Paul's Passing Thoughts

From the Reformation to the Third Reich: Protestantism’s Impact on Western Culture – Part 8

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 17, 2017

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

Click here for the introduction
Click here for part two
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

 

Christianity’s Solidarity with Socialism

There has been observation that the Founding Fathers were Christians and that a lot of the impetus for the American Revolution came from their Christian perspective.   Certainly any reading of George Washington makes it almost impossible to turn him into a deist. While it is true that many of the Founding Fathers were Christians and considered themselves Christian, they were primarily sons of the Enlightenment, and they held man as an effective, potent, rational creature.

This is in absolute defiance of historical orthodoxy. There is no way you can massage historic Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist orthodoxy into rational, competent, successful men. The practical outworking in the United States was that man’s exposure to the Dark Ages was directly centered around the Puritan doctrine, and it was that same Puritan doctrine that the Founding Fathers made an overt effort to separate from government and, in many instances, to defeat.

The reason Americans get so fussy about their right to define their own religion is not because they are emulating orthodox Christian doctrines. It is because they are children of the Enlightenment. It is the Enlightenment that told you that you had the rational capacity to read the Bible for yourself and understand it for yourself. That is entirely an Enlightenment conclusion.

And let me expand this a little further. One of the best contrasts to do is to look how Luther reasoned. He would make an assertion, and then he would stick a reference to a Bible quote. At one point in time, systematic theology was called the “queen of the sciences”, because it was this ability to be able to rattle off every scripture that was supposed to have been somehow designated to any of the main disciplines within theology.

Now if you actually look back through Bible interpretation from effectively Augustine forward, the dominant means by which the Bible was interpreted was by allegory,typology, and metaphors. It was not something that was rationalized.   It was nothing more than putting one’s finger on a verse and saying, “Because it says this, that necessarily means God means this.”

Of course, my degree was in systematic theology, and this is why I eventually abandoned systematic theology because it is really an interpretive methodology. It is not indicative of what the Bible says. The ability to take passages and verses of scripture and somehow cut and paste them together to arrive at doctrines is not reflective of audience, purpose, and intent of author.

That process of learning to identify audience and context are all concepts that came out of the Enlightenment. Once the Church lost control of the universities, men could start inquiring about the truth behind the doctrines in question that had been held for so long because the force of government could be brought to bear from descent. Men finally started to go out and do research, and the vast percentage of that research is actually very recent. Most biblical scholarship has been done probably within maybe the last 80 to 90 years.

All of these scholastic elements are born from the process of higher critical methodology, and most of the men who advanced these higher critical methods were considered outcasts by the Orthodox Church. One such individual who comes to mind is a guy by the name of Friedrich Schleiermacher.   He insisted that you have to learn to identify context, audience, speaker, and context for the writer of the book. Now here in 2014, finding some guy on the computer that can actually do a word study and start parsing out Greek verbs in an effort to recover, at least in his mind, an intent or meaning behind the text, is reflective of Enlightenment thought.

This is not the historic orthodox position, and you will notice in most of the Neo-Calvinist movement, they abhor higher critical methodology with impunity. They demagogue the moral high ground, and then they employ an interpretive methodology.   It is the manipulation of interpretive methodologies that gives them all the power to create any doctrine they want. And the moment you try to pause them and say, “Wait a minute. How can you just arbitrarily say, ‘Oh, Galatians here, Romans here and Genesis here and let’s all put this together,'” they become indignant.

Typically throughout the medieval times, other types of orthodoxy never had any ability to gain any traction because ultimately, you would be condemned for heresy and penalized by government. But in the United States those types of ministries had the opportunity to rise up. And more specifically, the men who actually carried them were either largely uneducated or not seminary-educated, which meant they were not Harvard or Yale graduates, which meant they were not indoctrinated into the Calvinist construct. They were committed to their own rational understandings of their own individual reading of the Bible. And this is crucial to understand.

The problem, however, is that such movements usually had nowhere to go because they had no intellectual framework. It turns out that that is exactly like Christianity back in the 1st century. It did not have a framework. It needed a framework, and unfortunately Christianity became attached to Platonism. Its abiding and enduring capacity is within that overarching philosophical statement. In philosophy the most consistent formulation wins, and as of right this minute in 21st century America, the only overarching full-formulation of Christian thought – and trust me, I have read thousands of pages from lots of different people – is the reformed Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist construct.

So having said all of that, let us revisit what inspired my part of this conference.

