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A Single Eye As An Attack on Puritanism.

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A Single Eye As An Attack on Puritanism A Contextual Essay by Elliot Tapper Professor Paul B. Cheney Handed In Friday, November 22, 2002 The seventeenth century was a tumultuous time in England; rife with revolution she saw her governmental system, religious affairs and legal code completely overhauled. All across Europe this type of change was common, but England's changes were brought about largely by the influences of and reactions to a variation of Calvinist Protestantism known as Puritanism. Its followers clashed violently with the Anglican establishment in a civil war and by 1650 the Puritans had gained power over the Anglican monarchists. Executing Charles I, Oliver Cromwell took the helm of the nation placing Puritan values center stage1. Puritan morality, strict adherence to the scriptures and rigid belief in predestination encountered active resistance, inspiring counter-revolutions in thought that would put freedom at the forefront of the English consciousness. Representing the extreme of society's reaction to Puritan faith a group known as the Ranters2 emerged, publishing pamphlets that attacked the fundamental tenets of Puritanism. Lawrence Clarkson, a frontrunner among the Ranters, achieved infamy after having published a pamphlet entitled A Single Eye, which was so radical that it landed him in jail. ...read more.


And it must be noted that a view more moderate than that of the Puritans, one that did not insist on black and white arbitrary definitions of nature, would not have been susceptible to this attack, and therefore Clarkson exposes the problem to be exclusively Puritan. Establishing the cause of the problem as the Puritan interpretation of faith, we may realize that all this while that Clarkson has been prophetically insisting that "[he] shall make darkness light before them"13 he has indeed been referring to how he wishes to correct the views of his audience. To this end, we see a shift from attack on the Puritans to the construction of independent arguments. Underlying Clarkson's following propositions is the notion that "when as a man in purity in light, acts the same acts, in relation to the act, not the title: this man doth not swear, whore nor steal."14 Essentially, since all is in the 'eye' of the beholder, a "single, pure eye," then in all "there appeareth Devil and God"15; it is only a matter of semantics that separates the two. The development of his argument begins as he writes, "consider what act soever is done by thee, in light and love, is light, and lovely; though it be an act called adultery ...read more.


He shows that by a virtue of the free will of the human mind, the Puritan definitions of sin make us all sinners, and therefore Puritanism does not take into account human nature and emotion. Thus as Puritanism is inapplicable to free humans, we see both that it is flawed and that some of the things that make Puritanism so bad also illuminate flaws in Christianity as a whole. Any belief predicated on interpretation is inherently flawed, and therefore the reliance on scriptures allows Christianity to morph into misguided forms like Puritanism. Clarkson's solution, essentially to not judge others and to prevent the restriction of free will, implies that the church should not be involved with government and law, for it should not be the interpreted decree of God by which you decide who is empowered or who is a sinner. Indeed, as Clarkson requests that we see God as an all loving being that does not discern between what individuals consider good and evil, and as the law requires one to make those discernments, then God necessarily has no place in the affairs of the state. Much may be derived from A Single Eye in this fashion, but empirically we see that implicit in the arguments against Puritanism are arguments for a universal overhaul of Christian dogma and the ways in which society interacts with and views religion. ...read more.

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