Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Windows into Men's Souls: Religious Nonconformity in Tudor and Early Stuart England

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Windows into Men's Souls: Religious Nonconformity in Tudor and Early Stuart England

Article excerpt

Windows into Men's Souls: Religious Nonconformity in Tudor and Early Stuart England. By Kenneth L. Campbell. (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books [Rowman & Littlefield], 2012, Pp. x, 225. $85.00.)

Kenneth L. Campbell, professor of history at Monmouth University in Newjersey, has been teaching around the intersection of the Reformation period and the history of the British Isles for several decades. In his most recent publication, he seeks to pinpoint the impetus behind the desire of Christians across the theological spectrum to separate from the established church in England (1-2). The primary motivation behind separation has been variously identified, including the practice of baptism, the authority of Scripture and its interpreter, Calvinism versus Arminianism, and the doctrine of the invisible church. Campbell duly examines each candidate, but concludes that although such were involved, the key was the human conscience before God vis-à-vis the state.

In his first chapters, Campbell considers the taxonomy of religious identification that has exercised historians of Tudor and Stuart Britain. Following recent developments in the field, he offers broad definitions for conformity and nonconformity, focuses upon zealous religious commitment rather than party affiliation to classify Puritanism, distinguishes Catholic recusants from church papists, and evidences a subtle understanding of the semi-Separatists. We learn that Henry VIII and his monarchical successors sought to craft a church comprehensive of the inhab-itants of their kingdoms. Contrary to his intentions, Henry actually helped unleash religious forces that fostered nonconformity. A variety of important figures appealed to their consciences rather than submit to the religious decisions of king (or queen) and Parliament. This included Thomas More (27), Mary I (33), and Robert Parsons (39) on the Catholic side, and Martin Luther (47), Rose Hickman (35), and Robert Harrison (51) on the evangelical side. Campbell could have mentioned Henry himself, who appealed to conscience against the papacy.

The author assesses the theological writings of evangelicals and Catholics who pondered the problem of divergent religious affiliations with allegiance to the early modern English state. For Elizabeth I and her ministers, obedience to the state was bound with obedience to God. While it was claimed that she would not make "windows into men's souls," outward conformity was expected and sometimes brutally enforced. …

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