Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Tragic Results of Puritan Ideology

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 19, 2018

Originally published January 19, 2017

The following is a transcript of Susan Dohse’s third session from the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernement and Spiritual Tyranny, originally presented on June 22, 2014.
~ Edited by Andy Young

susanThe Puritans, who first settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony, believed three key ideas. First, They believed that every aspect of their life, both the personal and social was grounded in sacredness. Their very presence in the New World was posited on the assumption that God in His Providence had saved the discovery of the New World until after the reformation of His church. Second, the Puritans believed that they were called by God to settle in the New World and to establish,

“a due form of government, both civil and ecclesiastical.” ~ John Winthrop, Christian Charity

This government was to be grounded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Third, they believed and affirmed that society existed only and through Divine Providence. They held to an intense commitment to a morality, a form of worship, and a civil society designed to conform to God’s commandments.

One of the most important values in the Puritan cultural system is covenants. Covenants were most basic and pervasive symbol in the Puritan society, and it touched every aspect of their life. Three covenants became the foundation of private, social, and civil life in the Puritan culture:

  • The covenant of grace
  • The church covenant
  • The civil covenant

– Three distinct covenants, but in practice “Trinitarian”, three but one.

The covenant of grace is the individual church of saints by calling; the whole body of God’s elect. God only knows who were saints and who were not. The church covenant is the visible church, a visible political union of saints.

“It is the duty of every saint to join a church, for, As Thomas Hooker put it though the saints constitute the matter of Christ’ kingdom, its form is only by a mutual covenant…For purposes of Church Covenants, therefore, Saints were ‘such as have not only attained the knowledge of the principles of Religion, and are free from gross and open scandals, but also do together with the profession of their faith and repentance, walk in blameless obedience to the Word, so as that in charitable discretion they may be accounted Saints by calling (though perhaps some or more of them be unsound and hypocrites inwardly).’”
~ The Cambridge Platform

Those who remained outside of the church covenant, though they attended church regularly, were spoken of as unregenerate. Cotton Mather, Thomas Hooker, and Governor Bradford of Plymouth regarded the church covenant as a covenant of grace, so you can see how they flipped and merged these covenants together.

puritan-civil-covenantThe civil covenant kept a churches’ state distinct in theory but not in practice. The Puritans held to the practice that God set up ministers to declare his will and magistrates to execute his will. Ministers had authority to counsel, advice, and admonish, and magistrates had the authority to command, judge, and punish. The civil covenant was in reality the physical enforcement and public advancement of whatever the churches desired. The church was not just part of one’s social life. It was the end and aim of all life. Therefore, all institutions were subordinated to the church. The Cambridge Platform states,

“As it is unlawful for church officers to meddle with the sword of the magistrate, so it is unlawful for the magistrate to meddle with the work of the proper church officers. It is the duty of the magistrates to take care matters of religion and to improve his civil authority for the observing of the duties commanded in the second table. They are called gods. The end of the magistrate’s office is not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject in matters of righteousness and honesty but also in matters of godliness, yea of all godliness.”

So though they stated it in the civil covenant that church affairs were separate from the civil affairs, they qualified it after they stated it by saying that the end of the magistrate’s office is not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject but in all matters of righteousness and honesty and all matters of godliness.

The church covenant gave form to the covenant of grace, and the civil covenant gave power to the church covenant. With these three covenants, society in New England was organized into this Holy Commonwealth. The church members chose the magistrates, but the ministers knew who the godly were and greatly influenced whom the members elected. The covenant of grace they held to tenaciously, which included the doctrines of predestination and election. All events are foreknown and foreordained by God and God would save whom He chose to and damn those He chose to as well.

The question foremost in the mind of a Puritan was, “Am I saved?” Being endlessly reminded that they were born sinners and remained sinners unless redeemed by God, the Puritan heart was constantly in search of a sign from God that they might be one of the elect. Faith in God did not assure salvation, for even the faithful could be damned. It was taught by the Puritan preachers that the gift of salvation was given at birth. You were given one of the souls that was to be saved. Believing is salvation by “faith alone.” The Puritan hoped and prepared for an experience of conversion. So they believed that “faith alone” is what provides or gives us salvation, and once they desired salvation, they prepared for the experience of conversion.

Well, conversion defined by the Puritan mind was “the soul is touched by the Holy Spirit so that the heart is turned from sinfulness to holiness.” Conversion represented human consent to the reality of divine election. It was God’s will that man consent to the reality of his sinfulness and in the experience of that recognition of his total depravity, consent to the reality of divine forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Conversion was an intense, even mystical experience through which God revealed signs that you were one of the saved. This theme of consent runs throughout Puritan society. Man consents to God’s judgment and divine activities, so man’s consent is required at all the key points in human existence.

When one joined a congregation, one had to demonstrate the truth and validity of one’s consent to divine will. Upon acceptance by the congregation, one had to consent to join and abide by its rules. To be a member of the Puritan Church, you had to convince the elders that you had experienced conversion. In today’s modern church, you give a testimony of how you were saved.

pur1To be a member of the Puritan Church though, the word “convince” is very important. You had to convince the elders. An application was made and a conversion narrative written that provided evidence that you had received “divine grace.” Because human nature was depraved and self-deceived, even after conversion there was always doubt. How could you be sure your conversion was real and not self-deception? How does one distinguish the real thing from the counterfeit? For this reason, the Puritans fostered a culture of intense self-scrutiny. Self-discipline and introspection was stressed. These were spiritual strivings practiced to determine if they carried genuine marks of sainthood. Events of everyday life were to be examined constantly for signs of confirmation of one’s election. Conversion was a rejection of the worldliness of society and a strict adherence to Biblical principles.

While repression was evident in their actions, they were taught that God could forgive anything. While God could forgive anything, man could only forgive by seeing a change in behavior. Actions spoke louder than words, so actions had to be constantly controlled by the individual and by the laws of the community. In order to have faith, it was as important to cultivate good works and strive to become a more spiritual person. Works were to prepare an individual to receive grace, if he was so predestined. Many also argued that anyone who had received God’s grace would naturally be inclined to good works. The grace of God’s gift would inspire that soul to act in giving and loving ways toward others.

The experience of conversion did not happen suddenly. It proceeded in fits and starts, punctuated by doubt as the divine power worked its way on that fragile human material. Much of Puritan preaching was concerned with the experience of conversion–why not everyone will be converted; how conversion comes about, whether in a blinding flash as with Paul on the road to Damascus or following well-defined stages of preparation; how one can distinguish real conversion from the counterfeit. These were sermon topics frequently, and they heard it often.

Although assurance of salvation could never be obtained, the hope of being chosen by God fortified the Puritans to contend with the reckless abandon in society, faithfulness in the church, and to endure the hardships in trying to create a Christian Commonwealth in the New World.

The clergy advised their church members to pray, study the Bible, and hope to receive grace. He or she was quite aware of the powerful experience of grace and conversion, but they also had to accept that if an individual was not predestined to be saved, there was nothing he or she could do about it. Many may have lived virtuous lives, but if they did not experience grace and conversion, they would not be saved.

thanksgiving-paintingBecause many who did not experience grace became discouraged, the clergy tried to find ways to encourage good behavior, even if they knew that only the few were predestined for salvation. This is where we get a lot of the devotional step and those intense prayers that we read online, you know, that we should start emulating and praying, it was this daily self-introspection, searching the heart to get a clue or hint of actual conversion.

To make sure that the church leaders were not fooled into admitting hypocrites, they were required to give a personal narrative of their conversion experience before the congregation and answer questions. This was to weed out those who were genuinely converted from the hypocrites. So the clergy had a list of specific elements of narratives of conversion that they expected to hear. When the candidates’ narrative did not adhere to the model, they were denied membership.

“When a man or woman cometh to join unto the church so gathered, he or she cometh to the elders in private…And if they satisfy the elders and the private assembly… that they be true believers that they have been wounded in their hearts for their original sins and actual transgressions and can pitch upon some promise of free grace in Scripture for the ground of their faith and that they find their hearts drawn to believe in Christ Jesus for their justification and salvation and these in the ministry of the word reading or conference and that they know completely the sum of Christian faith. And sometimes though they be not come to a full assurance of their good estate in Christ. Then afterwards, in convenient time, in the public assembly of the church…the elder turneth his speech to the party to be admitted and requires him or sometimes asks of him, if he’d be willing to make known to the congregation the work of grace upon his soul; and biddeth him, as briefly and audibly, to as good hearing as he can, to do the same…

“Whereupon the party if it would be a man speaks himself; but if it would be a woman, her confession made before the elders in private is most usually read by the Pastor who registered the same. At Salem the women speak themselves for the most part in the church; but of late it is said they do this upon the weekdays, and there is nothing done on Sunday, but their entrance into the covenant.”
~ Thomas Letchford

So they have a separate meeting for women on weekday where she is interviewed in private without her husband present. She presents her narrative, and they judge her on the basis of what is written.

This ordeal was regarded as a sufficient barrier to all who were not saints, and it kept out of the church many who really were saints but who disliked these public professions and confessions. Those who remained outside of the church covenant, though they attended regularly, were called unregenerate so that for all practical purposes the elders and ministers could know who the invisible and the invisible church was. They could identify it by who were official members. You were a visible saint if you were accepted as a member of the church. And if you were not a member, either by personal choice or rejection, you were unregenerate.

Thomas Letchford, in questioning Cotton Mather, said, “What do you do about the visible saints who are really hypocrites, that they could write a good narrative, that they could give a good profession of faith, say the right things, what do you do about those?” Cotton Mather replied, “Better a hypocrite in the church than a man who is profane.” Mather goes on to explain that hypocrites are useful to God and the church. Well, everybody had to go to church or be fined, so even if you were a hypocrite, you were useful in the church. This goes hand in hand with Augustine and Calvin’s doctrine that salvation can be found in the church.

