Van Dixhoorn, Chad B.
April 2004
Reformation & Renaissance Review: Journal of the Society for Ref;Apr2004, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p82
Academic Journal
Historians have almost always viewed the Westminster Assembly (1643-52) principally from the perspective of church government and the players in the story are labelled Presbyterians, Independents, and Erastians. This ecclesiological reading of events is not exclusive to the Assembly; indeed, almost the entire godly community of the 1640s has consistently been understood in terms of ecclesiological compartments. This article assumes that ecclesiological classifications are essential for understanding the Westminster Assembly but it questions why the Assembly bifurcated into 'the familiar party division of Presbyterians and Independents.' While being alert to the gathering's social and political contexts, I ask if there may be theological or hermeneutical reasons for divisions in the Assembly. Second, this article asks if there are other possible taxonomies of the Assembly that can take into account some of the many debates in the Assembly that have little or nothing to do with ecclesiology. Previous histories have placed ecclesiology on centre stage; this study asks if ecclesiology should not be given a more modest role in the drama of the Assembly. To answer these questions, this paper discusses the Assembly's debate over the ecumenical creeds.


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