“The idea that freedom of man is a practicality is a pipe dream because he is enslaved to his own desires spiritually; hence, at the very least, indifference to political freedom on a social level. So will the New Calvinist movement cause political indifference in American society among Christians?”

That the idea of “freedom for the masses” is called a “pipe dream” is the political premise of collectivist governments. Such governments presume man’s nature precludes liberty because man can never control his impulses. Therefore, man’s true freedom is found in subordination to the state. The belief is that the state is a definer of morality, and individuals are at their highest and best when looked after by a paternalistic government.

Of course, we know where this logic leads because history gives us two absolute examples: the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany. The fundamental political premise of Augustine/Lutheran/Calvinist doctrine is that Christians are to accept whatever government comes to power. This means that Christians must submit to any thug with a gun.

Socially and politically, the most disastrous part of the current New Calvinist movement is the doctrine that demands submission to authority. They do not teach indifference. They teach an intentional servitude. Intentional servitude is far, far worse because it is a doctrine of deliberate capitulation. Such a doctrine demands that Christians presume that any man claiming authority is ordained of God. This means that it does not matter how bad the oppression gets. People must assume that righteous action is submission. “Righteous” action is therefore non-action.

Political indifference can be ignited into political fervor in a blink if social pain becomes too great. But by contrast, people choosing to be passive in the name of “righteous” action is by definition already expressed in passion.  It is simply a passion for doctrinal submission.

The Lutheran Church gutted the Christian will to resist the rise of National Socialism. To be sure, the Evangelical Church was on the forefront of ushering in Hitler’s rise to power, and this is exactly what the historic doctrine will do today here in America. It will demand that people accept any thug with a gun who acts in behalf of the people, who acts in behalf of righteousness, who acts to establish God’s kingdom, to help usher in tyranny here.

Now you know the contrast between the philosophical foundations for collectivist tyranny and individual liberty. You have seen the root ideas of Augustinian and Calvinist theology. You have seen that this ideology sees no conflict with socialist economic doctrines. This ideology sees no conflict with a totalitarian state. Germany could make no distinction between Hitler’s socialism and Luther’s Christianity. I’m going to say that again…

The German people could make no distinction between Hitler’s socialism and Luther’s Christianity.

  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin said, “Man is nothing. The Church is everything.” The Nazis said Du bist nichts; Dein Volk ist alles. “You are nothing. The people are everything.”
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin denounced reason. The Third Reich denounced reason.
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin had a doctrine that demanded submission to church authority. Church authority demanded submission to the state. The Nazis demanded submission to the state authority.
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin said the only real world was the transcendent, heavenly world. The Nazis said the only real world was the transcendent world created by the German people’s state.
  • Augustine said the material world was immoral. The Nazis fought the perceived Jewish materialistic spirit within and around them.
  • Augustine, Luther, and Calvin condemned men’s private interest, which meant they condemned private property. The Nazis condemned private interest which means they condemned private property.
  • Augustine demanded sacrifice. The Nazis demanded sacrifice.
  • There were no individual rights during the Dark Ages. There were no individual rights during the rise of National Socialism.

The Church and the National Socialists agreed in the fundamentals of human existence. From metaphysics, to epistemology, to ethics, to politics, to art, the Church and the National Socialists agreed that man is corrupt and egoistic – incompetent masses. Individualism is evil – universal guilt. Dogmatism is the only acceptable intellectual standard – abolition of ambition. The highest moral virtue is self-sacrifice to the state – collective conformity. Government is synonymous with providential divine will, and evil must be banished with force of government – utopian prestige. The method is dictated good.

The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3:1-3

  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.

I have outlaid to you all of the assumptions, and now you can understand why people take the same mass action; why 40 to 65 million Germans remained complicit with the actions that went on within Nazi Germany. They all accepted the exact same premise. They held the exact same assumptions, and they followed those assumptions to the logical conclusion. When someone says to me that the state can dispose of man’s property at will, he has conceded the premise that the state owns man totally. So if they can take your money, they can take your life. If they can take your stuff, they can stick you in an oven. The moral justification does not change.

Sacrifice is the collectivist mantra, and it ends with tyranny. Once you establish the moral standard of submission to authority, there is no argument to be made for independent action. Once you accept the premise that it is immoral to take self-appointed action, all self-appointed actions are immoral. Once you accept the premise that personal inclinations are immoral, then all inclinations are immoral, and this includes your inclination to stand against tyranny. The same argument that shuts your mouth when the preacher says something you disagree with is the same argument that keeps your mouth shut when the tyrant starts shooting people in the head.

