The Reformed and Celibate Pastor: Richard Baxter's Argument for Clerical Celibacy
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SubjectBaxter, Richard, 1615-1691
Marriage--History of doctrines--17th century
ABSTRACT THE REFORMED AND CELIBATE PASTOR: RICHARD BAXTER’S ARGUMENT FOR CLERICAL CELIBACY Seth DeShields Osborne, Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2018 Chair: Dr. David L. Puckett This dissertation explores Richard Baxter’s (1615-1691) argument for clerical celibacy. It argues that his teaching on clerical celibacy was a very controversial way of resolving tensions in English Protestant marriage doctrine. His argument was a product of a very stringent model of pastoral care developed in response to England’s ecclesiastical situation, was deeply influenced by his personal qualities and life experiences, and was rooted in his overarching ethical principles for Christian living. Baxter remained remarkably consistent, even when appearing to violate his convictions by marrying later in life. Chapter 1 details the importance of the study for scholarship, the state of research, and finally the methodology and sources to be used. Chapter 2 examines English Protestant attitudes toward marriage and celibacy in Elizabethan and Stuart England in order to demonstrate their struggle to reconcile the Bible’s praise of marriage in Genesis 1-2 with its teaching on celibacy’s expediency in 1 Corinthians 7. Chapter 3 analyzes Baxter’s theology of soul care in the church and the family; it argues that Baxter did not possess a negative attitude toward marriage and family life, but rather he realized that clerical marriage strained the ability of ministers to fully implement his burdensome pastoral model of soul care. Chapter 4 explores several internal and external factors in Baxter’s life that shaped “particularities” that would come to define him as a theologian and minister of the gospel. Chapter 5 studies Baxter’s practical divinity in order to show that his argument for clerical celibacy logically arose from themes repeated in his teaching on Christian ethics. The next two chapters explore Baxter’s seemingly contradictory marriage to Margaret Charlton. Chapter 6 argues that he did not violate his convictions, because the 1662 Act of Uniformity appeared to have closed off all opportunities for public ministry. Chapter 7 proposes a solution to the question of why Baxter continued to advocate for clerical celibacy, despite the great help Margaret was to him and his pastoral work during their marriage; it argues that even though Baxter received many blessings through Margaret, his experience of marriage also reconfirmed many of his arguments for why pastors should remain single. Chapter eight summarizes the conclusions of the study and its contribution to understanding both English Protestant Marriage doctrine as well as Richard Baxter as a pastor and theologian.