Sidebar: Here are some of the sad results of this Puritan dogma:

“August 1637: A women of Boston congregation, having been in much trouble of mind about her spiritual estate, at length grew into utter desperation and could not endure to hear of any comfort. So as one day she took her little infant and threw it into a well and then came into the house and said now she was sure that she should be damned, for she had drowned her child. But some stepping presently forth saved the child.”

“May 1642: A cooper’s wife, having been long in a sad melancholy distemper, near to frenzy and having poorly attempted to drown her child, but prevented by God’s gracious providence, did now again take an opportunity, being alone, to carry her child, age three, to a creek near her house. And stripping it of the clothes threw it into the water and mud. But the tide being low, the little child scrambled out. And taking up its clothes, came to its mother who had sat down not far off. She carried the child again and threw it so far as it could not get out. But then it please God that a young man coming that way saved it. She would give no other reason for it but that she did it to save her child from misery, and withal that she was assured she had sinned against the most Holy Ghost and that she could not repent of any sin.”

Preaching for the Puritan ministers was vital to the community, for they viewed it as the means to regeneration. From behind the pulpit, leaders in the new world sought to bring their community steadily closer to that Christian model. The “meeting house” was the place of instruction where the community learned its duties. It was the geographical and social center and a place to learn how to build their Zion in the wilderness. The Puritans refused to call their church a “church” so as to distinguish themselves from the Church of England.

The sermons were thoroughly theological and thoroughly practical based upon common acceptance of Calvin’s theology. It was left to the minister alone to discover the practical applications of it. There was hardly a public event in which a sermon was not featured. There were election day sermons, artillery sermons, fast day and thanksgiving day sermons where they would explain why God was humbling or rewarding them, execution sermons, funeral sermons, and dying men’s sermons. Puritan preachers were instructed to preach much about the misery of the state of nature. Arthur Dent’s instruction about the nature of man said that man was nothing but a gulf of grief, a sty of filthiness.

Puritan men and women of the upper and middle class became prolific writers. They kept diaries and wrote poetry and prayers. Puritan personal literature was devotional in nature, centering on the “contemplative” life. Everyone had to speak honestly of his own experience as they experienced a growing manifestation of a growing self-consciousness. Puritan writings yielded three things:

  • self-examination
  • self-hood
  • self-identity

Self-examination was not to liberate the mind and heart, it was to constrict, confine, and control your mind and heart. Self-hood was a state to be overcome and obliterated. Self-identity was found only through the act of total submission to God. This contemplative life was a process. Puritan literature carried the single message of all Christians sharing the same plight, all Christians having the same calling, all Christians undertaking the same wayfaring pilgrimage.

“Nature of one makes many, but grace of many makes one. For the Holy Spirit, which is as a fire, melts all the faithful into one mass lump.” ~ William Dell

By much beholding the glory of the Lord in the glass of the gospel and acting out our perceptions, we are changed into the same image” ~ Richard Mathers

When they saw Christ, which they called the “mirror of reflection”, they were to see no reflection of themselves. They were to disappear. Using a faulty interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8, to the Puritans, sin disfigured that reflection. They spoke not of the stain of sin but of the dunghills, the lumps of lewdness, the slough and slime. When you looked into that “mirror” of self-reflection, you were to see yourself in this manner.

“[God] will have our hands actively in it, and in it not for one instance but for the whole course of a man’s life. We must be soaked and boiled in affliction if we would have some relish acceptable unto God.” (uncited author)

“First take a glass and see where it is dirty and labor to discern your very crime. Experimentally persuade yourself that you are the biggest sinner in the world. Plunge yourself into the foul waters of your heart till you know there is none worse than thyself.” ~ John Bunyan

The Puritans’ humanity was fulfilled as it was plunged and purged, “washed clean of the vomit in its cheeks,” its sullied flesh destroyed, its whole body of sin transformed, emptied, melted, rendered a pure and shining surface on which the individual in his daily thoughts and actions would reflect back an unstained image of his redeemer.

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

Self versus God becomes the motivating force of their activism. In their language of the day and in their writings and in their sermons they added many “self” compounds to their language: self-credit, self-fullness, self-honor, self-intended, self-practiced, self-safety, self-confident, self-sufficiency, self-trial, self-denial, self-acquaintance, self-abhorring, self-abasing, self-determinism. The redeemed are marked by self-emptiness and self-revenging. Man’s fall was his turning from God to himself, and his regeneration consists of his returning of himself to God. Hence, self-denial and the love of God is the same thing.

“Understand this, and you understand what original and actual sin is, and what grace and duty are. It is self that the scripture principally speaks against. The very names “self” and “own” should sound in the watchful Christian’s ears as very terrible awakening words that are next to the same name as “sin” and “Satan”.
~ Richard Baxter, “The Benefits of Self-Acquaintance”

What they unknowingly created was this force of “I” –ness in their violent vocabulary of self-abhorrence. The state of mind they reveal in their devotional writings might be described in modern terms as schizophrenic single-mindedness. The struggle between God and man entail the relentless psychic strain, and in Puritan New England, where Calvinistic theology insisted upon this, anxiety about election was not only normal but mandatory. Hysteria, breakdowns, and suicides were not uncommon.

Their meditative literary works, or “spiritual biography”, provided a guide for living up to the demands of dogma. But in the process of emphasizing “I” –ness, in the end all it did was minimize Christ rather than exalting him.

Two more sad results of Puritan dogma:

Increase Mather, leading Puritan minister, as he lay “feeble and sore-broken upon his deathbed”, faced his life’s end with desperate fear and trembling. He was tormented by the thought that he might be bound for hell.

John Tappin, who died in Boston in 1673 at the age of 18, suffered a bitter spiritual torment as well in the face of death. All the while he had been a godly youth, professing to be a believer, he bemoaned his hardness of heart and mildness of mind and feared he was headed for eternal damnation.

hangeddrawnquartered21From the earliest upbringing Puritans were taught to fear death. Ministers terrorized young children with graphic descriptions of hell and the horrors of eternal damnation. “At the last judgment, your own parents will testify against you.”

Fear of death was also reinforced by showing young children corpses and taking them to public hangings. Accordingly, young children were continually reminded that their probable destination was hell. Cotton Mather put the point bluntly.

“Go unto the burying place, children. You will see graves as short as yourselves. Yes, you may be at play one hour and dead, dead the next.”

Even their schoolbooks repeatedly reminded Puritan children about death and hell.

“’Tis not likely that you will all live to grow up. Learn the alphabet this way – ‘T’ is for ‘time.’ Time cuts down all both great and small.”

“Surely there is in all children, though children are not all alike, a stubbornness and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride which must be in the first place broken and beaten down so that the foundation of their education can be laid in humility and trapableness, and other virtues may in their time be built thereon.” ~ Reverend John Robinson.

Parents and other adults begin to break the child’s will beginning somewhere around the age of one or two years old. Also at this time, while the child is being weaned from his mother’s milk, the parents began to establish limits, all in the effort to break the child’s compulsive and assertive nature. The parents were very eager and very forceful to make the child walk, because they believed that if the child crawled on all fours he was too close to the animal kingdom.

To enforce this purity of doctrine the Puritans needed a network of schools throughout the colony to teach the younger generation the Puritan beliefs and Calvin’s doctrine. The first task was to establish a college to graduate suitable rigorous ministers and to train schoolmasters for lower education. The Puritans referred to such a school as a “School of the Prophets”. (It is no coincidence that the title “professor” is derived from the word “prophet”) One such school was called “New College” or “the college at New Towne.”   It was a divinity school that grew into what is now known as Harvard University. The school was meant to superintend the lives of the colonists and prevent any further deviations from “proper” doctrine.

With Harvard established, they had the supporting structures in place. They implemented aspects of their Platonic paradigm of community child-rearing. One such structure was indentured servitude. In 1645, each town was compelled to provide a schoolmaster to teach a wide range of subjects. There was no point for government schools if there were no masses to be taught, so another law was established compelling every child in the colony to be educated – compulsory education. Parents ignoring the law were fined. Wherever the government officials judged the parents to be unfit, the government had the power to seize the children and apprentice them out to other families. Children were regarded as the absolute property of their parents, for if they were “property” then they could be confiscated.

A practice common among the English Puritans was called the ‘putting out” of children. This is where children were placed at an early age in other homes where they were treated as an apprentice. It was done by parental consent. This custom was practiced with the pretense of the parents’ desire to glorify God by avoiding the formation of strong emotional bonds with their children, bonds that might temper the strictness of the child’s discipline. In reality, the teaching was that if you loved your children too much you were sinning because you are taking away from glory that rightfully belonged to God. You were allowing your children to be an idol.

English poor laws of 1563 and 1601 stated”

“Permit the poor children to be taken out of the hands of their parents by the statutes for apprenticing poor children that are placed out by the public for the advantage of the commonwealth”

As a result of all this a controlling a punitive culture emerged. Laws were written and enforced that curtailed parental rights, creation of community schools, established Puritan precepts as a civil requirement, imposed community taxation, encouraged citizens to report on non-conforming relatives and neighbors. Informal snooping was considered to haphazard, so an “official snooper” was formed. These officers were called “tithing men”, because each one had supervision over the private affairs of his ten nearest neighbors. Of course the tithing men were appointed by the ministers of the churches who would then be sufficiently armed with enough material with which to derive a sermon for the following Sunday, preaching about the evils that were occurring within the community.

I will remind you once again of the gospel according to John Immel:

  1. All people act logically from their assumptions.
  2. It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until that logic is fulfilled.
  3. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, if you find the assumptions, you will find the cause.