People blithely condemn self-interest as immoral, but if self-interest is immoral, then so is self-preservation. Self-interest and self-preservation are inseparable. So if you wipe out self-interest as a moral standard, you will existentially wipe out self-preservation. If you wipe out self-preservation, how then can you justify fighting against a tyrant who seeks your destruction? If you won’t fight for your own liberty, how can you live to fight for someone else’s liberty? If you don’t hold liberty as an ideal for your own existence, how can you advocate liberty for Jews, for African-Americans, for rich white people?

Hear me now.

Tyrants know this truth. If they can talk people out of self-interest, they have talked them out of life itself. Tyrants know that if your moral standard is sacrifice, you are already dead. All they have to do is hand you the knife. You will cut your own throat seeking to be moral. National Socialist Germany showed this history. The marriage of the Third Reich with the church doctrine of self-sacrifice brought the Western world within a hair’s breadth of returning to the Dark Ages. This is no accident. The doctrines at the root are the same.

In 21st century America, we are once again rolling through a philosophical cycle that has been repeated over and over in history. We are intentionally moving towards socialism. We have bought into the lie that socialism is a kinder, gentler economic organization. America’s root philosophy is the antithesis of all collectivist ideologies. Communism, socialism, Catholicism, and Calvinism, these are all collectivist ideologies. The Founding Fathers believed in the rational, effective, motivated individual man. They organized a government around the defense of the individual. The defining shape of government was to defend the sovereign individual against all encroachments.

We are sprinting headlong down the path of despotism. The slogans have only changed in name. A century ago, a fundamental transformation was done in behalf of the volk. Hope and change were done in behalf of the German people. Now the move towards socialism is done in the name of grandma’s healthcare. Christian grandma would never dream of walking next door with a gun and demanding her neighbor pay for her doctor visit, but she will think nothing of electing a politician who will hold a gun for her. Christian grandma insists that her politics are compassion, but never mind that compassion and compulsion are mutually exclusive. Never mind that compelling someone to provide an ability or a skill or an expertise at the point of a gun is slavery. Christian grandma, and everyone else who votes with her, handed the keys of the doctor’s office to men with guns. And if they can compel doctors to work for free, they can compel people to stay away from doctors for free.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing hidden here. This is not any different than 1926. The documents have been written, and all you have to do is read. All you have to do is listen. There is nothing mysterious happening in modern American politics. History has repeatedly proven that socialist countries will slaughter millions to sustain the power of a select few. The moment you concede that seizing a man’s property is a moral government action, you have conceded that man is property of the state. The moment that man is property of the state, man can be disposed of as the state sees fit.

This is, of course, why Christians, with ever-increasing manifestation, are confronted with the abuse and tyrannies that our forefathers tried to resist. People wail about human depravity, moan that their leaders have the wrong form of church government, mumble feebly that the parishioners should pray more for their pastors, and demand that people sacrifice more in behalf of the church. The church is impotent to stop the problem because the church refuses to diagnose the problem.

I tell you the truth that the answer as to why this is happening is as easy to diagnose as the common cold, but the first thing you must do is dare to take responsibility for the content of our own minds. Mystic despots have ruled the world with portents of disaster for anyone with the ambition to challenge the traditions of power. Autocrats rely on being able to compel outcomes because no one opposes their arguments. Tyrants can only succeed when we refuse to think.

To be continued…


 

Click here for the introduction
Click here for part two
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

 

Advertisements

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

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 8, 2017

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

Click here for part two
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

This specific 2014 conference represents the culmination of at least 20 years of thinking for me. And to give you a sense of scope, I need to begin with some history. In America, Christianity first had the opportunity to disagree, starting in the early 19th century, with the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. They were a unique brand of Christianity that were the first to diverge from historic Calvinist roots.

Because there really is no formal definition for Pentecostal and charismatic, there are some profound limitations to the definitions of either. I can tell you what they tend to emphasize. They are renewal movements, a return to the gifts of the Spirit – speaking in tongues, healing – and a very immediate, very specific present kind of Christianity. They were rooted in and had some of their intellectual roots in the Wesleyan movement. They rejected determinism. They rejected predestination. And they believed in free will.

