How did Anne Hutchinson believe women attained grace?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the 1630s, after having immigrated to Boston from England in 1634, Anne Hutchinson began leading Bible studies in her own home aimed at protesting against some of the theology taught by the Puritans. In particular, Hutchinson saw the Puritans as teaching that living a moral life served as evidence of salvation, which Hutchinson argued would actually be a Covenant of Works, a doctrine the Puritans as Protestants strongly opposed. Hence, Hutchinson ultimately accused the Puritan leaders of hypocrisy, and instead of a Covenant of Works, Hutchinson argued Scripture taught a Covenant of Grace, meaning that salvation depended only on the grace of God, not on any works performed by the individual. As she phrased it, salvation came from "an inward conviction of the coming of the Spirit" (PBS, "People & Ideas: Anne Hutchinson").

Since Hutchinson argued that all people obtained salvation through grace in the exact same way, her argument applied to women as well. In addition, she interpreted Scripture as showing that God had created men and women as equals, which further indicates she did not see any differences in how men obtained salvation through grace and how women obtained salvation. Her belief in the equality of women is especially seen in her belief that the doctrine of original sin is a false belief.

The doctrine of original sin teaches that mankind is born into this world in a fallen, sinful state due to sins being passed on through the parents because Adam and Eve, the original parents, sinned against God, making all children carry the burden of that sin. Today, more emphasis is placed on sins being passed on by the father. However, theologians in the past placed more emphasis on women's guilt since it was Eve who tempted Adam. The guilt of women gave theologians an excuse to place women in a position of inferiority and subordination, as seen in statements made by early theologians and Church fathers as Gratiani (1140 AD), who said, in referencing St. Paul, "[T]oday because of sin, which woman brought into the world, women are admonished by the Apostle to be careful to practice modest restraint" (Decretum Gratiani). Puritan doctrine mirrored such sentiments about women held by the Catholic Church, and Hutchinson rejected such notions. In her mind, sin cannot be found in the eyes of a newborn child, and Scripture presents men and women as equals. Therefore, women receive salvation through grace in the exact same way men receive salvation.

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