If you want to understand why mental disorder, anxiety, depression, and suicide were epidemic in the Puritan community, you need only look to the environment of control, fear, and condemnation their Calvinist orthodoxy produced. It is no coincidence then that we see the same patterns of anxiety and depression occurring among the laity in today’s institutional church, particularly in those churches where authentic reformed Protestantism dominates or is making a resurgence. To borrow a phrase from James Carville in the early 1990’s, “It’s the theology, stupid.”

When we closely examine the real history of the Puritans, their lifestyle, and the necessary results of their theology, we must ask ourselves why any rational person would want to emulate them. I strongly urge you to consider once again the statement by George Santayana, which I cited in my previous session, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

~ Susan Dohse

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 9, 2017

The following is part two of a multi-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s second session
at the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for introduction
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

I’m going to continue with my case on the nature of philosophy, how it is a driving force of human action. It has impacted the evolution of Western thought in particular, and specifically it shaped National Socialist Germany. It is currently shaping the United States of America.

At the TANC Conference of 2013, I began to explain the evolution of Western thought, and I started all the way back from Thales around 600 BC. One of the biggest challenges I have is that Christians tend to believe that Christianity just sprang up out of a whole cloth, but it actually has a very specific place in the larger context of the evolution of Western thought. The roots of those ideas can be seen as far back as Plato and Pythagoreans, and many of our doctrines come from the Cynics and the Stoics.

I’m going to pick up where I left off in the timeline I began last year, around 150 AD, because this will lay a foundation. I’m going to touch briefly on Plato because the roots of current Christian doctrine can be traced from Plato to Augustine to Luther to Calvin. Actually, it is not really all that much of a dirty secret. The fact of the matter is that anyone can find this relationship with no effort at all. It is hidden in plain sight for anybody to find.

You will recall from our study of the Cynics and the Stoics that they believed the flesh, the material world was corrupt. They were responsible for the introduction of the soul-body dichotomy into Western thought.

Christianity largely picks up this soul-body dichotomy from these ancient Western thinkers. The Cynics and Stoics ultimately believe that the way man achieves knowledge and virtue was by the discipline of the flesh. Because the flesh was weak, it required kind of like an athlete’s training.

Plotinus

Around 200 AD a man by the name of Plotinus picks up on the Cynic and Stoic doctrines. Plotinus takes these concepts to the next logical progression. Not only is the material world inferior, it is in fact totally morally depraved.

Consider what Plato taught. Plato believed that this earth was a shadow variation of a perfect world. This world was not true reality. It was really the reflection, the shadow on the wall of a cave. The otherworldly realm was called the world of Forms. Plato believed that man’s grasp of reality was limited. Plato believed that man’s ethical standard was his subordination to the state. He believed that man was inferior. He believed that certain men, what he called philosopher kings, should be in charge. They should dictate good.

Plato still has a secular philosophy. In other words, he still believed that select men can get to this transcendent world, this world of Forms, by virtue of his reason. Now it wasn’t a clean blanket statement that all men had this ability. It was really reserved for a select few men who specifically practice virtues that gave them access to the forms and higher levels of knowledge, but it was still a secular version.

By contrast, Plotinus dropped all vestiges of the human element. According to Plotinus’ disciples, Plotinus had zero interest in the physical life. His entire obsession was attaining a transcendent reality. But his transcendent reality was a religious transcendence. He accepted the premise of the mystery cults, the Gnostics, where because man is specifically corrupt, there was a certain initiating practice that gave them access to the knowledge, and they were uniquely qualified to get to this knowledge by virtue of their specific denial of fleshly existence.

This means that the secular transcendent world is graspable because man is the secularizing part. But a religious transcendent world is not graspable because man has no place in that world. Here is how Plotinus described this. Listen to the echoes of what becomes Christianity.

“The One is, in truth, beyond all statement; whatever you say would limit It; the All-Transcending, transcending even the most august Mind, which alone of all things has true being, has no name. We can but try to indicate, if possible, something concerning it. If we do not grasp it by knowledge, what does that not mean that we do not seize it. How does man come to seize knowledge of a transcendent being? It is impossible for man to cease transcendent knowledge by reason.”

I want you to notice that he wanted reason to be part of man’s incompetence.

Once you understand Plotinus, it becomes very simple to understand Augustine, because this is the version of Platonism that Augustine got hold of. He did not have the original Plato. Augustine sees in his mind the one, the All-Transcendent, as the Christian God. It is from this framework within which he places Christianity, because there was a problem with early Christianity.

When Jesus showed up on the scene, He was in Israel talking to Israelites about Israel issues. He repeatedly stated that He came to the lost children of Israel. This is why, particularly in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew, you see virtually no recognition of a world beyond Palestine. You see functionally no understanding of the broader Hellenistic world.

By the time we get to the Gospel of Luke, being a Roman and having much more concern with the broader Hellenistic world, his original works are actually addressed to someone named Theophilus. While Luke’s interest is to a broader Greek world, even then Luke’s focus is only inasmuch as he wants to show the progression of the Great Commission going to the outermost parts of the earth to these people. So even by the time we get to the Book of Acts, he is still just focused on that evolution.

And herein lay the problem. As this Jewish movement, which started out in this little backwater no nothing territory of the Roman Empire, moves in to the broader Hellenistic world it is confronted with some profound intellectual problems.

The Hellenistic world has no association with the Jewish background of the things that Jesus said and did. There was no quick way to explain the nature of the Jesus movement to this broader Hellenistic world because there was no full philosophical statement. It was a collection of stories and aphorisms and parables. And so to that world and to that mind, Christianity did not have a lot of direct relevance.

By the time we get into the 2nd century, Christianity is really reeling. Christianity needed an integration into a broader philosophical statement. One of the first who tried to do this was Philo. Philo was a Jew, and he was definitely a Hellenistic Jew, and his goal was to take Platonism and merge it into Judaism.   He is one of a number who were making these attempts at philosophical integration.

This is the fundamental problem that landed on Augustine’s lap. Augustine set out to finalize the integration of these ideas, and he used the turnkey solution of Platonism to do it.   Concurrent with this, the Roman Empire was crumbling. There was a lot of chaos happening in the world, both political and social. People were looking for some means and some way to begin to explain these things, so a corrupt material world and a corrupt man in a war-torn and war-ravaged and famine-ravaged existence seems to make an enormous amount of sense.

First Council of Nicea

Then there is the political side of this equation to consider. Around 250 AD, Christianity began to emerge as a player in the social-political structure of the world. By 300, the Church was full of all sorts of political ambition. Bishops became effectively synonymous with rulers.

Constantine then capitalizes on the Christian statist ambition as he presided over the Council of Nicaea. Constantine says, “You know what, guys? I’m tired of hearing you bicker. I’m going to put an end to this.” He declared a specific orthodoxy to be upheld. He called all opposing positions to be demented and insane, and then he proceeded to persecute anyone who happened to believe otherwise.

Constantine galvanized ecumenical support for his power in the failing Roman Empire, using his civil authority to condemn. In trade, the winning bishops pledged their allegiance to Constantine. Constantine died in 337, but the Council of Nicaea lasted for almost another 25 years.   With each year that passed, the Church became increasingly more embroiled in civil governance.

Fast forward to the appointment of Flavius Theodosius to emperor in 379. Theodosius’ role in history and more importantly, Church history, has been airbrushed out of existence, as Charles Freeman notes in his book AD 381. This is a profound failing because in 381, for the first time in Greco-Roman history, religious orthodoxy became synonymous with political power. In 381, the power of the state was galvanized into Christianity forever. This forever changed the face of the world. From this point forward, the leading Christian theological concern was who had the authority, the force, to compel doctrinal outcomes. No matter the specific theological hair being split, the underlying fight was who held the force to suppress the dissenting opinion.

Here’s why this is important. Secularism gets a black eye because we tend to assume that secular means immoral. But secularism only means the division of religious orthodoxy from political orthodoxy. A secular state is effectively an agnostic state where the force of government does not care what the specific religious convictions of people are. Even though they believed in hundreds of gods, the Hellenistic world, and in particular the Classical Greek world, was effectively a secular state. Man could believe what he chose. He was not compelled by doctrine to believe anything.

The only other manifestation of a truly secular state in the history of the world is the United States of America. It is important for people to grasp this. The single greatest political achievement the world has ever seen was a secular state, meaning that man was free to believe what he wanted. I’m going to talk about this at length later on.

Theocracy on the other hand is the merging of political power with the theological orthodoxy. A theocracy means that man is compelled to a given theological standard by force of government. And this is exactly what happened with Theodosius. Augustine’s doctrine was then able to reign effectively for the next thousand years without contest. No one could muster an objection because it was considered treason to object to Augustinian doctrine.

Augustine decides he has cared for all the basic premises:

  • The soul/body or mind/body dichotomy derived from ancient Greek doctrine
  • Man is epistemologically corrupt
  • The abandonment of reason
  • A commitment the presumption that select men are morally correct to dictate intellectual content (dogmatism)
  • The primacy of the state (the church)

Central to all of these premises is asceticism. Asceticism is a philosophical commitment of the individual to destroy every facet of his physical existence. Asceticism is the practical application of the soul-body dichotomy put into practice. Christian asceticism took the apostle Paul’s determination to beat his body literally and seriously.

The Church taught that asceticism gave access to the supernatural through mortification, literally, the death of the flesh. Paul Dohse has written at length about the doctrines of mortification and vivification. Most Christians tend to assume that when we talk about mortification, we’re really talking about something they can pick and choose. But in this case is means the literal death of the flesh.   Self-destruction would earn God’s pity. Self-destruction showed that man was full of guilt.

