The Trinity, Adiaphora, Ecclesiology, And Reformation: John Owen’s Theory Of Religious Toleration In Context -- By: Paul Lim

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 67:2 (Fall 2005)
Article: The Trinity, Adiaphora, Ecclesiology, And Reformation: John Owen’s Theory Of Religious Toleration In Context
Author: Paul Lim


The Trinity, Adiaphora, Ecclesiology, And Reformation:
John Owen’s Theory Of Religious Toleration In Context

Paul Lim

Paul Chang-Ha Lim is Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass.

That they had neither care of the truth,
nor love of peace, nor conscience of scandal,
nor would by any means be prevailed on
to lay down their malice and animosities.

—Emperor Constantine1

I

In the historiography of early modern Britain, the question of toleration and liberty—political, ideological, and religious—has been of paramount importance, whether in reception, repudiation, or in reappraisal of this admittedly modern concept. Among other groups, the Independents have commanded much attention for their putative role in championing religious liberty during the Civil War, presaging the emergence of the full-blown tolerationist rhetoric of John Locke, among others.2 Whiggish historians such as W. K. Jordan have found in the Independents and radical Puritans a fertile seedbed for the rise of religious toleration in the modern western world. However, the historiographical paradigm of a steady progression toward greater ideological and religious tolerance and diversity has been questioned by revisionist historians, who instead find in early modern England a transitional existence which, rather than influence the rise of modernity, owed its existence to and was influenced by the habits of thought of the late Middle Ages, thus giving a more nuanced reading of a society where ideas of tolerance and intolerance were often locked in intense battles.3

Blair Worden has questioned the historiographical truism of W. K. Jordan, William Haller, S. R. Gardiner, to name a few, that the Independents were instrumental in the rise of religious liberty and toleration in early modern England.4 In a seminal article, “Toleration and the Cromwellian Protectorate,” Professor Worden has convincingly argued that “puritan theological conservatism” was a keystone in “the formation of the government’s doctrinal policies in the Protectorate.”5 Avihu Zakai and Carolyn Polizzotto have echoed Worden’s position and reconstructed the Independents’ stance on religious toleration during the English Civil War and during the early 1650s, showing that the Independents were more concerned with preservation of do...

You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
Click here to subscribe
visitor : : uid: ()