Publication Date

Spring 2017


College of Arts and Sciences




Antinomian Controversy, Anne Hutchinson, Puritan Assemblies, Church and State Government


American Politics | Christian Denominations and Sects | Ethics in Religion | History of Religion | Intellectual History | Political History | Political Theory | Practical Theology | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Social History


The Antinomian Controversy of 1636-38 was a complex religious conflict concerning politics and disruption of Puritan society. It began when the Massachusetts Bay colony split into religious factions within the Church at Boston. At the height of the controversy it seemed a majority of the congregation favored a grace-only means of salvation. Most in authoritative positions believed religious works were important to the societal foundation of a holy Puritan community. With the feared breakdown of society looming over them, they would prosecute and convict Anne Hutchinson for violating the cohesion of the colony. Hutchinson was a prominent woman in the community who held weekly Bible study meetings in her home. Her opinions tended to personally insult those ministers who did not agree with her. At a deeper level, her meetings were the practical quality of an ideological conversation concerning sectionalism and individualism within the Puritan church. She was ostracized and her meetings were eventually pronounced illegal, but her ideas had only slightly deviated from the foundation her Puritan community had built. Ironically, her English Puritan background primed her for these illegal meeting practices. Though many factors contributed to this conflict—gender, theology and personal hostility being some of the most apparent—the Antinomian Controversy largely concerned an attitude of dissent, reflected in Hutchinson’s informal assemblies.