Some examples of ascetic practices included celibacy. This was very common. Virginity was considered an ethical ideal tied to the belief that the natural world was evil. This actually hit women very hard through the Dark Ages because women were either virgins or whores. Women were seen as tempters of men. Celibacy was the means to prevent. Celibacy was also a means by which the Catholic Church could keep their property from disappearing into inheritance. Priests that don’t marry don’t have kids, won’t have wives. The Church gets the money. The Church gets taxes. The Church keeps it, because when the priests dies, he doesn’t give it away to his family.

Another ascetic practice was the renunciation of material possessions. For example, a man by the name of Alexander married poverty, which I think is hilarious considering our current preoccupations with re-defining marriage in America. Alexander would beg for his food and did not keep his excess. One commenter on Alexander’s wife said that his form of monasticism was better because it didn’t create the housekeeping problems of say, the Franciscans. In other words, he didn’t have cleric. I think that’s hilarious.

Another ascetic practice is the renunciation of food. The ideal Christian fasted for 40 days, as practiced by Jesus. It also turns out that starvation past 40 days killed you.

They reduced or prevented sleep. They turned sleep into torture. They slept on beds of nails. They were beaten if they fell asleep. Syrian monks tied ropes around their abdomens and slept standing up. Others hung themselves in awkward positions.

They condemned hygiene. They refused to cut their hair, fingernails, or toenails. They dressed in filthy rags and allowed sweat and dirt to accumulate.

They abandoned movement. It was common to lock themselves away in monasteries, but then they would take it further and lock themselves into ever-smaller and smaller cells. Truly horrific is that some ascetics would go into the desert, sit down on a pile of rocks and stay there until their legs are rotten away. They beat their bodies. Men would stare into the sun until they were blind so that they would never succumb to the lusts of the eyes. Monastic orders wore girdles around their loins so that they would not desire women. Castration and self-flagellation were very common.

Here is the point that I want to make. These practices never made it into general practice for the simple reason that it is not livable. It is by definition designed to kill. It is a commitment to death and destruction that cannot be practiced. But the point is that these kinds of practices were venerated. It was seen as an ethical ideal. The men who did practice such action were considered saints. The Church turned these people into heroes.

Because of Augustine, throughout the Dark Ages we have an entire intellectual collapse. Reason cannot grasp God, and there is no earthly reality. Imagine an entire culture built around this fundamental presumption. This is the proof-text mindset- the need to use authority to validate ideas. The proof-text mind cannot think in terms of causality. It is a mind that equates causality with authority. It is a mind that does not grasp principles.

Of course, what this really means is that we are talking about an entire culture built on rational dependence. In other words, it is a culture that gets all of its rational content from somebody who dictates. This is impossible for a scientific society, because a scientific society is built around rational independence, the ability to independently review and explore the world find commonalities and causalities.

What were the results of the Dark Ages?

Intellectual stagnation. It paralyzed all critical thinking. Authority was what governed human interaction, and the result was war, war, war, and more war. God was always in the business of smiting someone else who got it wrong through the sword of the church/state. The concept of “rights” was really a discussion of prerogatives. The “Divine Right of Kings” is really the divine prerogative of kings.

The intellectual stagnation of the Dark Ages produced infant mortality rates estimated at 50 percent, some sources suggest maybe as low as 30. A villager serf, his wife, and surviving children shared a living space of roughly 700 square feet, and they shared that space with livestock.

By age 12, a boy was considered old enough to pledge his life to his sovereign, meaning he was considered old enough to go to war. By 12, girls were considered old enough to marry. They were sold as a chattel, considered a societal burden because they were a mouth to feed. They could not endure the rigors of agricultural life. The concept of a dowry was designed to make marriageable females more attractive to male suitors. Men were basically paid to take on women.

Ninety-five percent of the population worked at agriculture with farm implements out of the Stone Age. Yields were estimated at a quarter of the seed sown. Therefore, it took roughly two acres to feed one person. By comparison, modern farming methods yield in excess of 80 percent, and it takes less than a third of an acre to feed one person. There was no concept of germs, no antibiotics, no vaccines, no anesthetic. Anesthetic was considered sinful. Your pain was necessarily the product of your sin, and God deliberately did it to you. And this all made sense because suffering was a virtue.

Death was a virtue. Pain was merely the natural state of human existence. Practically 95 percent of the populace were slaves, 2 percent did nothing, and the nobility fought wars of conquests for profit. The largest class were the people called the villani. It means villager, but it is the root of our modern word villain. They were born into generational slavery.

This is important to understand. As a class society based on determination, if you were born a serf, you would be a serf. Your grandson would be a serf. Your great grandson would be a serf. Your great grandfather would be a serf. There was effectively no escape. You were committed. You were basically born into subservience, and there was no ability to get out of it. This is the logical conclusion of Augustine’s theories of predestination carried out to their practical application.

“Justice” was meted out with brutal efficiency. A man who stole from a lord’s property, which was effectively everything in sight, could be penalized by being pilloried, drawn and quartered, cut open, or have limbs, noses, or ears cut off. Women, who were accused of crimes, say, daring to seduce a priest or lord (and when I mean by seduced, I mean they lusted after her) had their genitals impaled with hot irons, were locked in iron maidens, burned at the stake, or drowned.

The Church sanctioned all of these actions by government using Romans 13:1-2

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

This is the foundation of the “Divine Right of Kings”; the presumption that the king is appointed of God, and whatever he happens to do is exactly what God chooses. This is also a corollary of the doctrine of predestination. It is what God intends. What you see manifest is specifically what God desires.

The Dark Ages are dark in principle, and it is imperative that you understand what this means. Philosophically, it is specifically trying to separate all of man from any good. The fundamental formulations of Augustinian doctrine sought to eradicate man on every fundamental level. Christianity elevated pain and suffering and pestilence and poverty to the highest ethical ideal.

The whole of historic Christian doctrine revolves around the veneration of death. Human suffering reaches its pinnacle in Western thought. Destruction of the flesh is the ethical ideal. It doesn’t take an art scholar to understand why the symbol of a fish (the Greek word ιχθυς “ic-thoos”) in remembrance of the disciples was replaced by the cross as an enduring icon of Christianity. For the first 400 to 500 years, the cross does not appear in Christian art. But by the start of the 6th century, the cross, which is an emblem of political subjugation and torture, becomes Christianity’s central icon.

But then, what other icon would be appropriate for a religion built on human suffering? Four hundred years after Jesus came to preach life in the covenants of promise, Christianity became a cult of death that ruled the world with a nihilistic iron fist.

I get some heat on occasion for calling Christianity a cult of death. But I challenge you, show me I’m wrong. The sum of Christian doctrine is based on the death of man. It is obsessed and fixated on man’s death. And it worships an icon of death and culture. It holds out Jesus’ death and destruction as its highest ethical action. At its root, it preaches that man’s highest ethical ideal is his own self-destruction.

In the introduction I challenged you with this statement: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. But that statement requires a necessary assumption. If there are men who are good, that presupposes they have values. And the nature of values are such that good men must act consistent with those values.

So then, what causes good men to take no action? What must be the primary assumption?

Change the definition of good!

Turn death and destruction into “good.”

If you want to understand what happened in National Socialist Germany, you must understand that the resulting behavior stemmed from a metaphysical premise that assumed a change in the definition of what was “good.”

Now for me to actually explain why this is so important, we are going to have to do some more remedial work, because most people reading this don’t hold the Augustinian standard of “good” in their head. Most modern Calvinists don’t hold the Augustinian, Luther, and Calvin doctrine of good in their head. Most of them get their definition of good from a very different source. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in part three.

To be continued…


Click here for introduction
Click here for part three
Click here for part four
Click here for part five
Click here for part six
Click here for part seven
Click here for part eight
Click here for conclusion

 

The Tragic Results of Puritan Ideology

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 19, 2017
The following is a transcript of Susan Dohse’s third session from the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernement and Spiritual Tyranny, originally presented on June 22, 2014.
~ Edited by Andy Young

susanThe Puritans, who first settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony, believed three key ideas. First, They believed that every aspect of their life, both the personal and social was grounded in sacredness. Their very presence in the New World was posited on the assumption that God in His Providence had saved the discovery of the New World until after the reformation of His church. Second, the Puritans believed that they were called by God to settle in the New World and to establish,

“a due form of government, both civil and ecclesiastical.” ~ John Winthrop, Christian Charity

This government was to be grounded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Third, they believed and affirmed that society existed only and through Divine Providence. They held to an intense commitment to a morality, a form of worship, and a civil society designed to conform to God’s commandments.

One of the most important values in the Puritan cultural system is covenants. Covenants were most basic and pervasive symbol in the Puritan society, and it touched every aspect of their life. Three covenants became the foundation of private, social, and civil life in the Puritan culture:

  • The covenant of grace
  • The church covenant
  • The civil covenant

– Three distinct covenants, but in practice “Trinitarian”, three but one.

The covenant of grace is the individual church of saints by calling; the whole body of God’s elect. God only knows who were saints and who were not. The church covenant is the visible church, a visible political union of saints.

“It is the duty of every saint to join a church, for, As Thomas Hooker put it though the saints constitute the matter of Christ’ kingdom, its form is only by a mutual covenant…For purposes of Church Covenants, therefore, Saints were ‘such as have not only attained the knowledge of the principles of Religion, and are free from gross and open scandals, but also do together with the profession of their faith and repentance, walk in blameless obedience to the Word, so as that in charitable discretion they may be accounted Saints by calling (though perhaps some or more of them be unsound and hypocrites inwardly).’”
~ The Cambridge Platform

Those who remained outside of the church covenant, though they attended church regularly, were spoken of as unregenerate. Cotton Mather, Thomas Hooker, and Governor Bradford of Plymouth regarded the church covenant as a covenant of grace, so you can see how they flipped and merged these covenants together.

puritan-civil-covenantThe civil covenant kept a churches’ state distinct in theory but not in practice. The Puritans held to the practice that God set up ministers to declare his will and magistrates to execute his will. Ministers had authority to counsel, advice, and admonish, and magistrates had the authority to command, judge, and punish. The civil covenant was in reality the physical enforcement and public advancement of whatever the churches desired. The church was not just part of one’s social life. It was the end and aim of all life. Therefore, all institutions were subordinated to the church. The Cambridge Platform states,

“As it is unlawful for church officers to meddle with the sword of the magistrate, so it is unlawful for the magistrate to meddle with the work of the proper church officers. It is the duty of the magistrates to take care matters of religion and to improve his civil authority for the observing of the duties commanded in the second table. They are called gods. The end of the magistrate’s office is not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject in matters of righteousness and honesty but also in matters of godliness, yea of all godliness.”

