LATITUDINARIANS, or LATITUDE MEN were initially a group of 17th-century English theologians – clerics and academics – from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, who were moderate Anglicans (members of the Church of England, which was Protestant ). In particular, they believed that adhering to very specific doctrines, liturgical practices, and church organizational forms, as did the Puritans , was not necessary and could be harmful: "The sense that one had special instructions from God made individuals less amenable to moderation and compromise, or to reason itself." Thus, the latitudinarians supported a broad-based Protestantism. They were later referred to as Broad Church (see also Inclusivism ).
Examples of the latitudinarian philosophy underlying the theology
were found among the
Cambridge Platonists and Sir
Thomas Browne in his
Today, latitudinarianism should not be confused with ecumenical movements, which seek to draw all Christian churches together, rather than seeking to de-emphasize practical doctrine. The term latitudinarian has taken on a more general meaning, indicating a personal philosophy that includes tolerance of other views, particularly, but not necessarily, on religious matters.
Roman Catholic Church
The latitudinarian Anglicans of the 17th century built on Richard Hooker 's position in Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity . Hooker (1554–1600) argues that what God cares about is the moral state of the individual soul. Aspects such as church leadership are "things indifferent ". However, the latitudinarians took a position far beyond Hooker's own and extended it to doctrinal matters.
As a positive position, the latitudinarian view held that human reason, when combined with the Holy Spirit , is a sufficient guide for the determination of truth in doctrinal contests; therefore, legal and doctrinal rulings that constrain reason and the freedom of the believer were neither necessary nor beneficial. At the time, their position was referred to as an aspect of low church (in contrast to the high church position). Later, the latitudinarian position was called broad church .
While always officially opposed by the Anglican church, the latitudinarian philosophy was, nevertheless, dominant in 18th-century England. Because of the Hanoverian reluctance to act in church affairs, and the various groups of the religious debates being balanced against one another, the dioceses became tolerant of variation in local practice. Furthermore, afte