The Reformers were concerned not only with theology but also with its expression in worship. Many liturgies were produced in the churches of the magisterial Reformation in Germany, England, Switzerland, and elsewhere.
So far, I have worked to argue that the English Reformed tradition had already become considerably less magisterial by the mid-seventeenth century. Next, I want to suggest that Cromwell’s move towards supporting a kind of multiple establishment had echoes in the early republic, first in the abortive attempts to create shared establishments that would support churches of various denominations, as was attempted by Jefferson’s enemies in Virginia, then by the creation of an informal evangelical establishment in which Presbyterians and Congregationalists played the central role.
After the conclusion of the English Civil War, the tensions between two Puritan emphases began to become apparent: the ideal of the “godly magistracy,” which assumed general uniformity in religious practice, and the tendency towards a “gathered church,” which had encouraged the gathering of the “godly” in separate assemblies.
This essay briefly attempts to explore the major formational differences between Baptists and Reformed Christians in the American republic on the question of church and state.
Aristotle described politics as involving art or craft (techne). It, too, required skill. It, too, could produce excellent, even wondrous edifices: regimes. Once upon a time, the Reformed tradition saw politics in the same manner. Althusius, for example, spoke of “the art of governing.” Joseph Caryl, a Westminster Divine, described rulers as engaging in an “art” or a “craft.” These thinkers, moreover, developed this artistry, doing so consciously within a Reformed framework.
Not many passages in the New Testament speak directly to political order. The first part of the thirteenth chapter of Romans is perhaps the most famous. I would like to focus in this essay on vv. 3-4, which may appear prima facie to be something of an interpretive crux. Are these verses descriptive or prescriptive? That is, are they simply declarative, or are they imperatival, telling us what magistrates ought to do?