So though they stated it in the civil covenant that church affairs were separate from the civil affairs, they qualified it after they stated it by saying that the end of the magistrate’s office is not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject but in all matters of righteousness and honesty and all matters of godliness.

The church covenant gave form to the covenant of grace, and the civil covenant gave power to the church covenant. With these three covenants, society in New England was organized into this Holy Commonwealth. The church members chose the magistrates, but the ministers knew who the godly were and greatly influenced whom the members elected. The covenant of grace they held to tenaciously, which included the doctrines of predestination and election. All events are foreknown and foreordained by God and God would save whom He chose to and damn those He chose to as well.

The question foremost in the mind of a Puritan was, “Am I saved?” Being endlessly reminded that they were born sinners and remained sinners unless redeemed by God, the Puritan heart was constantly in search of a sign from God that they might be one of the elect. Faith in God did not assure salvation, for even the faithful could be damned. It was taught by the Puritan preachers that the gift of salvation was given at birth. You were given one of the souls that was to be saved. Believing is salvation by “faith alone.” The Puritan hoped and prepared for an experience of conversion. So they believed that “faith alone” is what provides or gives us salvation, and once they desired salvation, they prepared for the experience of conversion.

Well, conversion defined by the Puritan mind was “the soul is touched by the Holy Spirit so that the heart is turned from sinfulness to holiness.” Conversion represented human consent to the reality of divine election. It was God’s will that man consent to the reality of his sinfulness and in the experience of that recognition of his total depravity, consent to the reality of divine forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Conversion was an intense, even mystical experience through which God revealed signs that you were one of the saved. This theme of consent runs throughout Puritan society. Man consents to God’s judgment and divine activities, so man’s consent is required at all the key points in human existence.

When one joined a congregation, one had to demonstrate the truth and validity of one’s consent to divine will. Upon acceptance by the congregation, one had to consent to join and abide by its rules. To be a member of the Puritan Church, you had to convince the elders that you had experienced conversion. In today’s modern church, you give a testimony of how you were saved.

pur1To be a member of the Puritan Church though, the word “convince” is very important. You had to convince the elders. An application was made and a conversion narrative written that provided evidence that you had received “divine grace.” Because human nature was depraved and self-deceived, even after conversion there was always doubt. How could you be sure your conversion was real and not self-deception? How does one distinguish the real thing from the counterfeit? For this reason, the Puritans fostered a culture of intense self-scrutiny. Self-discipline and introspection was stressed. These were spiritual strivings practiced to determine if they carried genuine marks of sainthood. Events of everyday life were to be examined constantly for signs of confirmation of one’s election. Conversion was a rejection of the worldliness of society and a strict adherence to Biblical principles.

While repression was evident in their actions, they were taught that God could forgive anything. While God could forgive anything, man could only forgive by seeing a change in behavior. Actions spoke louder than words, so actions had to be constantly controlled by the individual and by the laws of the community. In order to have faith, it was as important to cultivate good works and strive to become a more spiritual person. Works were to prepare an individual to receive grace, if he was so predestined. Many also argued that anyone who had received God’s grace would naturally be inclined to good works. The grace of God’s gift would inspire that soul to act in giving and loving ways toward others.

The experience of conversion did not happen suddenly. It proceeded in fits and starts, punctuated by doubt as the divine power worked its way on that fragile human material. Much of Puritan preaching was concerned with the experience of conversion–why not everyone will be converted; how conversion comes about, whether in a blinding flash as with Paul on the road to Damascus or following well-defined stages of preparation; how one can distinguish real conversion from the counterfeit. These were sermon topics frequently, and they heard it often.

Although assurance of salvation could never be obtained, the hope of being chosen by God fortified the Puritans to contend with the reckless abandon in society, faithfulness in the church, and to endure the hardships in trying to create a Christian Commonwealth in the New World.

The clergy advised their church members to pray, study the Bible, and hope to receive grace. He or she was quite aware of the powerful experience of grace and conversion, but they also had to accept that if an individual was not predestined to be saved, there was nothing he or she could do about it. Many may have lived virtuous lives, but if they did not experience grace and conversion, they would not be saved.

thanksgiving-paintingBecause many who did not experience grace became discouraged, the clergy tried to find ways to encourage good behavior, even if they knew that only the few were predestined for salvation. This is where we get a lot of the devotional step and those intense prayers that we read online, you know, that we should start emulating and praying, it was this daily self-introspection, searching the heart to get a clue or hint of actual conversion.

To make sure that the church leaders were not fooled into admitting hypocrites, they were required to give a personal narrative of their conversion experience before the congregation and answer questions. This was to weed out those who were genuinely converted from the hypocrites. So the clergy had a list of specific elements of narratives of conversion that they expected to hear. When the candidates’ narrative did not adhere to the model, they were denied membership.

“When a man or woman cometh to join unto the church so gathered, he or she cometh to the elders in private…And if they satisfy the elders and the private assembly… that they be true believers that they have been wounded in their hearts for their original sins and actual transgressions and can pitch upon some promise of free grace in Scripture for the ground of their faith and that they find their hearts drawn to believe in Christ Jesus for their justification and salvation and these in the ministry of the word reading or conference and that they know completely the sum of Christian faith. And sometimes though they be not come to a full assurance of their good estate in Christ. Then afterwards, in convenient time, in the public assembly of the church…the elder turneth his speech to the party to be admitted and requires him or sometimes asks of him, if he’d be willing to make known to the congregation the work of grace upon his soul; and biddeth him, as briefly and audibly, to as good hearing as he can, to do the same…

“Whereupon the party if it would be a man speaks himself; but if it would be a woman, her confession made before the elders in private is most usually read by the Pastor who registered the same. At Salem the women speak themselves for the most part in the church; but of late it is said they do this upon the weekdays, and there is nothing done on Sunday, but their entrance into the covenant.”
~ Thomas Letchford

So they have a separate meeting for women on weekday where she is interviewed in private without her husband present. She presents her narrative, and they judge her on the basis of what is written.

This ordeal was regarded as a sufficient barrier to all who were not saints, and it kept out of the church many who really were saints but who disliked these public professions and confessions. Those who remained outside of the church covenant, though they attended regularly, were called unregenerate so that for all practical purposes the elders and ministers could know who the invisible and the invisible church was. They could identify it by who were official members. You were a visible saint if you were accepted as a member of the church. And if you were not a member, either by personal choice or rejection, you were unregenerate.

Thomas Letchford, in questioning Cotton Mather, said, “What do you do about the visible saints who are really hypocrites, that they could write a good narrative, that they could give a good profession of faith, say the right things, what do you do about those?” Cotton Mather replied, “Better a hypocrite in the church than a man who is profane.” Mather goes on to explain that hypocrites are useful to God and the church. Well, everybody had to go to church or be fined, so even if you were a hypocrite, you were useful in the church. This goes hand in hand with Augustine and Calvin’s doctrine that salvation can be found in the church.

Sidebar: Here are some of the sad results of this Puritan dogma:

“August 1637: A women of Boston congregation, having been in much trouble of mind about her spiritual estate, at length grew into utter desperation and could not endure to hear of any comfort. So as one day she took her little infant and threw it into a well and then came into the house and said now she was sure that she should be damned, for she had drowned her child. But some stepping presently forth saved the child.”

“May 1642: A cooper’s wife, having been long in a sad melancholy distemper, near to frenzy and having poorly attempted to drown her child, but prevented by God’s gracious providence, did now again take an opportunity, being alone, to carry her child, age three, to a creek near her house. And stripping it of the clothes threw it into the water and mud. But the tide being low, the little child scrambled out. And taking up its clothes, came to its mother who had sat down not far off. She carried the child again and threw it so far as it could not get out. But then it please God that a young man coming that way saved it. She would give no other reason for it but that she did it to save her child from misery, and withal that she was assured she had sinned against the most Holy Ghost and that she could not repent of any sin.”

Preaching for the Puritan ministers was vital to the community, for they viewed it as the means to regeneration. From behind the pulpit, leaders in the new world sought to bring their community steadily closer to that Christian model. The “meeting house” was the place of instruction where the community learned its duties. It was the geographical and social center and a place to learn how to build their Zion in the wilderness. The Puritans refused to call their church a “church” so as to distinguish themselves from the Church of England.

The sermons were thoroughly theological and thoroughly practical based upon common acceptance of Calvin’s theology. It was left to the minister alone to discover the practical applications of it. There was hardly a public event in which a sermon was not featured. There were election day sermons, artillery sermons, fast day and thanksgiving day sermons where they would explain why God was humbling or rewarding them, execution sermons, funeral sermons, and dying men’s sermons. Puritan preachers were instructed to preach much about the misery of the state of nature. Arthur Dent’s instruction about the nature of man said that man was nothing but a gulf of grief, a sty of filthiness.

