The Book

The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption

Pynchon produced the manuscript of Meritorious in New England and sent it to London for publication in 1650. The book was published by George Whittington and James Moxon. It arrived in Boston to a contemptuous reception.

Winship (1997) states “Meritorious Price can be summed up as an audacious effort to improve orthodoxy by inserting a non penal atonement into a standard predestinarian framework” (p. 812). The book was written as a dialogue on theology between a divine and tradesman regarding the correct understanding of atonement. Notably, Pynchon was not a minister or student of theology but a tradesman, judge, merchant, and magistrate. The book was informed by his limited knowledge of Latin, Hebrew, and whatever books at were his disposal. Winship notes, that was likely not many. Still, this book would go on to inspire later writers, further theological discussion, and literary and historical analysis that continues to this day. Not to mention a huge controversy in the Puritan colonies.

One of the most important ways in which Pynchon’s work veered from Puritan believes was in his remarkably progressive views of other religions. Gura (1982) notes, “The Puritan’s harsh treatment of Pynchon seemed from their alarm to find that the demand for wider toleration religious option could from such “Seekers” as Rogers William and Small Gorton, but also from respected adherents of the New England Way” (p. 470). Pynchon was an important member of the New England community. He founded more than one town, procured a minister for the Springfield church, and acted as a church warden. Other Puritan leaders feared if that one of their own would produce such a book his theories would spread. Thus, limiting their control over the population.

Further Gura quotes a letter written in 1644 by Thomas Shepard that bemoaned, “the late difference and breaches amongst the godly’ in that country and warned against “the spreading of contagion of corrupt opinions” (p. 469). The corrupt opinions were that of “English latitudinarian”, or an allowance of other religions or creeds alongside each other. Winhip calls Pynchon’s “a common sense harbinger of a less-savage Christianity” (p. 820). In the end, Pynchon’s Meritorious and later books would represent a more tolerant, kind Puritanism that was simply not welcome in New England.

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