Lesson Four: Church of England in the 1600s
Growing Power of Puritans
Following Elizabeth I’s reign of relative religious tolerance, Puritans gained converts and political power to pursue a stricter Protestant church, free from any Catholic practice or influences. Puritans advocated for simpler ceremonies, increased emphasis on personal piety, and a direct relationship with God.
The movement attracted various segments of society., some who embraced its moral rigor and emphasis on individual responsibility and others who saw it as a tool for social reform, challenging the established secular and church hierarchies. With James I’s continuation of Protestant leniency, Puritans gained increasing influence in Parliament. His attempts to impose absolutist rule at the expense of Parliament led to greater turmoil and some unlikely partners, i.e., the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
When Charles I succeeded James, the situation worsened. He further enraged Puritans by levying unpopular taxes without Parliament’s consent and pursuing religious policies they deemed heretical. The Scottish rebellion further emboldened the Puritans and forced the King to deal with a new Parliament (the Long Parliament) that included a strong Puritan contingent. Disagreement within that parliament – moderates seeking compromise and radicals pushing for major reform – led to two Civil Wars between the two sides – Royalists versus Parliamentarians – from 1642 to 1649.
Parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, won the war, arrested Charles I, charged him with treason, and executed him. With the King gone, England entered a new period as a Republic with Cromwell as its Lord Protector.
Arminianism is a theological movement within Christianity, named after the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). It emerged in the early 17th century as a challenge to the predestination doctrines of Calvinism. Arminianism gained significant followers in the Netherlands and later influenced Protestant denominations like Methodists, United Methodists, Nazarenes, and some Baptists.
Its central tenets were
- Conditional Election: God chooses for salvation those who He foresees will respond in faith, not based on a predetermined decree.
- Free Will: Humans have a genuine capacity for free will and can choose to accept or reject God’s offer of grace.
- Universal Atonement: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross provides atoning power for all humanity, not just a select group predetermined for salvation.
- Prevenient Grace: God provides initial grace to draw all people towards Him, enabling them to respond freely.
- Conditional Perseverance: Salvation can be lost if someone chooses to reject God’s grace and turn away from faith.
Arminianism contrasts with Calvinism, which emphasizes God’s absolute sovereignty, predestination of individuals for salvation or damnation, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.
The combination of the Arminian view of God’s Grace with the Calvinist position and their hostility to Archbishop Laud’s efforts to impose Popish practices infuriated Puritans and fueled dissidents’ effort to overthrow the monarchy and Bishop authority in the Church of England.