All renewal movements are necessarily movements of personality. Most of the early revival movements in the United States came from men with specific messages- John Alexander Dowie, John G. Lake, William J. Seymour. If you have any interest at all in learning the evolution of charismatic/Pentecostal movements, these names are going to be at the top of the list.

When I came into Christianity around 1981-82, the charismatic renewal was still unformed. There weren’t really mega churches as you and I know mega churches. Back then we were still arguing over whether or not you could have guitars and drums in church, whereas today, if you don’t have contemporary music and guitars and drums, nobody shows up.

Oral Roberts University – Tulsa, OK

One of the primary leading figures of that timeframe would be men like Oral Roberts, one of the first men in the history of the world to impact the globe by mass media. For a series of reasons, I end up going to Oral Roberts University thinking that I would arrive at charismatic utopia. Given my love for ideas, I found myself terribly attracted to studying theology. I hold a degree in Systematic and Historical Theology with a minor in Old Testament. What that basically means is that the sum of my education was in church history, the progression of church doctrine and systematic theology.

The head of the Department of Theology at the time was Siegfried Chasman who was a committed Calvinist from Europe. As such, he organized the Department of Theology around that body of ideas, but he also knew he had an entire student body committed, for the most part, to Pentecostal/charismatic concepts. The problem is that most people make the fundamental mistake in assuming that Calvinism is somehow negotiable, that we can somehow pick and choose which parts of Calvinism we want. And so then they try to hybridize a lot of these ideas.

Herein is the implicit conflict. You would go to chapel Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the charismatic speaker of the day would blow through and say whatever they had to say. Meanwhile, those in the Theology Department would sit front and center of the auditorium,and without fail they would be visibly and universally outraged at whatever was said from the platform.

So I was dead square in the middle of this ongoing fight- the power and the effectiveness of charismatic-style doctrines, and the critique of the only form of academic theology that is Protestantism.

by the time I had graduated from college, I had no home. Charismatic churches didn’t have the interest in what I had learned or what I knew, but by the same token, I got to spend an entire college career addressing the fundamental problems that I saw with Calvinism as such; combating those arguments, being aware of these arguments, writing endless papers on those arguments, defending those papers against myself and the entire classroom. So I am no stranger to the fight.

When I was 26 years old, I found myself in Gaithersburg, MD on the doorstep of what was then a People of Destiny International church (which would eventually become Sovereign Grace Ministries). When I first got there, they presented themselves as these very broad-minded, interested in ideas thinkers, social commentators, and frankly, I thought it felt like home. I was to eventually learn that was totally false. Around 1991 they started to make a transition into what I knew was Calvinism, and I had fundamental objections to Calvinism. They had no interest in ideas, and they had no interest in anybody else’s input. I made the faulty assumption that I could object, that this was a reasonable action on my part, on anybody’s part, if they saw a problem with the doctrine; that anyone should be able to say, “No, that’s not true.”

This of course embroiled me in all manner of church conflict to the point that they eventually told me I was deleterious. “And oh, by the way, why don’t you go out and start your own church?” The irony of that has never ceased to amaze me, that I could be considered deleterious (evil, wicked, pernicious, and destructive) but yet it was perfectly acceptable for me to go out and start my own church. To this day, I think that’s hilarious.

It took me a long time to unravel the problems, but because of the way I tend to approach the world, I saw commonalities. Now of course the original criticism was, “Well, the reason there’s a conflict, John, is because you’re here. The conflict is you.”

Okay.

And inasmuch as you accept that assumption, then that makes abundant sense. But remember, I had almost a decade of Christian life behind me. I already had an identity that spanned a number of different denominations, a number of different church flavors, plus the intention to create theology as a professional pursuit. So the standard denunciations and the standard objections to me didn’t work. I did not quickly embrace the notion that I could be so fundamentally wrong. But this ultimately set me on the path of identifying what is the commonality here.

I had already seen these doctrines in some form and in some fashion even in the charismatic churches. I would eventually get out of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and I would go participate in other churches and I would still see the same themes, the same ideas. And trust me, I was one of the few people going around actually objecting to the broader actions of Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was absolutely a lone voice. So any preacher I ever heard that ever said to me, “Your job is to submit to me. It is my job to defend the sheep,” I would specifically exhort them to get involved in protecting the sheep in the context of the conduct of that ministry. Universally, they said no way.

