UU Minute #41

Come the Restoration (1660)

From the early Christian church and the Council of Nicea of 325, European Church history focused on doctrine. Europeans spilled a lot of ink, and a lot of blood, on the finer details of what statements one ought to affirm. Even today the notion that one’s religion is defined by the affirmation of statements is still widespread.

The social function of religion is group cohesion. Who’s with you? Who can you trust? Europeans used doctrine as a litmus test for who was “us” and who was “them.”

But in 17th-century England, the “us-them” litmus test shifted. It was less about doctrine than church governance. Episcopal polity ( rule by the bishops), and Presbyterian polity (rule by groups of elders called presbyters) squared off. Along with polity differences were differences in form of worship: free worship or liturgical worship, prescribed prayer or voluntary prayer, clerical vestments, different elements in the worship services. Doctrinal matters, though, were largely ignored.

In the 1640s, the English Parliament made Presbyterianism the polity and worship form of the Church of England, but this was not much enforced. 1660 brought the restoration of the throne under Charles II. The Presbyterians, who tended to be royalists, had high hopes, but Charles soon declared “Presbyterianism is no religion for a gentleman,” and returned the Church of England to Episcopal polity and forms.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, doctrinal innovations were spreading. People were, more or less in secret, reading and circulating books by Fausto Sozzini and John Biddle. In 1687, 25 years after John Biddle’s death, one Stephen Nye published, A Brief History of the Unitarians Called Also Socinians. It launched the Unitarian Controversy that raged through the Church of England bringing attention again to doctrinal means of distinguishing “us” from “them.”

NEXT: Glorious Revolution
Bibliography of the More Significant Books, Pamphlets, and Tracts published in "The Unitarian Controversy" -- a.k.a. "The Socinian Controversy" and "The Trinitarian Controversy" -- in England, 1687-1697.
  1. Stephen Nye [Unitarian], A Brief History of the Unitarians, Called also Socinians, 1687.
  2. Thomas Firmin [Unitarian], Brief Notes on the Creed of St. Athanasius, 1689.
  3. Arthur Bury [Latitudinarian], The Naked Gospel, 1690. 
  4. Thomas Firmin [Unitarian], ed., The Faith of One God: Asserted and Defended, 1691. [anthology of Unitarian essays]
  5. William Nicholls [Trinitarian], An Answer to an Heretical Book called 'The Naked Gospel,' with a Short History of Socinianism, 1691. [Reply to #3]
  6. Thomas Long [Trinitarian], An Answer to a Socinian Treatise called 'The Naked Gospel', 1691. [Reply to #3]
  7. William Sherlock [Trinitarian], A Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity, and the Incarnation of the Son of God: Occasioned by the Brief Notes on the Creed of St. Athanasius, and the Brief History of the Unitarians, or Socinians, and Containing an Answer to Both, 1690.
  8. John Wallis [Trinitarian Presbyterian], The Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, Briefly Explained in a Letter to a Friend, 1690.
  9. Daniel Whitby [Latitudinarian], Tractatus de Vera Christi Deitate Adversus Arii et Socini Hæreses, 1691.
  10. William Freke [Arian Unitarian], The Arian's Vindication of Himself, 1691.
  11. John Wallis [Trinitarian Presbyterian], A Fourth Letter Concerning the Sacred Trinity, 1691. [Reply to #10]]
  12. Robert South [Socinian Unitarian], Tritheism Charged upon Dr. Sherlock's New Notion of the Trinity and the Charge Made Good in an Answer to the Defense of the Said Notion Against Animadversions on Dr Sherlock's Book, entitled a Vindication of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity &c, 1693. [Reply to #7]
  13. Stephen Nye [Unitarian],  Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity, By Dr. Wallis, Dr. Sherlock, Dr. South, Dr. Cudworth, and Mr. Hooker; as also on the Account given by those that say, the Trinity is an Unconceivable and Inexplicable Mystery, 1693.
  14. Edward Fowler [Latitudinarian], Twenty-eight Propositions, by which the Doctrine of the Trinity is Endeavoured to be Explained, and Subsequent Defences, 1693.
  15. Jonathan Edwards [Calvinist, 1629-1712], A Preservative Against Socinianism, 1693.
  16. Francis Fulwood [Trinitarian], The Socinian Controversie, 1693.
  17. George Bull [Athanasian Trinitarian], Judicium Ecclesiae Catholicae, 1694.
  18. Matthew Tindal [Deist], Reflections on the Twenty-Eight Propostions, 1695. [Reply to #14]
  19. Charles Leslie [Church of Ireland], The Charge of Socinianism against Dr. Tillotson Considered, 1695.
  20. Jonathan Edwards [Calvinist, 1629-1712], Remarks upon a Book Lately Published by Dr. William Sherlock, 1695. [Reply to #7]
  21. John Smith [Unitarian], A Designed End to the Socinian Controversy: or a rational and plain Discourse that no other person but the Father of Christ is God Most High, 1695.
  22. Gilbert Clerke [Socinian Unitarian] and Samuel Crellius [Arian Unitarian], Tractatus Tres, 1695. [Reply to #17]
  23. Francis Gregory [Trinitarian], A divine antidote against a devilish poyson, or, A scriptural answer to an anti-scriptural and heretical pamphlet entituled 'A Designed End to the Socinian Controversy,' written by John Smith, 1695. [Reply to #21]
  24. John Locke [Socinian Unitarian], The Reasonableness of Christianity as Delivered in Scripture, 1695.
  25. Jonathan Edwards [Calvinist], Socinianism Unmask'd, followed by The Socinian Creed, 1696.
  26. John Locke [Socinian Unitarian], Vindication of his Essay of the Reasonableness of Christianity, 1697. [Reply to #25]
  27. Samuel Bold [Socinian Unitarian], Discourse on the true Knowledge of Christ Jesus, 1697. [Reply to #25]
Thomas Emlyn [Arian Unitarian], An Humble Inquiry into the Scripture Account of Jesus Christ, 1702.

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