Margaret Bendroth: "Why the Puritans Still Matter and Why They Might Not: Thinking About Historical Legacies in the Twenty-First Century"

History is not just for historians anymore: who and how we remember has become a polarizing debate for Americans across political spectrums and communities of faith. This lecture will consider the complex power of the past on the present by focusing on a particular story, how the Puritans inspired, confused, and instructed their spiritual descendants in the Congregational churches.

Richard Muller: "John Preston on the Purpose and Place of the Natural Knowledge of God"

John Preston’s sermons, most notably those in his Life Eternall, exemplify the early seventeenth-century development of an English Reformed homiletical theology in which hortatory elements were combined with fairly detailed theological argumentation, both positive and apologetic—intended for the edification of an educationally receptive laity. In the context of his sermons and in the process of formulation of a full homiletical body of divinity, Preston provided an analysis of the problems of faith and reason and of the use of natural knowledge of God illustrative of an approach that was neither fideistic nor rationalistic. His approach to formulation evidences the impact of the more technical scholastic development of Reformed thought at the same time that it adapts doctrine to its practical application—both following out the programs of William Perkins and William Ames and adumbrating the rise of homiletical theologies among the Puritans and exponents of the Dutch Nadere Reformatie.

Matthew Tuininga: "The Wars of the Lord: How the Puritans Conquered America's First People"

The Puritans came to New England believing they were establishing the kingdom of Christ in a new world and that their Christianity would liberate its people from darkness. But their version of Christianity also played a major role in leading them to dominate the natives. A conquest they foresaw as spiritual, peaceable and benevolent devolved into a military conquest that was virtually genocidal. Puritan theology shaped how this unfolded and how it was justified, from beginning to end. 

Chad Van Dixhoorn: "The decline of doctrine in seventeenth-century Cambridge"

This paper deploys John Arrowsmith’s newly translated Plans for Holy War as a lens through which to study the perceived decline of the importance of doctrine in mid-seventeenth century Cambridge University. In Plans for Holy War — a work of astonishing scholarship written by a dying Cambridge don — contemporary events led Arrowsmith to argue that Christian warfare must be waged in the world of theology. Exploring the dangers seen by Arrowsmith entails the intricate work of reconstructing local and national politics and understanding criticisms of Oxbridge academic theology in his own day.

Abram Van Engen: "Remembering the Puritans"

Heroes and villains. The beginning of religious toleration and the extension of religious oppression. Refugees fleeing persecution for liberty and opportunity abroad; settler colonialists taking land in acts of war and genocide. The Pilgrims and Puritans have been remembered and remade in countless ways in American history, literature, and culture. This talk considers how, why, and when they came to national fame, looking in particular to the role they have played as an origin story for a nation they never conceived.

Adrian Weimer: "'A publiq spirit for Sions sake': Puritan Activism in the Early Restoration"

After the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, New England colonists were faced with an imperial metropolis intent on consolidating its power. Drawing on resources from the Protestant Reformation and the English civil wars, colonial men and women mobilized around protecting their local institutions, forming a robust constitutional culture. This culture was marked by an ideal of public-spiritedness, a capacity among ordinary people to identify and critique arbitrary rule, and widespread mobilizing through petitions and fast days.