Witch-Burning Puritans?

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by Bondman, Dec 19, 2006.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    The trouble is..it does not put things in perspective:

    First, because many tens of thousands of "witches" were killed by "Christians"

    Two, because Christians have a higher calling than atheists and any historic transgression is much more grievous than the sins of the unbeleivers.

    Three, because it appears that we have people on this board who are trying to soft-pedal this historic transgression and make it appears either as legitimate or very rare.

    During the Reformation times, witch burning was not common - yet, it occurred more frequently than what we would like to admit.
  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I think the adoption of a naturalist worldview has made witchcraft (including the white version) acceptable, whereas the biblical worldview sees it as dancing with the devil and unleashing the powers of darkness upon society. No, witches did not practice their secret arts in accord with the imagery of the classical fairytale; but in the Puritan's mind, taking the Bible for his guide, that fairytale imagery is a good representation of the spiritual reality involved in their secret arts.

    Statistics are irrelevant here. Judicial acts must be weighed according to the philosophy which prevailed in a specific time and place. What if the majority of people in a modern democratic State chose to make the practice of witchcraft a crime against humanity on a level with terrorism, and justly deserving capital punishment? How many were executed would not be the issue, but whether or not the philosophy which required the punishment was justified.
  3. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    My understanding of Santeria is that they sacrifice cats and chickens, which is obviously heretical and wrong; but I've not heard of these cult-killings. Should we kill all Adventists because of David Koresh? I don't think so. If an extreme cult of Santeria killed people, they should be executed for murder. We can't protect their "right" to practice their religion when it involves murder, any more than we should have protected Paul Hill's "right" to murder because of his religion. I still haven't seen a theonomistic response to the failure of the people of 17th Century Salem to catechise their slaves, or to have their children in subjection. Would a theonomist say that the whole incident was a judgment on Salem for these failures, or am I following their thought correctly? :sing: Don't know much about theonomy...
  4. Bondman

    Bondman Puritan Board Freshman

    I understand your point. I agree and don't want to in any way seem to condone something which is obviously evil.

    However, I think the post does shine a light on the issue that is helpful when speaking to an unbeliever, and that it is, indeed, putting it into perspective.

    What I mean is that while the Puritans were wrong in burning "witches", we don't condone that practice. We call it evil. But the heathen kills millions of unborn and calls it "the right to choose".

    Are you sure about tens of thousands?
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    We speak on general equity a lot here...

    But we seem to have a clear cut example of general equity in I Corinthians 5 by the Apostle Paul - which is always ignored whenever someone is agitating for the death penalty for witches or false religionists.

    Paul, in applying the OT law to the church mitigated the penalty from the death penalty to excommunication.

    This seems to be our example of how the civil law ought to be applied today.

    Therefore to say that witches still ought to be killed is not our concern at all. The civil gov't may or may not kill withces, but such a things is certainly not demanded by Christian ethics.

    I do not adopt a naturalistic worldview at all. I honor the OT law - in its rightful place and with its right application for our day. I am trying to honor the Word of God and the law of God by both a consideration of its points of continuity, but also in how it is discontinous now that the people of God have no God-sanctioned civil state.

    Too, just a short note here:

    Whenever the people of God sin and through their influence lead others to sin, this thing ought not to be whitewashed but examined carefully.

    Witch killing at Salem and in Europe during the Reformation times by both Protestant and Catholic was a great sin.

    We ought to examine what theologies led to the allowance of such things and we ought not to poo-poo it as merely 20+ witches or say "good..if they were witches..then they got what was coming to them..."

    Also, another vital point: These "witches" were killed almost entirely for beliefs and not actions, besides mild narcotic use.... i.e. they were not out kidnapping children and cooking them, they were largely gathering in secret just like the early Christians had to do when the civil gov't was oppressive.

    (.....they were certainly not judged and burned/hanged/drowned for killing and sacrificing others...such occurrence is 100 times more rare than the occurrences of witch killing by the Puritans.)

    A final point: Statistics do matter here. If one or two witches were burned then this would merely point to a historical abberation.

    But if thousands were burned, or much of the burning was carried out by Protestants with a certain view on the civil gov't then we can arrive at some conclusions. If a sin is widespread enough among a certain group of people, then we ought to be free to explore the factors that allowed for such sins.

    I propose that an unhealthy view on church and state and the role of the church and the state and their interaction in dealing with civil crimes is at the heart of all this. The fact that many on the PB are sympathetic to some sort of civil punishment for witches is evidence of a relationship of thought with these witch-killers that both leads to theocracy and the persecution of minority faiths.
  6. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Consider Acts 25:10, 11, "Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar."

    The apostle was on trial for his beliefs and his actions in relation to the Jewish religion. If he was found to be an offender, he would not refuse to die, i.e., it was a just recompense for such a crime. Clearly in 1 Cor. 5 he provides an application of the OT penology to the ecclesiastical situation, where the power of the sword has not been delivered to church officers. That does not prejudice the same application being made to the civil realm where the sword has been given for the purpose of punishing evil-doers. even in religious matters, i.e., in matters which affect the civil peace of a religious society.