Puritan men and women of the upper and middle class became prolific writers. They kept diaries and wrote poetry and prayers. Puritan personal literature was devotional in nature, centering on the “contemplative” life. Everyone had to speak honestly of his own experience as they experienced a growing manifestation of a growing self-consciousness. Puritan writings yielded three things:

  • self-examination
  • self-hood
  • self-identity

Self-examination was not to liberate the mind and heart, it was to constrict, confine, and control your mind and heart. Self-hood was a state to be overcome and obliterated. Self-identity was found only through the act of total submission to God. This contemplative life was a process. Puritan literature carried the single message of all Christians sharing the same plight, all Christians having the same calling, all Christians undertaking the same wayfaring pilgrimage.

“Nature of one makes many, but grace of many makes one. For the Holy Spirit, which is as a fire, melts all the faithful into one mass lump.” ~ William Dell

By much beholding the glory of the Lord in the glass of the gospel and acting out our perceptions, we are changed into the same image” ~ Richard Mathers

When they saw Christ, which they called the “mirror of reflection”, they were to see no reflection of themselves. They were to disappear. Using a faulty interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8, to the Puritans, sin disfigured that reflection. They spoke not of the stain of sin but of the dunghills, the lumps of lewdness, the slough and slime. When you looked into that “mirror” of self-reflection, you were to see yourself in this manner.

“[God] will have our hands actively in it, and in it not for one instance but for the whole course of a man’s life. We must be soaked and boiled in affliction if we would have some relish acceptable unto God.” (uncited author)

“First take a glass and see where it is dirty and labor to discern your very crime. Experimentally persuade yourself that you are the biggest sinner in the world. Plunge yourself into the foul waters of your heart till you know there is none worse than thyself.” ~ John Bunyan

The Puritans’ humanity was fulfilled as it was plunged and purged, “washed clean of the vomit in its cheeks,” its sullied flesh destroyed, its whole body of sin transformed, emptied, melted, rendered a pure and shining surface on which the individual in his daily thoughts and actions would reflect back an unstained image of his redeemer.

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter

Self versus God becomes the motivating force of their activism. In their language of the day and in their writings and in their sermons they added many “self” compounds to their language: self-credit, self-fullness, self-honor, self-intended, self-practiced, self-safety, self-confident, self-sufficiency, self-trial, self-denial, self-acquaintance, self-abhorring, self-abasing, self-determinism. The redeemed are marked by self-emptiness and self-revenging. Man’s fall was his turning from God to himself, and his regeneration consists of his returning of himself to God. Hence, self-denial and the love of God is the same thing.

“Understand this, and you understand what original and actual sin is, and what grace and duty are. It is self that the scripture principally speaks against. The very names “self” and “own” should sound in the watchful Christian’s ears as very terrible awakening words that are next to the same name as “sin” and “Satan”.
~ Richard Baxter, “The Benefits of Self-Acquaintance”

What they unknowingly created was this force of “I” –ness in their violent vocabulary of self-abhorrence. The state of mind they reveal in their devotional writings might be described in modern terms as schizophrenic single-mindedness. The struggle between God and man entail the relentless psychic strain, and in Puritan New England, where Calvinistic theology insisted upon this, anxiety about election was not only normal but mandatory. Hysteria, breakdowns, and suicides were not uncommon.

Their meditative literary works, or “spiritual biography”, provided a guide for living up to the demands of dogma. But in the process of emphasizing “I” –ness, in the end all it did was minimize Christ rather than exalting him.

Two more sad results of Puritan dogma:

Increase Mather, leading Puritan minister, as he lay “feeble and sore-broken upon his deathbed”, faced his life’s end with desperate fear and trembling. He was tormented by the thought that he might be bound for hell.

John Tappin, who died in Boston in 1673 at the age of 18, suffered a bitter spiritual torment as well in the face of death. All the while he had been a godly youth, professing to be a believer, he bemoaned his hardness of heart and mildness of mind and feared he was headed for eternal damnation.

hangeddrawnquartered21From the earliest upbringing Puritans were taught to fear death. Ministers terrorized young children with graphic descriptions of hell and the horrors of eternal damnation. “At the last judgment, your own parents will testify against you.”

Fear of death was also reinforced by showing young children corpses and taking them to public hangings. Accordingly, young children were continually reminded that their probable destination was hell. Cotton Mather put the point bluntly.

“Go unto the burying place, children. You will see graves as short as yourselves. Yes, you may be at play one hour and dead, dead the next.”

Even their schoolbooks repeatedly reminded Puritan children about death and hell.

“’Tis not likely that you will all live to grow up. Learn the alphabet this way – ‘T’ is for ‘time.’ Time cuts down all both great and small.”

“Surely there is in all children, though children are not all alike, a stubbornness and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride which must be in the first place broken and beaten down so that the foundation of their education can be laid in humility and trapableness, and other virtues may in their time be built thereon.” ~ Reverend John Robinson.

Parents and other adults begin to break the child’s will beginning somewhere around the age of one or two years old. Also at this time, while the child is being weaned from his mother’s milk, the parents began to establish limits, all in the effort to break the child’s compulsive and assertive nature. The parents were very eager and very forceful to make the child walk, because they believed that if the child crawled on all fours he was too close to the animal kingdom.

To enforce this purity of doctrine the Puritans needed a network of schools throughout the colony to teach the younger generation the Puritan beliefs and Calvin’s doctrine. The first task was to establish a college to graduate suitable rigorous ministers and to train schoolmasters for lower education. The Puritans referred to such a school as a “School of the Prophets”. (It is no coincidence that the title “professor” is derived from the word “prophet”) One such school was called “New College” or “the college at New Towne.”   It was a divinity school that grew into what is now known as Harvard University. The school was meant to superintend the lives of the colonists and prevent any further deviations from “proper” doctrine.

With Harvard established, they had the supporting structures in place. They implemented aspects of their Platonic paradigm of community child-rearing. One such structure was indentured servitude. In 1645, each town was compelled to provide a schoolmaster to teach a wide range of subjects. There was no point for government schools if there were no masses to be taught, so another law was established compelling every child in the colony to be educated – compulsory education. Parents ignoring the law were fined. Wherever the government officials judged the parents to be unfit, the government had the power to seize the children and apprentice them out to other families. Children were regarded as the absolute property of their parents, for if they were “property” then they could be confiscated.

A practice common among the English Puritans was called the ‘putting out” of children. This is where children were placed at an early age in other homes where they were treated as an apprentice. It was done by parental consent. This custom was practiced with the pretense of the parents’ desire to glorify God by avoiding the formation of strong emotional bonds with their children, bonds that might temper the strictness of the child’s discipline. In reality, the teaching was that if you loved your children too much you were sinning because you are taking away from glory that rightfully belonged to God. You were allowing your children to be an idol.

English poor laws of 1563 and 1601 stated”

“Permit the poor children to be taken out of the hands of their parents by the statutes for apprenticing poor children that are placed out by the public for the advantage of the commonwealth”

As a result of all this a controlling a punitive culture emerged. Laws were written and enforced that curtailed parental rights, creation of community schools, established Puritan precepts as a civil requirement, imposed community taxation, encouraged citizens to report on non-conforming relatives and neighbors. Informal snooping was considered to haphazard, so an “official snooper” was formed. These officers were called “tithing men”, because each one had supervision over the private affairs of his ten nearest neighbors. Of course the tithing men were appointed by the ministers of the churches who would then be sufficiently armed with enough material with which to derive a sermon for the following Sunday, preaching about the evils that were occurring within the community.

I will remind you once again of the gospel according to John Immel:

  1. All people act logically from their assumptions.
  2. It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas or insane the rationale. They will act until that logic is fulfilled.
  3. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, if you find the assumptions, you will find the cause.

If you want to understand why mental disorder, anxiety, depression, and suicide were epidemic in the Puritan community, you need only look to the environment of control, fear, and condemnation their Calvinist orthodoxy produced. It is no coincidence then that we see the same patterns of anxiety and depression occurring among the laity in today’s institutional church, particularly in those churches where authentic reformed Protestantism dominates or is making a resurgence. To borrow a phrase from James Carville in the early 1990’s, “It’s the theology, stupid.”

When we closely examine the real history of the Puritans, their lifestyle, and the necessary results of their theology, we must ask ourselves why any rational person would want to emulate them. I strongly urge you to consider once again the statement by George Santayana, which I cited in my previous session, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

~ Susan Dohse

An Examination of Colonial Puritan Collectivism

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 17, 2017
The following is a transcript of Susan Dohse’s second session from the 2014 Conference on Gospel Discernement and Spiritual Tyranny, originally presented on June 21, 2014.
~ Edited by Andy Young

susanGeorge Santayana is credited with saying “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The very popular phrase has taken on several variations. Many moons ago when I taught high school history and social studies, I would sometimes introduce the classes by saying my teacher variation of that quote.   For example, on the first day of U.S. History I would begin with, “Welcome to U.S. History. It is important for you to do well in this class, for remember, those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

One particular year, this one poor guy in the back of the room put his head down on his desk and said, “I’m doomed! I’m doomed!” And his friend, faking compassion patted him on the back and said, “It’s okay, man. She always gives extra credit.” “But you don’t get it. I hate History, and Mrs. St. Dennis is the only history teacher in the school. I’m double doomed!” It was bad enough not only having to repeat history but also having to have me for two years. In the end he did pass the class, and I do believe he still dislikes history.