In all these churches, fundamental to them was the doctrine of submission and authority; the presumption that select men had the moral right to dictate to me intellectual conclusions. Concurrent with that submission was that they were somehow uniquely qualified to understand the truth and nobody else really was, and that by virtue of that authority, they had the right to treat me however they chose. In whatever way they qualified such a justification, at the root, that’s what they presumed. If I was not willing to embrace what they said, it was somehow a moral failing on my part. The presumption was always that the moral failing began with me. And for a while of course I accepted the presumption, but then I realized, wait a minute, this stuff exists whether I’m at this church or not.

There was only one other common denominator…

…and that was the doctrine.

With my degree and historical background I was able to trace the evolution of Christian thought effectively from the 1st century to about the 18th century. I had enough church history to understand that this pattern was actually not uncommon. Once I identified those fundamental elements, I realized this has happened before, and it has happened over and over and over. I finally had to ask myself, how is it possible that the Church either finds itself in bed with tyrants, abetting tyrants, or behaving as tyrants itself?

And that’s when I came up with this. I’ve shown this in pretty much every conference.

The Gospel According to John Immel, chapter 3:1-3

  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.

Now of course when I formulated this, I hadn’t yet read James Madison and his Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, in which he states:

“7. Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments…during almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, and in both, superstition, bigotry and persecutions.”

“8. Because…what influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; and in no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people.”

James Madison nailed it. The bulk of Christian history is one, long, slow motion train wreck of tyranny. This is a problem that bothered me viscerally. We genuinely believe that God is love, yet with stunning consistency, the church that God sees and is supposed to call His own ends up at the forefront of tyranny. There is something seriously wrong with this picture!

The example of National Socialist Germany is an instructional morality event of epic proportions.   In the 1920s, Germany was Christian by any definition. Not only was it Christian, it was Lutheran Christian by any definition. Of the 60 million people that resided in Germany, 40 million identified themselves as evangelicals. The other 20 million identified themselves as Catholic or some variation of Protestantism, with only about 1 percent embodying a genuinely non-Christian mysticism.

There is a common objection that the reason the evil in Germany took place is because a select few did bad things and that good men did nothing. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Does this explain what happened to National Socialist Germany?

I’m going to let you ponder that question.

Before we can genuinely answer that question, we need to do some serious remedial work. We need to understand what shaped Germany in the 1920s. And the reason we need to understand history is because, as Adolf Hitler once said, “A man who has no sense of history is a man who has no ears or eyes.”

Now for me to do my job, I’m going to have to introduce you to philosophy.

Disciplines of Philosophy

– Metaphysics

– Epistemology

– Ethics

– Politics

– Aesthetics (art)

The nature of existence is metaphysics. How man knows what he knows is called epistemology. How we value what we know is ethics. How we interact with people is politics. And how man creatively reflects his existence back to himself is called aesthetics or art.

Man cannot help but integrate his ideas. It’s the way he’s built. From the time he is a toddler, the first thing he wants to understand is how things fit together. Man must organize his ideas into a cohesive system just like a fish must breathe in water. For man, his ideas do not hang in a vacuum. His ideas must be attached to something. And he must start from the most rudimentary part of his existence. He must start at the beginning.

It is a hard thing to learn to think in essentials, to think in principles, to think in terms of ideological relationships. It is hard to learn to think philosophically. However, most people are unaware of this big picture. Most people don’t think in these terms, yet most people treat ideas as some kind of smorgasbord. Oh, I like this one, and I like this one. Nah, I don’t like that one. I like this one. And they put it all in a basket and from time to time they will pull out an idea and say, “Yeah, that’s pretty good. Yeah, that’s pretty good.” They treat ideas very carelessly.

Often they find themselves dead square in the middle of some form of conflict, some form of psychic pain. And because they treat ideas carelessly, they don’t recognize that the psychic pain they hold is directly tied to mutually exclusive ideas that are in conflict. This is because they have not done a successful job at integrating ideas, or eliminating the errors from the most rudimentary level of their ideas to the practical outworking.   The result is uncertainty. Then, one of the first things man tends to do when he encounters a conflict or an inconsistency is to punt the inconsistency into the abyss so that he doesn’t have to deal with it.

Since it is the subject of this conversation, we are already familiar with how this actually breaks down with Augustine, with Calvinistic thought. What is the metaphysical assumption of Augustine? Man is corrupt. Man is existentially corrupt. He is corrupt from the nature of his existence. He has no redeeming good quality in his existence. Anytime you think you’ve got something good, you don’t. Because man is metaphysically corrupt, that means, epistemologically, man cannot know anything. Because man cannnot know anything, his moral responsibility – his ethical responsibility – is his own self-destruction. And because man cannot do good, he will not follow through on this ethical standard. This means he necessarily needs a government that will compel him to that action. So if you won’t sacrifice you, there will be a government that will sacrifice you.