    No, statistics do not matter. If it is unjust taking away of life, it should be opposed whether it is inflicted on but one person. If it is just, it would not matter ifit were half the population.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So, Matthew......

    What do you advocate?
  8. puritan lad

    puritan lad Puritan Board Freshman


    I don't think anyone is defending the murder of anyone by Christians. We are to hold to a higher calling.

    However, it does bring things into perspective when an atheist brings up the charge (one that I will take no responsibility for, since I have never killed a witch.) It is important to show that atheists have no leg to stand on when it comes to human rights issues. It is also important to show the positive affects that Christianity has had on the world. Indeed, Western Civilation couldn't exist without it.

    An evangelical Christian, taken by my screen name, once commented, "so you're a puritan huh? Do you like to burn witches?" I replied, "Not on the sabbath. Witch smoke is bad for my white powdered wig". I think he got the point.;)
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2007
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It is also important not to white wash past sins of Christians.

    Atheists are evil, yes, but the thread subject was killing witches and so it must be pointed out that Christians have acted evilly in regards to this subject.

    Were they wrong to kill witches? Or not?
  10. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor


    See the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 20, section 4. The civil magistrate has the power to proceed against such practices as disturb the peace of a Christian society. It is for this purpose that God placed the sword in his hand (Rom. 13).
  11. Larry Hughes

    Larry Hughes Puritan Board Sophomore


    It's simply the fact that Christians err and DO in fact commit great sins, POST conversion. I realize that is to the chagrin of modern evangelicals and pietist everywhere but history is littered with this fact.

    The Puritans, broadly speaking, had a strong tendancy toward experiencial things, some a bit mystical at times and some of that carried over into some very blind superstitions.

    Our tendancy today is in the opposing error direction, general tendancy that is.

  12. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Hi Larry. I'm not sure what relevance your comments have to the authority of the civil magistrate. Are you saying the experiential Christianity of the Puritans led them to misunderstand the nature of civil liberty? That is a stretch. If anything, WCF 20:4 shows that the Puritans were not mystics, but practical, and that their theology was objective.
  13. Larry Hughes

    Larry Hughes Puritan Board Sophomore

    Not at all. In some puritan circles there was far more subjectivism in their theology, not all mind you, than say the continental reformers, much more. Especially among the laity, "The Poor and Doubting Christian" was written for this very reason for example. Many Puritans THEMSELVES saw the issue and the problem of subjectivism among them as many of their books address it explicitly.

    This is nothing new and well argued by many. Edward's, a Puritan, very own book, deals with this very problem contemporary to himself, at exhaustive length which only he could do I might add. All internalized subjectivism eventually leads, psychologicially to many forms superstition in the civil realm because suddenly the grounding is lost.

    The entire new extra-biblical category of "revivalism" (first and second "Great"), quite an American religious phenomena, is another psychological outworking of subjectism, which ironically goes directly against Calvinism.

    That's all.
  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Leaving to the side your psychological interpretation of Puritan experimentalism, what does this have to do with the civil punishment of witches?
  15. Larry Hughes

    Larry Hughes Puritan Board Sophomore

    It can lead to excited versions and out of control "witch hunts", a devil behind every door and etc.... It excites the emotions rather than rational thinking.

    I wasn't embarking on the civil argument just the original post question and how one might address it to some one a simple way.

    That's all.

  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Sorry Larry, I misunderstood your comments as being a response to what I had written on WCF 20:4.

    The Puritan view of witchcraft is well documented in their works on the subject. William Perkins' "Damned Art" would be well worth reading in order to see the biblical basis of their view. No superstition here. It could be the case that crowds allowed their fears to get the better of them. We see the same happening in relation to terrorism today. There no doubt would have been others who used the judicial system to their own financial advantage. There is nothing new in this. But from an historical point of view the Puritan position was grounded upon Scriptural belief concerning the real activity of Satan. It is a modern error to divorce practice from morality.
  17. Larry Hughes

    Larry Hughes Puritan Board Sophomore

    Think nothing of it Matt, I apologize for the confusion because I was too lazy to read the whole thread. I hadn't even read your's at that time. No disagreements here!


  18. No Longer A Libertine

    No Longer A Libertine Puritan Board Senior

    Arthur Miller also had a huge hand in making the Puritans religious evils and allegorical political conservatives with his Crucible story.

    His version of the events are what lives in the pop-culture imagination.

    Similarly how Jonathan Edwards' masterful sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is made out to prove that the Puritans were fatalists that resigned themselves to the ****-shoot of divine election who didn't know if they were chosen or not so behaved just incase, this is what is taught in high school American Literature classes in Texas.
  19. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

  20. crhoades

    crhoades Puritan Board Graduate

    A newt?

    Yes, sir...it is. I'm not a full blown Pythonian though. Probably shouldn't burn em. :D
  21. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    I have never seen that movie the whole way through but just reading that had me almost in tears with laughter ( :rofl: )
  22. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    I guess Chris isn't a six point Calvinist. :judge:

  23. Magma2

    Magma2 Puritan Board Sophomore

    YouTube - monty python-witch scene
  24. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

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