While the above phrase is impressive and common, it is difficult to disagree with. If it is true and if history is so ugly and objectionable, then this proverbial quote ought to be a guide to public and private policy. For example, couples who do not learn from their fights, break up. People who do not learn from their mistakes do not mature. Revolutions that give an individual absolute power inevitably end up as brutal dictatorships. After repeated wars between Germany and France, France made harsh demands on Germany and their terms of surrender after World War I, setting the groundwork for the Second World War. After Stalin’s brutal regime of secret police and leader worship, Cuban revolutionary has allowed their charismatic revolutionary leader to seize absolute power, and Castro still holds the seat of dictatorial power in Cuba today. History shows that indeed, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

history-picWhat about those who do learn from history? Are they still doomed to repeat it? If the converse is true, then the saying has no power and adds nothing at all to the discussion. What adds power to that quote is the word “learn”, because with learning and with knowledge there is a hope of change. The question remains, will learning what history taught us provoke us to make the changes necessary to keep it from being repeated? Can it be that all the good and bad things about people and the way we organize ourselves simply creates patterns as we make history? Could it be that we are given to a certain irrationality that leads us down similar paths, some disastrous, again and again?

Consider a different approach. When you look back through history and you see man taking the exact same steps, coming to the exact same conclusions generation after generation, millennia after millennia, what were their root assumptions?

“It does not matter how inconsistent the ideas. It doesn’t matter how insane the rationale. They will act until the logic is fulfilled. Therefore, when you see masses of people taking the same destructive actions, find the assumptions and you will find the cause.”
~ The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3, verses 1-3

Knowing the cause should provoke us to take some kind of action, hopefully preventative action, proactive action, and proactive changes. It is one thing to know your ABCs, but what are you going to do with that knowledge? Will you take action and make meaning of the letters, connecting them with sounds and letter combinations that create words and words that build sentences and ideas? Will you take your ABCs to that ultimate conclusion and learn to read and write? Will we learn the lessons of the history past and use that knowledge to take action to stay off those irrational and destructive paths?

Are we like the Calvinists who believe and hold on so tenaciously to the doctrine that we are predestined to live in this time and space with no choice, no say in the direction we are to take and no say in how we stand, no chance for change? Are we to take up that clarion call, to become like the Puritans of old and all things will be set to right? Now why not consider the assumptions and logic and end results of the Puritans? Their patterns of irrationality, their faulty root assumptions, are leading the institutional church down the same disastrous paths once again.

What I have been reading from Christian homeschool blogs and from leaders in the homeschool movement is a desire to return to the Puritan way with the intention of putting our children on the road to better education. I’ve read that more than once. A Southern Baptist seminary professor wrote:

“We can learn from the old, namely the Puritans, for the doing of theology, for the life and health of the church today,”
~ Stephen J. Wellum, Editorial: “Learning from the Puritans,” Theology Professor at Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

But without some understanding of Puritanism, there is no solid understanding of Dominionism, the patriarchy movement, and the downward spiral of our Christian institutions. Without understanding Puritanism, you only have a partial knowledge of New Calvinism. Without understanding Puritanism, there is no solid understanding of America either.

What were we taught in U.S. history?

  • That the New England colonies were started under austere circumstances.
  • That other colonies with more financial support from their mother country and more material resources suffered collapse.
  • That the Puritans faced severe climate and a howling wilderness, yet they made themselves physically secure and began immediately to lay the foundations of government, education, thought, and literature that outdid the achievements of all the other colonies.
  • That the Puritans made New England the intellectual leader of the nation at that time.
  • That their belief in God’s sovereignty and of divine predestination provided a measure of comfort and stimulus to these early settlers.

Did this consciousness that they were not ultimately responsible but that they were being led by God, have anything to do with their success? Is it a shining example of human discipline and energy that in the face of circumstances would have discouraged and ruined most other adventurers? Could it be that holding fast to a doctrine that man is not free, that he is a not free agent, provided them with a more powerful stimulus to exert extreme effort and a more moral force than any doctrine of human freedom?

puritan1304910119820Perhaps this is one of the ironies of history. If you compare American of the 18th and 19th century to the Puritans, one would have to say that the Puritans were theology-minded. I would say they were Calvin-minded. The doctrines of the fall of man, of sin, of salvation, predestination, election, and conversion were their meat and drink. But what distinguished them is that they were less interested in theology than in the application of Calvin’s theology to everyday life and especially to society. They became consumed with making the society in America embody the “truth” that they thought they already knew and less concerned with perfecting how they form truth. Puritan New England was nothing more than a grand and noble experiment in applied Calvinism.

Sidebar: The Puritans did not learn from history past. John Calvin tried this noble experiment Geneva of an enforced theocracy, a holy commonwealth, in Geneva. If you read any part of Calvin’s Geneva experience, they took Calvin’s faulty assumption, they applied a faulty logic and tried to enforce their theology of theocracy, a holy commonwealth, and the end result was the same.

New England offered a rare opportunity for the Puritans in the New World. The Calvinistic theology was their point of departure when they left England, and they did not waver from it. Life in this New World was life in the wilderness, away from the great university libraries and the higher institutions of learning of their motherland. Daily threatened by hardships and the perils of a savage America, elaborating a theology and disputing its finer points was not practical. It was not the writing of books that was impossible for New England. New England flowed with an abundance of sermons, textual commentaries, collections of providences, statutes and works of history, which were of themselves quite remarkable. Cotton Mather wrote 400 books. But with the exception of Roger Williams (who is not in the stream of New England orthodoxy) Massachusetts Bay did not produce a major figure in theology until Jonathan Edwards. And when Edwards arrived on the scene, by then the Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritanism was waning.

During the great days of the New England Puritanism, there was not a single important dispute that was primarily theological. There were arguments over who should rule New England, whether John Winthrop or Thomas Dudley or Harry Vane should be governor, whether the power representation of different classes in the community should be changed, whether the Child Petition Act should be accepted, penalties for crimes by fixed statutes, and whether outlying towns should have more representation in the general court. If they were theology-minded, what they argued about was institutions.

puritan-spirituality-e1420904314379Consider this comparison. At this time in history, the Puritans in England, the mother country, were discussing the fine points of their theory such as what was the true nature of liberty? When should a true Puritan resist a corrupt civil government? When should diversity be tolerated? The debates of these topics expanded the social classes in England, and it reveals how different the intellectual atmosphere in England was from that of New England. Soldiers and other men of action stopped to debate the theory of revolution and the philosophy of sovereignty. But let us remember this crucial difference: Puritanism in England was more complex than Puritanism in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans in good old England had representatives from a wide range of doctrines–Presbyterians, Independents, Separatists, Levellers, Millenarians. So, naturally, Puritanism in England was a matter of dispute.

But consider this. In England, any community they built would have to find some space for the dozens of sects, from Quakers to Papists, because England was their home, too. Massachusetts Bay Colony did not possess this vigor. They possessed orthodoxy. It was organized and ran as a community of self-selected conformists.

In 1637, the general court of Massachusetts passed an order forbidding anyone from settling within the colony without first having his orthodoxy approved by the magistrates. These immigrants were required to be free from contamination. John Winthrop was bold and clear in defending this ruling. This community was formed by free consent of its members. Why should they not exclude dangerous men or men with dangerous thoughts? Take, for example, Reverend John Wheelwright. His brother-in-law’s wife was Anne Hutchinson. He and Anne accused the majority of the colony’s ministers and their magistrates of preaching a covenant of works. So, both he and Anne were banished from the colony. Governor John Winthrop said:

“If we conceive and find by sad experience that Wheelwright’s opinions are such, and by his own profession cannot stand with external peace, may we not provide for our peace by keeping off such as would strengthen him and infect others with such dangerous tenets?”

This was a peculiar opportunity for the Puritans of New England. Why not see what true orthodoxy could accomplish? In one unspoiled corner of the world, declare a truce on doubts and on theological debate. Here at last, man could devote their full energy to applying Christianity, not to clarifying doctrine, not to build Zion. Puritan Nathaniel Ward wrote,

“I dare take upon me to be the herald of New England so fair, as to proclaim to the world, in the name of our colony, that all Familists, Antinomians, Anabaptists, and other Enthusiasts shall have free liberty to keep away from us, and such as will come to be gone as fast as they can, the sooner the better.”
~ taken from the pamphlet, “Simple Cobbler”, 1647

A dissension in England would have created a new sect of Puritanism. In America, dissension simply produced another colony. In England, the Puritans had to find a way to live with dissenters. In New England, the Puritans found ways to live without them. What truly distinguished Massachusetts Bay was its refusal to develop a practice of toleration. Unlike England of the 17th century, the leaders of Massachusetts enjoyed their pure and simple orthodoxy; a conformity with established and accepted Calvinistic standards.

Let us consider another side of the coin. While intolerance was a source of strength for the New England Puritans, this was not a philosophical enterprise in which they were engaging. They were community builders. They were building the New Jerusalem. They were building Zion, a city upon a hill. Their counterparts in England were using all their energy to debate and war over compulsive and restrictive powers in religion and between matters essential and matters indifferent. These are still debated today by political science students. Instead, the American Puritans put all that energy to mark off the boundaries of their new towns, enforce criminal laws, and to fight the Indian menace. Theology and metaphysics were not going to distract them because they had no doubt and they had no dissent. Had they spent as much energy debating with each other as their English counterparts, would they have still had the single-mindedness to overcome the perils of the wilderness and build a nation? I contend that there were three things that held the Massachusetts Bay Colony together that made them successful initially.

No toleration
In England the various sects of Puritanism were daring each other to extend and clarify their doctrines, but there was little of this in America. In New England, the critics, the doubters, and dissenters were expelled from the community. (Roger Williams was expelled for confronting the leaders about separation of Church and State, not doctrinal issues. He agreed in doctrine point by point by point with Calvinistic doctrine, so the colony leaders did not have an issue with his doctrine. Their problem was his relentless preaching from the pulpit and talking to the magistrates and the civil leaders in public and in private that the Church had no business in civil government, that there had to be a separation. He was expelled for confronting the leaders about this issue. Later, he established the colony of Rhode Island.) In England the Puritans had to find ways to live together, which in turn helped to develop a theory of toleration. In New England they transcended theological preoccupation.

