Rejecting Puritanism's moderate theology, Williams embraced separatism's extreme doctrines, temporarily switched to Baptist principles, but finally stated that Christ's genuine church could not be recognized among men until Christ himself returned to build it. This last belief made him an outcast in Massachusetts and led to his imprisonment there for several years.
In 1631 Williams was ordained as a minister by the London Baptist Church. But over time he came to believe that Christianity required more than just faith in Jesus Christ; it also required obedience to his teachings. Because of this disagreement, Williams broke off all contact with the established church in England.
In America, where religious freedom was allowed, many churches were being formed without official authorization from the government or the existing churches. Some people believed that this was wrong and that only those churches which received authority from Rome should be accepted by society. Others felt that since God had called everyone to the gospel message, then anyone who professed faith in Jesus Christ should be allowed to join together in order to worship him.
Since Williams believed that Christianity required both faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to his teachings, he was forced to choose between them. He decided that truth and righteousness needed to win out over hypocrisy and sin, so he withdrew from any connection with the established churches in America and Europe and began to preach what he believed to be true Christianity.
In 1639, Williams abandoned Puritanism and became a Baptist, establishing the first Baptist church in America. Within a few years, however, Williams refused to adhere to any one religion, although accepting the fundamental precepts of Christianity. He argued that each individual had a right to worship God as they chose. This belief made him unpopular with both Catholics and Protestants.
Williams also believed that women should have equal rights with men. For example, he wrote about female legislators being useful because they could give legal advice.
Additionally, he opposed slavery, arguing that slaves were human beings and not property. He established Providence Island, which was located hundreds of miles from the mainland US, as a place where enslaved people could live free from oppression. Finally, he wanted equality between the colonies, no matter what religion they followed. These ideas caused him to be banished from Massachusetts and Connecticut; later, when the two states joined together to form the new country of Rhode Island, he was given land on which to build his home.
After his death in 1703, Williams' ideas began to be accepted by some Christians who felt that he had been wronged by the Puritans. In 1765, an Anglican bishop published an apology for Williams, calling him a "holy man" and praising his work with the Indians.
Williams taught three key tenets: he thought that Puritans needed to be independent from the Church of England, which he considered as growing corrupt; he believed in the notion of religious freedom; and he also believed that the official government should stay out of church issues. These three principles formed the basis of what is now known as The United States of America.
In addition, Roger Williams believed that women were equal to men. He argued that women had souls and could go to heaven after they died. This idea was not accepted at the time but it would later become a part of Catholic Christianity through the work of Martin Luther.
Finally, Roger Williams was one of the first people to see the potential of land beyond the Atlantic Ocean. He realized that this new land could provide resources for both the Puritans and their neighbors. So, he encouraged them to explore beyond the colonies that already existed in order to find more land for themselves.
Unfortunately, Roger Williams' ideas about religion and government were dangerous to the established authorities then living in Massachusetts. In 1631, he was arrested for teaching students at the College of New Jersey how to read the Bible in English. He was tried and sentenced to death by hanging but was spared by the governor at the last minute.
After his sentence was commuted, Williams was banished from Massachusetts.
Williams was a firm believer in the separation of religion and state. He was convinced that the civil government had no right to interfere in religious affairs. According to him, "The business of the magistrate is with the laws, not with the worship of God or the souls of men."
However, he did believe that Christians had a duty to engage in political activities. He argued that true believers could not stand by and do nothing when their religious rights were being violated. Therefore, Christians had an obligation to protest against any type of persecution directed toward them. They could neither avoid nor refuse this duty.
Furthermore, Williams believed that citizens have a right to freedom of speech. This means that they should be free from interference by the government in regards to their religion or beliefs. Freedom of speech also includes the right to protest against the establishment of religion or oppression based on class or gender.
In conclusion, Roger Williams was firmly against any type of governmental intervention in religion. He felt that such actions were violations of human rights. He believed that Christians had a duty to protest any type of persecution directed toward them.