Saving the Church of England: John Edwards (1637-1716) as dissenting conformer

Norman, Daniel Craig (2020) Saving the Church of England: John Edwards (1637-1716) as dissenting conformer. PhD thesis, Middlesex University / London School of Theology. [Thesis]

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Following early retirement from parish work, Edwards undertook a mission to defend and preserve the Church of England. Against those who sought to make optional those doctrines traditionally considered as essential for Christian orthodoxy, such as the Trinity and Incarnation, Edwards was uncompromising. Removing foundational ordinances of Christianity would destroy the church. To counter Arian and Socinian threats, Edwards entered the pamphlet wars, engaging some of the leading heterodox intellectuals of his day, including John Locke, Samuel Clarke, and William Whiston.

Edwards was also committed to church unity for those who accepted as essential those doctrines delineated in the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds upon which the XXXIX Articles were based. Though a committed Calvinist, he willingly subordinated his theological preferences on non-essentials to greater principle of unity by respectfully remaining in the church dominated by Latitudinarians and others who did not share his Reformed theology.

Leaders on all sides of the seventeenth-century dissension paid lip service to church unity, but failed to act on it. Edwards practiced genuine toleration within the traditional bounds of orthodoxy but he would not extend his tolerance to define the church out of existence. Toleration, after all, is a weak version of Christian love and it was clear to Edwards that lack of love was the basis for division.

Most contemporary references to John Edwards describe him very briefly as a rude, extreme, and slandering Calvinist who had a bitter debate with philosopher John Locke, the champion of reasonableness, peace, and toleration. This thesis does more than upend that synopsis. Although Edwards was not always the most diplomatic opponent, a close evaluation of his works demonstrates that he was most often respectful, fairly tolerant, and careful in his accusations. Had others followed his example, Church of England schisms could have been avoided.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Law
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > London School of Theology
Item ID: 31070
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2021 14:38
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:49

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