The ironies of English Erastianism: Puritanism and the outbreak of the English Civil Wars

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter aims to explore the evolving conceptions of church-state
relations from the perspective of a particular group of moderate puritans in early Stuart England. It will delineate how their contemplation
of church-state relations and, more specifically, their Erastian beliefs,
brought them to a position of opposition to Charles I. In this way, it will
shed light on the causes of the English (or British) civil wars, at least for these men.1 More broadly, it will demonstrate that ideas regarding
the appropriate relationship between church and state during the period
of England's "long Reformation'' were often ambiguous and contested. It
will also suggest that these moderate puritans saw in Erastianism a possible resolution to such ambiguity.
But first a brief note on nomenclature. There has been a long and
somewhat inconclusive debate concerning the use (and usefulness) of the
labels "puritan" and "puritanism'' in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century
England. Some scholars, due to the term's pejorative connotations, have
argued for the employment of the self-applied, contemporary description "godly" instead; however, recent scholarship has seen a marked rehabilitation of "puritan'' and "puritanism:'' Essentially, both "puritan'' and
"godly" described the same socio-religious groups and the terms are
often now used interchangeably. Without getting too embroiled in the
definitional debates, I will take puritan to mean that wing of English
Protestantism which favoured a "hotter;' more activist Protestantism,
and which could often be found advocating further reformation of the
English Church (though precisely what this further reformation specifically entailed was subject to some debate). Puritans were predestinarian,
stridently anti-papal, and often participated in various voluntarist religious activities, such as "gadding" to sermons, fasts, and spiritual meditations. For reasons that will be made clear below, I have termed the
particular group of men with whom I am concerned "moderate" puritans.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChurch and state in old and new worlds
EditorsHilary M Carey, John Gascoigne
Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9789004192003
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'The ironies of English Erastianism: Puritanism and the outbreak of the English Civil Wars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this