By Luigi Giussani
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Additional info for American Protestant Theology: A Historical Sketch
The theologian who dominated the first Puritan period in New England, however, was John Cotton (1584–1652). After a complete academic curriculum at Cambridge University, he had been a very well known preacher in the Church of Saint Rodolph in Boston, Lincolnshire, until his flight to America in 1633, in order to avoid the heavy hand of Bishop Laud, a persecutor of nonconformists. In the “second Boston,” he would become the key personality of religious and cultural life, the perfect interpreter of Calvinist Puritanism.
Of Faith, II. Twelve Fundamental Articles of Christian Religion, III. A Doctrinal Conclusion, IV. 8 (a 1659 edition of two other preceding redactions of sermons dating back to 1636); The Covenant of God’s Free Grace (1645); and above all, The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared (1648). indb 6 2013-07-31 14:02:03 Puritan Origins 7 This leads to an understanding of the two characteristics that qualify Puritan theology at its origins: the stature of the ecclesiological problem in relation to social life as a whole and the pragmatic attitude.
The second aspect of this religious phenomenology is our “capacity for freedom,” which according to Niebuhr makes us “responsible creatures in nature,” with a rational capacity. As with Edwards, this is our capacity to reflect, empirically and experientially, on our own experience (20). In a concise summary of Niebuhr’s thought Giussani writes, “Historical knowledge and awareness of what exists are ultimately the same event. Precisely because the essential and absolute originality of freedom represents the substance of the object for both of them; and it is by memory that those cognitive moments are constituted” (155).