Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 February 2013
This article sets the wide-ranging controversy over the doctrine of the Trinity that erupted in late seventeenth-century England firmly within the political context of the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689. Against a voluminous historiography that confines the trinitarian controversy within the apolitical narrative of an incipient English enlightenment, this article considers the controversy as part of the broader political crisis that befell church and state in the final years of the century. The trinitarian controversy must be understood not simply as a doctrinal dispute but as a disciplinary crisis: a far-reaching debate over not only the content of orthodoxy but also the constitutional apportionment of responsibilities for its enforcement. As such, the controversy featured interventions from an unprecedented array of public authorities—Crown, Parliament, university, episcopate, and convocation—all claiming the preeminent custody of orthodoxy in an institutional landscape profoundly unsettled by revolutionary upheaval. This institutional dimension, long ignored by historians and theologians, placed the trinitarian controversy at the heart of civil and ecclesiastical politics during the reign of William and Mary. Indeed, the trinitarian controversy may be considered the defining event in church politics in the postrevolutionary era, exercising a prevailing influence on the content of Anglican ecclesiastical partisanship for much of the early eighteenth century. While recognizing the importance of these disputes to the emergence of an English enlightenment, this article insists that the trinitarian controversy is equally indispensable for understanding the rage of political parties in postrevolutionary England.
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