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Ecclesiology And Politics

Puritanism became a political issue around 1570, as Elizabeth began to resist demands for further reformation of the English Church. Political Puritanism at first denoted the party counseling Elizabeth to change her mind and resume the transformation of England toward the practices of more fully Reformed polities, such as Geneva and Scotland. These Puritans' main desires were to eliminate England's bishops and replace them in the Church's governing structure with both a presbyterial-synodal church structure and a system of consistorial discipline, and to eliminate the vestments, liturgy, and church decoration that preserved aspects of England's Catholic tradition. Puritan relations with Elizabeth became increasingly acrimonious, as by the end of the 1580s it was clear that her halt was meant to be permanent. Since first Elizabeth and then James remained adamant in their resistance to full national reformation, Puritanism from the 1590s to the 1610s chose two tactics by which to express their opposition. Most Puritans made the necessary obeisances to the forms of the English Church, but worked quietly to reform the church at the local level, while waiting for a chance to resume national reformation. A few radicals separated from the Church rather than acquiesce in its imperfect reformation; these ministers and laity, intermittently persecuted, generally abandoned the urge to create a national Church, and instead founded Congregationalist, Baptist, and other sects.

The onset of the Thirty Years War upset this political situation. As England's bellicose Reformed ministry urged intervention in the war, opposing James I's pacific policy, first James and then Charles I began to patronize more deferential "Arminian" bishops, who added to their respect for royal authority a shift from the traditional Reformed emphasis on faith and predestination toward an emphasis on tradition and ritual, and sought accordingly to move the Church even farther from the Reformed ideal. Puritanism therefore transformed itself in the 1620s and 1630s from an urge toward further reform to a defense of such reform as had already been achieved in the Church against Arminianizing changes. At the same time the actions of Charles and the Arminian bishops greatly radicalized Puritanism. Among those Puritans who still wished to take part in a national Church, the number of Puritans willing to tolerate episcopacy diminished drastically; and the sectarian impulse and the desire to emigrate to fully Reformed New England also rose sharply among Puritans in these decades. As his command of the nation broke down in the early 1640s, Charles confronted a radicalized Puritanism, which three generations of royal policy had made bitterly hostile to royal authority and extraordinarily receptive to radical political practice and thought.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Propagation to Quantum electrodynamics (QED)Puritanism - Religious Practice, Ecclesiology And Politics, Capitalism, Bibliography