Title

Millennialism and Antichrist in New England, 1630-1760

Date of Award

1982

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religion

Advisor(s)

Ralph Ketcham

Keywords

Christian thought, Stuart England, American millennialism, American eschatology, Secularized millennialism

Subject Categories

Religion

Abstract

This dissertation examines changing interpretations of the term "Antichrist" within millennialist thought, with particular reference to New England in the period 1630-1760. The text consists of ten chapters. The first chapter presents an overview of the influence of millennialism on Christian thought and practice, concentrating on interpretations of "Antichrist." Within this overview, Stuart England receives particular attention, as early American millennialism traced its roots most directly to that time and place. The subsequent eight chapters consist of five close studies of major American religious figures and three shorter transitional chapters to link the figures and their respective time periods together. The five major figures are John Cotton, Roger Williams, Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Chauncy. The tenth and final chapter summarizes the dissertation's conclusions and suggests additional connections between these conclusions and later historical developments.

This examination of these major figures suggests that American eschatology moved its focus away from church-state cooperation in a holy war--the "organicism" of John Cotton--and toward an emphasis on the individual in the realization of the millennial hope. Though originally the Roman Catholic Church was identified as the Beast, the primary obstacle to Christ's Second Advent, eighteenth-century commentators began to focus more on the personal sinfulness of individual Protestants as the great barrier to the institution of the New Jerusalem. By focusing on personal evil, conservative Calvinism intersected in its goals with more liberal religion as well as with secular reform movements. Such intersections laid the groundwork for a "secularized" millennialism, the collapsing together of the ultimate goals of religion and politics. This dissertation traces the movement in millennialist thought away from organicism and toward voluntarism and individualism as the keystones in the building of the millennial kingdom.

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