The idea that democracy was of the devil
The goal of creating a democracy in Massachusetts had never stirred the leadership except the opposition. The idea that authority and sovereignty came from below, from the governed as opposed to from above, from God was completely foreign. Winthrop believed that the magistrates, even though being elected by “freemen,” had their authority from God. A “freeman” was defined as one who was a member of the Puritan church. If you were not a member, you were not a freeman. Therefore, you could not vote. So, the freemen were an elite few who made the decisions for the entire colony.

“So shall your liberties be preserved in upholding the honor and power of authority among you.”
~ Governor John Winthrop

Winthrop declared democracy “the meanest and worst form of government.” He called it a breach of the Fifth Commandment and noted that history records it has always been of least continuance and fullest of troubles.

“Democracy, I do not conceive that God ever did ordain as a fit government, either for a church or commonwealth. If people be governors, who shall be the governed? As for monarchy and aristocracy, both of them clearly approved and directed by Scripture.” ~ John Cotton

An example of this lack of tolerance practice is witnessed in the life of Roger Williams. He claimed the people were sovereign. I infer that the sovereign origin and foundation of civil power lies in the people. These were hardy and rebellious ideas that ended in Williams being expelled from the community in the dead of winter during the blizzard. Had it not been for the Native Americans who rescued him, he would have perished, and he does pay them tribute for aiding him in his time. He spent the entire winter with them being nursed back to health.

maxresdefaultCommunity and unity over individual freedom
The Puritans were concerned with the organization of their New Jerusalem society with making their communities effective. Three problems worried them in New England:

  1. How to select their leaders and representatives. They had to decide who were the fit rulers and how should they be selected.
  2. The proper limit of power. John Cotton said, “It is therefore more wholesome for magistrates and officers in the church and commonwealth never to afflict more liberty and authority that will do them good and the people good. It is necessary therefore that all power that is on earth be limited.”
  3. And how power should be distributed between local and central organs.

Are not these same three problems addressed in the U.S. Constitution? While denying democracy as a valid way to address the community’s organizational needs, the Puritans unwittingly used democratic ideas to solve these worrisome problems. To the Puritans, the American destiny was inseparable from the mission of community building. It always sounds good to say we need to build a community. Hillary Clinton was famous for saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” Though Individualism threatened the delicate strings that held the community together, a main component of the emerging American ideology, from the Puritans through the Enlightenment, was focused on keeping the community united while trying to find some place for individualism.

There was the need for community involvement in the church- showing unswerving devotion to the church, performing good works, having unquestioned obedience to the church leaders. Good works and charitable acts would not lead a person to salvation but were necessary to show their natural grace to prove that they might be considered one of the elect.

The concept of unity as a community was communicated. It was sermonized aboard the Arabella on their way over crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

“We must knit together in this work as one man, mourn together, labor, suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.” ~ John Winthrop

If one part of the community was ill, then the entire community would suffer. Each individual was responsible for their actions because it would affect the entire community. A person could not do simple things without harming the community.

Certainly, there are examples of this from the Bible. One example is when Achan took spoil from Jericho in disobedience, as recorded in the book of Joshua. God brought chastisement upon Israel when He declined to help them in the very next battle, and the results were devastating. Nevertheless, no person has ever been commanded to isolate themselves. And though no person in God’s word has been commanded to pursue total individualism, danger comes to a community when control becomes punitive, leadership turns into tyranny, and unity becomes total conformity.

The Puritans felt that conformity was essential to keeping the community together. The leaders not only demanded conformity and enforced it, but dissention and divisiveness were silenced. The community could not thrive if too many independent thinkers attempted to change the power structure of the community. Individual beliefs and liberties would have to be sacrificed in order to promote a strongly linked community. Individual beliefs and liberties would have to be sacrificed in order to promote a strongly linked community, according to the Puritans.

Eventually out of necessity, the role of the individual evolved and was seen as an asset and not a threat. It was not until the Enlightenment and revolutionary of the 1700s that individualism was recognized. The emphasis focused on individuals using their unique abilities to better the community. One of the Founding Fathers, James Madison, warned of absolute individualism in his federalist paper. In essence, he wrote that there was a delicate balance between expressing individuality and hurting another member of the community. But during the Puritan era, individualism was suppressed in order to keep that delicate community balance, and individualism was suppressed to assert the power of the church.

As the colonies grew and prospered, new ideas began to arise, and some individualistic thoughts and ideas were seen as important and necessary for the growth of the community. The puzzle the Puritans had to put together was how to balance individualistic expression and the welfare of the community. Intolerance grew the nation. Distaste of democracy organized their communities, but community building necessitated individualism.

~ Susan Dohse

Church “Covenants” and How You Should Behave in a Protestant Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on September 29, 2016

Originally published July 23, 2015

https://paulspassingthoughts.com/One endeavor on the long list of objectives here at TANC ministries is to get solid legal insight into what has become protocol in evangelical churches. That process began yesterday during a consultation with a local attorney. As documented here at PPT, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and its network of churches has become a virtual divorce mill. The pattern that this ministry continues to be made privy to is documented in an open letter to the executive director of ACBC, Heath Lambert.

Simply stated, New Calvinism, which is a return to the original church polity of the Reformation, does not have the force of state to compel church members to follow its orthodoxy. So, it improvises. Instead of simply burning heretics at the stake, or burning a hole through the tongues of those who ask questions in a challenging way, they ruin names and finances.

We must remember, the orthodoxy of the Protestant Reformation was tailored for a church state. America was originally founded by the Pilgrims who didn’t like how the Church of England did church-state, so they came to America and founded “New England.” The name is not happenstance. The American Revolution put an end to the Pilgrims’ theocracy that dominated the colonies. Actually, “Pilgrims” is a soft term for “Puritans.” And please, spare me the emails about the differences between the Pilgrims and the Puritans—the differences are insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

That brings us to the discussion of soft terms. First, the original Protestant Reformation was a simple church state, but in reality, the definition of “cult” comes into play when church states had to improvise in order to control people because of the American Revolution. A cult is defined as follows: it is any religious organization that controls people by means other than a church state. The etymology of the word “cult” does not become significant until post American Revolution.

In other words, without the force of the state to compel people to obey its orthodoxy, it must resort to manipulation and brainwashing to control people. Yes, church states also emphasize brainwashing because murdering people is costly in its implementation, and fewer people amounts to less resources, but brainwashing becomes even more important and refined when the final solution has been outlawed in an open society.

So, let’s state a definitive definition of cult: it is any religious organization that controls people by means other than a church state, and combines faith with authority. Like its church state predecessor, it assumes that the nature of man cannot obtain unity for a given cause without being ruled by those with superior knowledge of realty.

After the American Revolution, churches became a hybrid of orthodoxy and enlightenment thinking. It became an alphabet soup with a broad range of attitude concerning the ability of man to rule self. But, this never resulted in the full-blown focus on individual responsibility mirrored by the 1st century assembly of Christ. The concept of “church” spawned in the 4th century has always permeated the American church psyche, i.e., orthodoxy being a storybook form of truth written by church “Divines” that the saints can understand, and enforced for their own wellbeing.

With that said, soft terms become vital to the American church as we know it today. Church polity is a soft term for church government; church discipline is a soft term for Unam sanctam, or John Calvin’s power of the keys that gives church authority to decide someone’s salvation on behalf of God. It goes without saying that you obey someone that can take away your salvation.

And, “church covenant” is a soft term for “church contract.” Basically, when you sign a church covenant church contract, you are signing away your right to be heard. In most of these contracts, you agree to obey the leadership and to be “teachable.” Hence, from now on, when our ministry hears, “Gee whiz, all I did was ask questions and now my life is being destroyed,” the subject will mostly likely hear, “No, what you did is breach of contract so take your medicine.”

Note: in many churches that deem themselves congregational, the parishioners unwittingly circumvent that reality by agreeing to a revised church covenant prepared and presented by the elders. See how that works?

Moreover, these third party contracts often negate rights found under civil and criminal law. This ministry, more specifically I, stands corrected in my assertion that coercion is being used to control parishioners. In fact, it is not coercion, but according to what the parishioner has agreed to and signed, especially regarding permission to leave church membership. It’s a contract—you signed it, so shut up, nod your head, say amen, and put your money in the plate. It’s all good; if the elders like you—you will more than likely “be able to stand in the judgement.”

What are the redeeming facts here, if any? Education: NEVER sign a church contract. It’s NOT a “covenant” bolstered by your signature—it’s a CONTRACT. This is why TANC does what it does; education, then solution/alternative.

Is there a way to get justice after signing our rights away? Perhaps, because apparently, marriage is also a contract. Rather than burning you at the stake and burying you in the church yard under a stone edict condemning you to hell, which of course is against the law presently, they will begin by ruining your name, and then destroy you financially via divorce.

The process goes something like this: you break your contract and stop being “teachable.” This tells the leadership that you no longer see yourself as a sinner, and you have become “insubordinate.” A dozen or so respected leaders and their wives start telling your wife that you are no longer “humble” and whether she realizes it or not, she is married to an “angry man.” And hark, behavior that your wife formerly assumed not to be abusive, in fact is abusive. Yes, she is married to a man who “doesn’t love her like Christ loved the church.” It’s all downhill from there.

Apparently, legally, this is interference with a marriage contract. Damages would be determined by a jury if the situation ends in divorce. Also, the idea that ACBC could eventually be subject to a class action lawsuit is not all that farfetched.

However, this is just more evidence that the premise and foundations of the institutional church is egregiously flawed and was designed for a church state to begin with. The solution is the cooperation of spiritual gifts, not authority, and fellowship—not membership.

Meanwhile, if you do not like the solution, behave yourself in the Protestant church. Stop going to discernment blogs and whining—you signed the contract, shut up and live by it.

paul

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