Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Johnson held to the doctrines and the practice of the Church of England, which he believed was linked through the apostolic succession to the church founded by Christ. Like other Reformation churches, the Church of England believed that the Scriptures contained all that was necessary for salvation. Johnson, too, considered the Scriptures, not later doctrines or papal decisions, the ultimate authority. However, he also looked to the early patristic writings for guidance. He believed that the Roman Catholic Church was wrong in many of its actions, such as its use of purgatory to extract money from the faithful. In theory, however, Johnson saw nothing wrong with such Roman Catholic practices as believing in purgatory, praying for the dead, or making one’s confession and being assigned penance.

As for the Presbyterians, Johnson not only thought their practice flawed and their system of church government erroneous but also emphatically rejected their doctrine of predestination, which, unfortunately, had been mentioned with approval in the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. Johnson believed that Christ died for all people, that everyone has free will, and that salvation is available to all through grace, conditional on their having faith in God, repenting of their sins, and performing works of charity. When he referred to his “late” conversion, he did not mean that he came to faith or to Christian practice late in his life. In his Latin poem...

(The entire section is 419 words.)