New Divinity

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The New Divinity (or Hopkinsianism, after Samuel Hopkins) is a system of Christian theology that was very prominent among the Congregationalists of New England in the late 18th century. Its roots are embedded in the published and unpublished writings of Jonathan Edwards; hence it has also been call the "Edwardean Divinity." It modifies several tenets of Calvinism, most notably the notion of free will and original sin, the nature of the atonement of Jesus, and His righteousness being imputed to believers. Traditional New England Calvinists, such as Edward Dorr Griffin, president of Williams College and minister of Park Street Church, opposed New Divinity's theology.[1]


Samuel Hopkins, proponent of New Divinity

The main principles of it are either taught or implied in the writings of Samuel Hopkins. Those principles that are merely implied in the system of Hopkins were unfolded and somewhat modified by his three friends Stephen West, Nathanael Emmons, and Samuel Spring. As logically connected with each other, and as understood by the majority of its advocates, the system contains the following principles:

  1. Every moral agent choosing right has the natural power to choose wrong, and choosing wrong has the natural power to choose right.
  2. He is under no obligation to perform an act, unless he has the natural ability to perform it.
  3. Although in the act of choosing, every man is as free as any moral agent can be, yet he is acted upon while he acts freely, and the divine providence, as well as decree, extends to all his wrong as really as to his right volitions.
  4. All sin is so overruled by God as to become the occasion of good to the universe.
  5. The holiness and the sinfulness of every moral agent belong to him personally and exclusively, and cannot be imputed in a literal sense to any other agent.
  6. As the holiness and the sin of man are exercises of his will, there is neither holiness nor sin in his nature viewed as distinct from these exercises (cf. original sin).
  7. As all his moral acts before regeneration are certain to be entirely sinful, no promise of regenerating grace is made to any of them.
  8. The impenitent sinner is obligated, and should be exhorted, to cease from all impenitent acts, and to begin a holy life at once. His moral inability to obey this exhortation is not a literal inability (cf. total depravity), but is a mere certainty that while left to himself, he will sin; and this certainty is no reason for his not being required and urged to abstain immediately from all sin.
  9. Every impenitent sinner should be willing to suffer the punishment that God wills to inflict upon him. In whatever sense he should submit to the divine justice punishing other sinners, in that sense he should submit to the divine justice punishing himself. In whatever sense the punishment of the finally obdurate promotes the highest good of the universe, in that sense he should be submissive to the divine will in punishing himself, if finally obdurate. This principle is founded mainly on the two following.
  10. All holiness consists in the elective preference of the greater above the smaller, and all sin consists in the elective preference of the smaller above the greater, good of sentient beings.
  11. All the moral attributes of God are comprehended in general benevolence, that is essentially the same with general justice, and includes simple, complacential, and composite benevolence; legislative, retributive, and public justice.
  12. The atonement of Christ consists not in his enduring the punishment threatened by the law (see the satisfaction view of the atonement), nor in his performing the duties required by the law, but in his manifesting and honoring by his pains, and especially by his death, all the divine attributes which would have been manifested in the same and no higher degree by the punishment of the redeemed. (See the governmental view of the atonement.)
  13. The atonement was made for all men, the non-elect as really as the elect. (See unlimited atonement.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Conforti, Joseph A (1981), Samuel Hopkins and the New Divinity movement: Calvinism, the Congregational Ministry, and reform in New England between the Great Awakenings (Google Books), Christian University Press, retrieved July 9, 2009 .

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJackson, Samuel Macauley, ed. (1914). "article name needed". New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (third ed.). London and New York: Funk and Wagnalls.