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Journal > Volumes > 43 (2012) / 3 (Autumn)
The Case of Thomas Gataker: Confronting Superstition in Seventeenth-Century England
Diane Willen
Georgia State University

This article argues that Thomas Gataker put the concept of superstition to innovative and analytic use in the aftermath of the Reformation. Gataker enjoyed a long career as a respected cleric within the London Puritan community and after 1642 was a prominent figure within the Presbyterian party. In 1619 he published Of the Nature and Vse of Lots. To explain why games of chance in contrast to judicial astrology were a legitimate use of lots, Gataker addressed a number of related issues— contingency and providence, causation, divination, and superstition. His efforts met a mixed reception, resulting in misunderstanding and opposition in some quarters, and he felt compelled to defend his position repeatedly during his lifetime. Through his warnings against excessive providentialism and erroneous causation, Gataker sought to reconceptualize superstition for the godly community even as he anticipated empiricism and probability.

Pages: 727 - 749