Casuistry in 17th Century England
As early as the 1660s and persisting to this day,§casuistry was viewed as either a construction of§Catholic penance or Protestant rationalization and§sophistry. However, a close examination of the§writings of William Perkins, Joseph Hall, William§Ames, Robert Sanderson, Jeremy Taylor and Richard§Baxter, six seventeenth-century casuists, shows that§casuistry provided a consistent, codified body of§principles with which to attend conflicts of§conscience. Case divinity, as it was called, enabled§English Protestants to live holy and ethical lives of§predestinarian convictions in a constantly shifting§milieu of coercive religious and political§directives. The claim is made in this study that all§casuistry is indivisible from conscience and that the§frequently changing English regimes in the§seventeenth century brought with them new oaths and§subscriptions that awakened Protestant anxiety over§election and salvation. People needed a system of§right reason, biblical precedent and the moral§ordering of conscience. This was provided by§casuistry, a rarely viewed aspect of English§ecclesiology that is of particular use to§early-modern historians and theologians.