New Horizons, Philadelphia, PA Vol. 5, No. 1, Covenant Media Foundation, 800/553-3938

Puritans Were Theonomists

By Greg L. Bahnsen



In your October issue Mr. Logan broaches the opinion that the New England Puritans should not be made out to be theonomists.  Mr. Logan’s opinion, however, does not fare well against the historical evidence and, as such, needs correction.


John Cotton certainly ranks high as a respected and influential New England Puritan.  In his “Abstract of the Laws of New England” we find the Mosaic judicial laws written into the civil law of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  (This is reprinted as an appendix in my Theonomy in Christian Ethics.)


Theonomists distinctively maintain the normativity of the Mosaic law for present civil governments in such areas as crime and punishment.  The Puritans put it into practice (imperfectly) as commonly in the mid-17th century as Americans put it out of their minds (imperfectly) in the mid-20th.


Of course, we can conceive of some senses in which the New England Puritans might not be labeled theonomists (for instance, they possessed no book with “Theonomy” in its title), but I cannot imagine any reasonable ones.