And last is aesthetics. This is how man reflects the world back to himself. Man needs a means by which he refuels his existence. He needs a means by which he takes his most rudimentary assumptions about his life and puts that into a form so that when he looks back at it, he is refreshed. This is the root of aesthetics.

However, if you presume man’s metaphysical corruption and you presume all of these fundamental things that Augustine presumes, what kind of art do you create? You create churches lined with gargoyles. You create Dante’s Inferno where the nature of your art specifically reflects man’s catastrophe, destruction, impotence, fear, terror, anxiety, neuroses, and psychoses. Your art will always follow your most rudimentary philosophical assumptions.

The dominant philosophy on the planet is collectivism. It is the presumption that man is first and foremost the property of the state, the property of society, the property of tribe, the property of community or denomination or local church or sect.

Here is my contribution to philosophy. I have identified five fundamental elements of all collectivist doctrines that are designed to produce tyranny. The reason I have organized this as a web is because I want you to understand that this is not linear. All of these elements are interdependent and do not necessarily follow in a progression. There is a dynamic tension between all the arguments. Some arguments that you hear will have facets of each of these elements. Let’s look at each one of these more closely.

Incompetent Masses
The underlying conclusion throughout Western thought has been that man’s senses or his ability to reason were fundamentally flawed. Man could not understand the world in which he lived. This is the bedrock of incompetence. If you separate man from his mind, man from his body, and man from reality there is no other place for man to live. So if you presume that man is incompetent then you set the groundwork for the next concept.

Universal Guilt
This is a tool designed to drive you to accept your own incompetence. All men are guilty of moral depravity so that no one can advocate a moral standard. If you will accept guilt, a universal guilt, a guilt for no crime whatsoever, a guilt for nothing else than for simply being an incompetent human, you will accept the standard that you are morally incapable of running your own life. If you cannot presume your own moral good then the only thing left is…

Dictated Good
Because man is guilty and incompetent to carry out the important actions, he necessarily needs someone to save him from himself. This is why there has always been a separation between the willing elite and the general masses. This is where the class society comes from. There has always been the presumption that the “true philosopher” had a special access to truth.

Abolition of Ambition
Because man is by nature an individual and not a collective being, he must be talked out of individual action. He must be persuaded that any action done independent of group sanction is the height of moral failing.

Collective Conformity
This is the end game. This is where the full force of government is brought to bear for the sole purpose of creating a neutered humanity without complexion, or variation, or distinction. This outcome is held out as an ethical ideal and forced into existence at all costs.

Utopian Prestige
All arguments are in service to the collective reputation. Notice the outcome is at the center of the web of these five elements. How many times have you heard a preacher talk about the reputation of the church? The argument is that individual action will impact the prestige of his “local collective.” This is the presumption of Utopian Prestige. In every collectivist ideology, you will ultimately see the proclaimed ideal is some utopian ideal, whether it’s the Marxist’s workers’ paradise, whether it’s the Gaia, the utopia of earth, nature rule, nature worship, whether it be heaven, racial purity, it is always some utopian ideal that has no material expression. In other words, you will never see it here.

Most people have very little exposure to formal metaphysical or epistemological science. What they will do consistently is quote ethical expectations, and they do not realize that they are in fact admitting and committing to an ethical formulation that is part of a bigger picture. This is where most people encounter the philosophical system, ethics. Usually, our culture’s social values are expressions of ethics. What we find offensive, what we get offended by in public is specifically a reflection of our ethical values.   People don’t know where these ethical formulations come from, which means they don’t really think about what they mean.

Ethics is where man experiences a political or philosophical formulation. Now consider the statement, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So then the question becomes, how is it possible for good men to sit by and do nothing? Remember that all behavior flows from metaphysical assumptions and is driven by logic. In order to answer the question, we must first consider, what are the root assumptions, and what is the progression of thought that leads to a behavior where good men will not act against evil?

