Gospel-Driven Reading Recommendation: The Rise of Moralism

In his excellent book, The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter, C. Fitzsimons Allison, traces how the rise of moralism at the end of the 17th century marked a “seismic shift in English theology.” Such a shift “muffled” the evangelical view of justification as espoused by “classical Anglican theologians” such as Richard Hooker, John Davenant, John Donne.

The Rise of Moralism

Prior to this “seismic shift,” Fitzsimmons shows how these classical Anglican theologians were “united in their affirmation that in justification the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer. So, there is no sense in which the believer contributes to his own righteousness in order to be justified. Rather, the Christian life is a response to God’s free justification, not a part of it.”

However, with the rise of men like Richard Baxter, such an evangelical view of justification became muffled. Baxter and others held that repentance and sincere obedience contributed to one’s justification. Thus, what followed was the belief that justification requires moral effort.

Though first published in 1966 on a theological controversy that took place nearly five hundred years ago, Fitzsimmons’ book is eminently relevant to the contemporary infestation of moralism that plagues American Evangelicalism today. For those who desire to better understand their own times and are concerned to live a Gospel-Driven Life and preach a Gospel-Centered message, I wholeheartedly recommend Allison’s book.


6 Responses to Gospel-Driven Reading Recommendation: The Rise of Moralism

  1. Richard says:

    Thanks for the recommendation of the book, John! What concerns me in our PCA denomination is that we have some who elevate the Puritans without regard to their beliefs in the efficacy of the Gospel. More books I need to read–thanks for the education.

  2. jason says:

    Facinating asessment! As Richard indicated, it is so easy to take a Puritan great like Baxter at his word simply because of his status in our theological history. I am more and more amazed (and frequently frustrated) at how fine and subtle are the threads of a law-driven mentality. One could read a post like this one and “agree” that repentance and sincere obedience cannot contirubute to their justification, all the while living functionally as if their acceptance before God and progress in the Christian life depended upon the depth and frevency of their repentance. These legalistic threads have woven their way into our very definitions of justification & sancitifcation and while the semantic differences are subtle, the rammifications are HUGE!

    Thanks for all the work you are putting into this blogg, John. May the Gospel spark continually set our hearts aflame and spread throughout the church today!

  3. I find your blog encouraging, brother!

    Was wondering…have you had opportunity to read any of G. Goldsworthy’s works on the Gospel (particularly his latest — Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics)?

  4. FWIW, here’s the link to my own blog…..


  5. gospelordeath says:

    Goldsworthy ROCKS!

  6. Roger says:

    satan is a legalist. he has filtered his legalist doctrine in the church. many of Abba, Father’s children are falling by the wayside due to never measuring up doctrines of devils. it is time the elect of God rise up and confront legalism and anything else that is added to the Gospel. it is by grace alone through His faith that is a free gift. rise up saints and attack the false prophets of legalism. Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. we MUST take back the pulpit from the wolves who teach “salvation is of man.”
    Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness?

    Oh, Lord Jesus forgive us for adding to your finished work on the cross and your glorious resurrection. Thank you for reconciling us back to Abba, Father and saving us by your Life. Rom 5:10

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