Violence and Religion: Attitudes towards Militancy in the French Civil Wars and the English Revolution

Violence and Religion: Attitudes towards Militancy in the French Civil Wars and the English Revolution

Violence and Religion: Attitudes towards Militancy in the French Civil Wars and the English Revolution

Violence and Religion: Attitudes towards Militancy in the French Civil Wars and the English Revolution

Synopsis

Integrating her extensive knowledge of sixteenth and seventeenth century literature, Judy Sproxton examines the expression of a recurring theme in history, that of the tension between religious faith and political and militant action. Violence and Religion offers a detailed and fascinating study of the writings of some of the major figures of the time including Calvin, D'Aubigneacute; Cromwell, Winstanley and the poet Andrew Marvell. Looking at texts written during two periods of major political upheaval and civil unrest in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, she explores the division between their understanding of the self-interest of humanity and the will of God.

Excerpt

If there is anything in mortal affairs which should be approached with hesitancy, or rather which ought to be avoided in every possible way, guarded against and shunned, that thing is war; there is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more deeply tenacious, more loathsome, in a word, more unworthy of man, not to say of a Christian.

(Phillips 1967:107)

So wrote Erasmus in the 1515 edition of his Adages. in bringing to bear on the climate of his times his great Humanist scholarship together with his evangelical faith, Erasmus was among the first to challenge the prevalent attitudes and activities of church and state.

Within a few years, any such criticism was to arouse suspicion and hostility. Before long, violence was considered by many authorities throughout Europe as the only means to suppress challenge. Many of those who questioned the integrity of their rulers equally had recourse to the sword in an effort to protect freedom of worship.

The aim of this book, however, is not to assess the political consequences of Reform movements in the sixteenth century. I have chosen rather to look more specifically at the effect the new climate of challenge had on certain individuals. the priority given by the Reform to the will of God over human institutions led to an invigorating freedom to define personal moral stance.

The writers I have chosen to discuss in the following pages have in common their readiness to identify, in one way or another, the working of the will of God in the context of a climate of social upheaval.

The men to whose writings I refer came from vastly different social backgrounds. John Calvin was an exegete and a preacher; he

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