Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641

By Porterfield, Amanda | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641


Porterfield, Amanda, The Catholic Historical Review


American

Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641. By Michael P. Winship. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2002. Pp. xvii, 322. $29.95.)

Controversies about the nature of grace and the constraints, if any, on where and how it might flow figured importantly in the Protestant Reformation. In England and America, where Puritans carried forward the Reformers' belief in the priesthood of all believers, and in the personal receipt of grace as the only means of salvation, these controversies centered on debates about the Holy Spirit and whether its empowerment of individual conscience might transcend clerical or even biblical authority. The ostensible target of Puritan resistance to human efforts to control the pathways of divine grace was, of course, the Roman Church and its priests and sacraments. But as Michael Winship shows, Puritans in early-seventeenth-century New England directed the real fire of their animosity against one another.

Professor Winship provides a fresh account of the famous battle between the conservative and moderate leaders of the first generation of New England Puritans-Thomas Shepard, Thomas Hooker, and John Winthrop-on one hand, and more radical proponents of free grace-John Cotton, Henry Vane, and Anne Hutchinson-on the other. This book goes beyond previous histories of the controversy in its thoroughness in tracing the escalating religious tension that almost broke up the Puritan settlement in Boston, and in its identification of crucial turning points where people might have behaved differently, and history might have taken a different course. In this highly readable book, Winship reconstructs events and motivations to the best of his considerable abilities, not oblivious to his own interpretive hand, but not invested in one theology or ideology either. …

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