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Title: The relationship between theology and politics in the writings of John Lilburne, Richard Overton and William Walwyn
Author: Russell-Jones, Iwan
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1987
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In assessing the relationship between theology and politics in the writings of the three major Leveller pamphleteers of the 17th century, scholars have tended to search for, and focus upon, individual aspects of one or other of the Levellers' respective theological positions which they consider to have had democratic implications - as, for example, the notion of congregational church government, or a universalist understanding of salvation - which are then deemed to have been foundational to their political theories. But this approach is too abstract. The development of the Leveller platform can best be understood if it is seen as the attempt to answer a question posed by the Presbyterian opponents of religious liberty, and in particular, by William Prynne. In effect, the question was this: how can a society avoid anarchy and continue to exist in any civilised form if the social cement of established religion is removed? Prynne asked this of the Independents and sectaries in civil war England in the belief that there could be no satisfactory answer. Lilburne, Overton and Walwyn sought to provide one by appealing to principles drawn from the law of nature. The major influence on the development of their political thinking was the revolutionary theory of natural rights which underpinned Parliament's struggle against the King Theology was but a secondary factor. It was the fundamental secularity of the Levellers' approach which led to its rejection in 1649 by leading Independents and sectaries, whose own separatism was modified by millennialism and notions of 'godly rule'. Thus, while the Levellers' political platform developed as an attempt to translate into reality the separation of church and state that was at the heart of separatist ecclesiology, it failed because of the opposition of the very people whose ideas it was intended to reflect and embody.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: U.C.C.F. Theological Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Pamphleteers--England--History ; Levellers