumbling of the Calvinist consensus. To date, attention has largely focussed on either 'Laudians' in the early Stuart period or 'Latitudinarians' and 'High-Churchmen' in the post-Restoration church. This thesis will demonstrate that the 1650s were in fact the breakthrough moment for English Arminianism. Paradoxically, during the decade of puritan rule, Calvinist doctrines of absolute predestination and irresistible grace were challenged on an unprecedented scale. Part I charts the rise of three diverse styles of English Arminianism. Most surprisingly, anti-Calvinism began to emerge among puritans such as John Goodwin, John Horn and John Milton, who turned against the soteriology of Reformed theology. Episcopal Royalists including Henry Hammond, Thomas Pierce and Laurence Womack also issued aggressive anti-Calvinist publications in a bid to undermine the Reformed heritage of the Church of England. In addition, a cacophony of sectarian voices, including Baptists, Socinians and Quakers, registered their disapproval regarding the perceived arbitrariness of the Calvinist god. As a consequence, English divines spoke of an unfolding 'Quinquarticular war', as matters debated on the continent at the Synod of Dort now caused an episode of domestic controversy. Part II traces the theological arguments of the two leading English Arminians in the 1650s - John Goodwin and Henry Hammond. These chapters will highlight both the diversity and catholicity of English Arminians who made sophisticated use of resources from the Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed and Remonstrant traditions and situated their work within the mainstream of the Western theological tradition. By considering this episode of religious controversy, new light will be shed on both the radical reformation of theology during the English Revolution and its influence on the post-Restoration church.