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Title: Jansenism, holy living and the Church of England : historical and comparative perspectives, c. 1640-1700
Author: Palmer, Thomas John
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9876
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines the impact in mid- to later-seventeenth century England of the major contemporary religious controversy in France. The debates associated with this controversy, which revolved around the formal condemnation of a heresy popularly called Jansenism, involved fundamental questions about the doctrine of grace and moral theology, about the life of the Church and the conduct of individual Christians. In providing an analysis of the main themes of the controversy, and an account of instances of English interest, the thesis argues that English Protestant theologians in the process of working out their own views on basic theological questions recognised the relevance of the continental debates. It is further suggested that the theological arguments evolved by the French writers possess some value as a point of comparison for the developing views of English theologians. Where the Jansenists reasserted an Augustinian emphasis on the gratuity of salvation against Catholic theologians who over-valued the powers of human nature, the Anglican writers examined here, arguing against Protestant theologians who denied nature any moral potency, emphasised man's contribution to his own salvation. Both arguments have been seen to contain a corrosive individualism, the former through its preoccupation with the luminous experience of grace, the latter through its tendency to elide grace and moral virtue, and reduce Christianity to the voluntary ethical choices of individuals. These assessments, it is argued here, misrepresent the theologians in question. Nevertheless, their thought did encourage greater individualism and moral autonomy. For both groups, their opponents' theological premises were deficient to the extent that they vitiated morality; and in both cases their responses, centring on the transformation of the inner man by love, privileged the moral responsibility of the individual. Their moral 'rigorism', it is suggested, focusing on the affective experience of conversion, represented in both cases an attempt to provide a sound empirical basis for Christian faith and practice in the fragmented intellectual context of post-reformation Europe.
Supervisor: Maltby, Judith ; Parish, Richard Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Jansenists--History--17th century ; Church controversies--History--17th century ; Christian ethics--Great Britain ; Great Britain--Church history--17th century ; Europe--Church history--17th century