To be continued…


 

Click here for part two
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

 

The History of Western Philosophy and Its Societal Impact on the Church – Part 8

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 15, 2017

The following is the final part of an eight-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session
at the 2013 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part one
Click here for part two
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

john immelThe Concept of the “Common Good”

The “common good” is a collectivist myth designed to achieve the outcome of subordinating the individual to the majority. The collective well-being is the supreme measure of ethics. The phrase implies that if the individual acts for the “good” of the group, the individual is taking moral action. Notice the equation; action for the group = morality. However, there are three primary problems with the concept of the “common good”

1. It is deception.
By definition, “common” is a synonym for a generalization, and by definition a generalization does not have a specific definition. So when a person speaks of the “common good”, they are appointing themselves the spokesman for some loosely defined group. In conversation, the “common good” is used to refer to the good of the public or the community or society or the tribe. However, each of these words is merely a poor label for the intangible sum of individual interaction. The point is, such “groups” do not really exist.

  • “The public”: an adjective describing individual conduct exposed to general view.
  • “The community”: little more that the interaction of individual people in close proximity.
  • “Society”: The aggregate actions of many “sub-groups” within a geographic location.
  • “The Tribe”: A “group” based on genetic similarities. A religious denomination is merely a tribal preoccupation shifted from genetic pedigree to doctrinal pedigree.

So the thing that is “common” is not really common at all. There is no “thing” that is the direct recipient of good, because there is no specific object to receive the “good”. The work you do doesn’t benefit the good of the group, it benefits the good of individuals within the group.

The purpose of the deception is to conceal the root presumption that the collective stands supreme to its individual members, for the “common good” is really the good of the group at the expense of the individual members. Or said another way, the individual is a sacrificial animal to the will of the collective. Any individual who is perceived as a threat to the survival of the group must be sacrificed.

Every time I hear somebody talk about altruism and the “common good”, the conceit in this means that if my life is to be sacrificed to you, the necessary presumption is that your life in turn should be sacrificed to me. I own your life by default, and you think that’s morality? You think that’s just and good? So we’re reduced to moral cannibalism?

2. It poses as morality
The “common good” is really a moral subterfuge because it is an indefinable, elastic concept that can be shaped to apply to any outcome for any political whim. Since the group is elastic based on momentary standards of inclusion, the definition of “good” constantly changes. There is really no constant “yardstick” of measurement but rather a thick syrup that clouds the eyes and ears of its victims and makes them abandon morality rather than cling to it.

The “common good” inspires people to lay down values in service to a select few who claim to be spokesmen for the majority. We see this in political conversation all the time. The outcome is that the spokesmen have a moral blank check that every individual is obligated to cash.

You wonder why you hear stories of molestation coming out of church groups and Christian universities and missionary organizations, where the leadership and authority specifically tried to conceal the crimes against the children and members and students. This is the moral blank check that parents are supposed to cash in behalf of the child who was molested. This is EVIL, fundamental evil!

3. It masquerades as good.
If taken literally, the error within the expression “common good” itself becomes glaringly obvious. When people advocate for the “common good”, they think they are saying the “good” of all individuals admitted to the group. Or maybe if they paused to consider more deeply, they are saying the “good” of the majority. This doesn’t yet sound too scandalous because “good” is what is done numerically for the greatest amount of individuals. People do a loose moral calculus and decide that the greater the sum, the more moral the action.

But here is the result of that rationale: moral action is quantifiable by statistical outcome. If morality is nothing more than statistics then it is a trivial exercise to justify the Holocost. Stalin created a famine and killed 7 million people, but by the standard of the “common good” his actions are “moral” because the mathematical formula benefits 100 million faithful communists. The “common good” is used to justify taking enormous sums of money from individuals in order to pay for other people’s medical care, or whatever your favorite government program happens to be.

 

Having identified the three problems with the notion of “common” good, let us examine how this is all used at the root of tyranny.

We now know that the “common good” does not exist because the concepts of group do not exist, and they are never the recipient of any action. Only individuals receive good. Only individuals receive value. It is a false morality designed to subordinate all people to the collective, but who defines the collective?

At the root of all collectivist organizations there is usually only one person holding the yardstick of group inclusion. This person surrounds himself with a gang to defend against any interloper. He is the voice of the people, the voice of community, the voice of society, the voice of the tribe, the voice of the church.

big_brother_1984What people fail to grasp is the “good” of the people is really subterfuge to justify the violation of individual rights. The function of this expression is designed to violate individual rights, and when you violate individual rights you are really abolishing all rights. Groups do not have rights. When you tell me I must subordinate my rights to the group, the group does not gain them by proxy. They have been forfeited.

