The Puritan Dilemma
Author: Edmund S. Morgan
New York 1999
This book is a short biography about John Winthrop. In this book Morgan outlines how Winthrop struggled with the dilemma, first internally, as he dealt with the question of whether traveling to the New World represented a selfish form of separatism, the desire to separate himself from an impure England, or whether, as he eventually determined, it offered a unique opportunity to set an example for all men by establishing a shining city upon a hill, a purer Christian community in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In this regard, it seems to have been of vital importance to Winthrop and his fellow Puritan colonists that they had the approval of the King and that though they were physically distancing themselves from the Church of England, they were not actually renouncing it.
II.Evaluation of the book
A.Its best feature: I think this book’s best feature is that the author gives so much detail. The reader can learn a lot about many other people even though the book is a biography of John Winthrop.
B.Its worst feature: I think this book’s worst feature is that it is not very interesting. This book doesn’t keep your attention. On various occasions the author goes into so much depth that the reader forgets the main idea that he is trying to get across. I found myself reading the same lines over and over because I wasn’t paying attention and wasn’t really reading it.
III.Recommendation of the book
I wouldn’t recommend this book to the average reader. It is a bit hard to read because the author goes into so much depth that the reader could very often forget the main idea. It is a good, informative book but a bit drawn out.
IV.Five possible identifications from the book
1. Puritanism was a reform movement that grew up in the church of England, Anglican church. They wanted to purify all aspects of Catholicism (anti-separatist) or to worship in separate forms so purified (separatist).
2. The Court of Wards was an institution whose purpose was the administer the lands of the King’s wards
3. Roger Williams a Salem minister that was an extreme separatist. He challenged the authority of civil government to regulate religious behavior, which was the Puritans idea of governments sole purpose.
4. Arminiamism is the belief that one could influence God and secure salvation by preparing oneself to receive it.
5. Antinomianism is the belief that a holy life was no secure sign of salvation and that the truly saved need not bother to obey the law of either God nor man.
V.Two suggested essay questions on the book:
1. Discuss the motivations behind Puritan migration to America and the ideological and political difficulties they faced once they arrived.
2. What was John Winthrop aiming to create by coming to the New World?