The Antinomian Controversy and the Puritan Vision: A Historical Perspective on Christian Leadership -- By: Jeffrey M. Kahl

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 35:0 (NA 2003)
Article: The Antinomian Controversy and the Puritan Vision: A Historical Perspective on Christian Leadership
Author: Jeffrey M. Kahl


The Antinomian Controversy and the Puritan Vision:
A Historical Perspective on Christian Leadership

Jeffrey M. Kahl

Jeffrey Kahl (MATS from ATS, 2003) is Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministries for Clen-Moore Presbyterian Church, New Castle, PA.

Introduction

The American Puritans are perhaps the most interesting, the most complex, and even the most misunderstood players in the fascinating saga called American History. Radical skeptics such as Perry Miller and William McLoughlin, as well as committed Christians such as H. Richard Niebuhr and J. I. Packer, have credited the Puritans with establishing the foundations of America’s intellectual and cultural life. Undoubtedly this is the reason why the Puritans have merited the scholarly attention (on a much grander scale than other American colonial groups) not only of theologians and historians, but sociologists, psychologists, economists, literary critics, rhetoricians, artists, and others. It has been nearly four hundred years since they set foot on American soil, and information surrounding these colonists continues to attract the curiosity of scholars and laypersons alike.

The Antinomian controversy of 1637 has elicited special attention as a crucial event in early American history, and researchers bringing different presuppositions and perspectives to the task have yielded different interpretations of the actual events surrounding the controversy.

Writers such as Anne F. Withington, Jack Schwartz, and Richard B. Morris have concluded that the proceedings against Anne Hutchinson could rightly be characterized as a “show trial” and that the Puritan elders were more interested in their own cause than in the cause of justice.1

More theologically-minded scholars such as David Hall, William K. B. Stoever and Jesper Rosenmeier have attempted to discern an intensive debate over theological minutia (such as the precise relationship between nature and grace) as being the motivating force behind the controversy.2

Writers with strong feminist sympathies have emphasized the role that Hutchinson’s sex played in the course and eventual outcome of the controversy, while others have attempted to analyze how the Puritans dealt with social deviants in general.3

Emery Battis has even attempted to interpret the controversy by dissecting the psychological profile of Anne Hutchinson, discerning in her admiration of John Cotton a deep yearning for fatherly affection, and explaining her behavior at her ...

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