Skip to main content

Liberty of Conscience: The History of Puritan Idea by L. John Van Til

Hardly a day passes in which we don’t hear a news story involving freedom of expression or freedom of religion.

The meaning of the First Amendment is as hotly debated as ever, and often the central issue is liberty of conscience. What limits, if any, should there be on actions flowing from personal convictions? And who should set those limits? Is the conscience answerable to the state? to a national church? to God alone?

In this volume the author traces the development of liberty of conscience from the English Puritan William Perkins to the First Amendment two hundred years later. He gives special attention to Perkins himself, Roger Williams, the Westminster Assembly, the colonial charters, and state and federal constitutions. In so doing the author shows how liberty of conscience became a fundamental idea in the American mind and why it remains such an important issue today.