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Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525-1590 (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History) Paperback – February 3, 2017
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'A much needed corrective to earlier interpretations of the English Reformation and a major contribution of early modern intellectual history. If radicalism sits at the heart of religious reform, then this forces scholars to reassess the nature of religious debate and the origins of English puritanism. Scholars in Renaissance studies, Christian theology, and political theory will find this book an invaluable resource.' Christopher Petrakos, Anglican and Episcopal History
For readers interested in early modern England and the Reformation, this book sheds new light on radical Protestant views of reform and godly identity. It significantly revises our understanding of central episodes and issues in the English Reformation, the nature of early English Protestantism and the development of Puritanism.
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How much authority did a magistrate have? How unified should the national church be? What did pure reformation look like? What liturgical and theological items were adiaphora, or "things indifferent"? These questions were there from the very beginning and weren't brought into play by the development of Puritanism under Elizabeth.
While this book will be most interesting to scholars of the 16th century Reformation, anyone who studies the use of historical argument or the genesis of religious conflict will find this helpful. Most compelling to me was the inclusion of Catholics into the Protestant conflicts--they were part of the conversation regarding what the practice of the national church might be under Elizabeth and I was fascinated by Gunther's description of the way that some Protestants thought that anything, no matter how indifferent, that made "papists" happy or comfortable was a form of corruption and must be avoided for true Christianity to flourish. On the other hand, some English Protestants thought that if some "indifferent" elements could be retained, that Catholics might convert to Protestantism, so being able to retain items that made them comfortable and weren't fundamental to Protestant orthodoxy or Orthopraxy, was vital for evangelism.
These tensions seem to still be around. Gunther does a great job of showing how this conflict related to the differences that were around in the Protestant movement under Henry VIII and the concerns over "Nicodemism" or the idea that some dissembling could be done in order to survive under a hostile regime. So the arguments were connected biographically and ideologically to the earliest period of the Reformation.
Another element that resonated with me as a historian of the 17th century was the idea that persecution was basically to be cultivated by the true church. Real Christians brought conflict with them. Unity was something that the national church wanted, but it seemed to require compromise and the most fiery of Protestants consistently articulated both separation (either in social fellowship or in worship) and criticism of those who weren't pure enough, whether Catholic or Protestant. This theme remained an issue into the later Reformation, both for conforming and sectarian Puritans.
Gunther is at his scholarly best when analyzing the diverse ways that "hot" Protestants utilized the same sources, and how the pre-Elizabethan conflicts (including the Frankfurt. Troubles) mapped onto the later ones. No historian of Elizabethan Puritans will be able to ignore this work, let alone to assert that the resistance to the national church began with the intolerance and oppression of the monarch. It was all there from the beginning, and not in clean, straight-forward ways.
Dense research, compelling writing, clear ideas. Can't ask for better history, and this corrective on the assessment of the nature and cause of puritan/Anglican conflict under Elizabeth and afterwards is very welcome.