Fear and Polemic in Seventeenth-Century England
Richard Baxter and Antinomianism
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The Antinomians have long been positioned on the fringe of mid-seventeenth-century English religion, placed there by detractors like the theologian Richard Baxter (1615-1691). This study considers the intellectual career of Baxter from the vantage point of his deep hostility to Antinomian doctrine - a doctrine that both contemporaries and historians have judged to be subversive, immoral and radical. Baxter's antipathy towards the Antinomians is all the more intriguing given his initial support of the doctrine. Cooper examines the reasons for this shift of opinion, arguing that Baxter's hostility had much to do with the context of the English Civil War. Drawing out long-hidden revelations buried deep within Baxter's correspondence, Cooper demonstrates that he blamed the Antinomians for the war and that they provided a means of channelling his anxiety. The Antinomian debate serves as a case study of the structure of seventeenth-century English polemic which essentially refused any middle ground to an opponent. Thus Baxter and others portrayed the Antinomians as more radical than they ever really were. This study of Baxter's thought provides a window on the colour and drama of his seventeenth-century English world.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Part One: Controversy; Personality; Polemic; Part Two: Armies, Antinomians and Aphorisms: The 1640s; Disputes and dissipation: the 1650s; Recrudescence: the later 17th century; Conclusion: Appendix A The Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696); Appendix B Undated treatise; Bibliography; Index.
'...an impressive first book.' English Historical Review '... a good book that adds value to our understanding of a major figure in the religious and political history of seventeenth-century England.' The Catholic Historical Review '... this nicely written, carefully researched, courteous, crisp book is much more than a study of the writings of Richard Baxter, the prominent seventeenth-century minister and controversialist... Fear and Polemic is as much a work of cultural history as it is religious history, adding to our understanding of the importance of polemic and techniques of controversy in the early modern world, and demonstrating the centrality of fear in the forging of seventeenth-century ideologies.' Albion 'Cooper's work on Baxter does an excellent job of balancing the theological culture of post-Reformation England with the details of Baxter's personal history. There are lessons here for all historians of religious culture in the seventeenth century.' www.sehepunkte.historicum.net