If there is no such thing as “rights”, the thug, surrounded by his gang, is free to use force (government) to achieve whatever outcome they fancy.The collectivist thug is at once empowered to force people to conform to the collective and shielded against all outcomes. It doesn’t matter what happens next.

This is why you have the brutal absurdity of Soviet Russia. The USSR was built in service to the “common good”, yet the only people who prospered were the tiny gang who surrounded the bloodiest despot in history, Joseph Stalin. The rest of the population lived in sub-human misery for almost three generations.

This is why you have the mystical tyranny of the medieval Catholic church. The Catholic church portrayed itself as the greatest proponent of human good on the planet, yet from effectively 600AD to almost 1500 AD the church leadership lived a comparatively lavish lifestyle, and the serfs existed generation after generation in squalor.

In the modern age, think of any social program that is said and done for “the people,” for “the society,” for “the community”. Now define exactly what the program does; give money for college, pay for medicine, feed the hungry. If you look at the actual event, only a select number of individuals actually receive the benefit, and all of the authority (force) is invested in a bureaucrat whose sole function is to weed out those who never receive the “good”.

Some of you are squirming because I have placed “community” in the same pot of condemnation. You long for community. You conceptualize your local church as a community. You think this is a social ideal. You think that the community does good. And you like the fact that you vicariously participate in the moral reputation, the prestige, of the group. You want the prestige plus you long for an inter-personal connection, and you yearn to find friends and have “relationships.” You pine for an indescribable thing that is a cross between a Norman Rockwell painting and the television sitcom, “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name. For the life of you, you struggle to see how this is the same seedbed of evil that I have been talking about.

Unfortunately, I am about to tell you that Santa Clause does not exist.

Look closely at the real social dynamic of your community. The connectedness, the relationships that you seek is really the exchange of individual value on an inter-personal level. You long to live in Mayberry R.F.D., filled with “Aunt Beas” baking apple pies waiting on the porch, never once realizing that the safety and security and fraternity that you want cannot happen if the highest moral standard is sacrifice of personal desires and personal values for the “common good.”

The price of admission to the community is the very self that you must surrender for public consumption. Think about that. To participate in community means that you must get rid of the very thing that makes you unique. This is why most communities (read “churches”) are petty, and gossipy, and back-stabbing, and cliquey. Everyone in the community is constantly vying for some piece of the “common good.” In the end, you realize that the mindless hoards sitting in the pews are there to graze over you like a buffet table.

Now let’s back up to the 10,000-foot view. Now you can see why metaphysics and epistemology are so important. Now you can see how everything revolves around a specific body of ideas that begins with Thales and evolves all the way down to the Cynics and the Stoics, formalized and systematized by Plato, and eventually shape Augustine, Calvin, and Luther. Inasmuch as you continue to accept their premises, you will continue to achieve the same outcome.

If you think the Neo Calvinists are ugly now, you wait and see what happens when you give them just an ounce of civil authority. There will be bloodshed. I know you think that’s scandalous, I get that. It may not even be the guys in the pulpits right this minute. But if you let this construct get hold of civil government, if you have the marriage of faith and force, they will make John Calvin look like a choir boy and Geneva look like a day at the beach. Make no mistake, at the root of this doctrine lie death and destruction.

When you separate man from his mind and his mind from reality, the only thing he has left to deal with another man is a club. The moment we have a club in our hands we are no longer offering an argument. And these guys don’t offer arguments. They have to bail on the conversation every single time they are pressed on the points of their doctrine. They must punt into the grand “mystery” of God. They don’t have a choice.

Once they are finally confronted with the dead end of their logic, all they can do next is attack and posture and threaten. Inasmuch as you fear that retaliation and extortion, you will willingly shut your mouth. This is why you see such enormous fear coming out of the pews. The discernment blogs and survivor blogs start discussing how they were treated. Everybody online is anonymous, not because they are trying to be deceitful, but because they are terrified!

They have accepted the premise.

What made me specifically so dangerous to them is that I rejected the premise. And that will make you dangerous. When you reject the premise, they will become terrified of you. They do not have the power, and if they ever get close to civil government, resist them with all of your might!

All collectivist cultures are tyrannies.

The philosophy of collectivism claims that there is a mystical, supernatural, social organism that embodies the highest moral values. Of course, only a few elite people with special insight can fully grasp this truth. Somehow they have access to special source knowledge that transcends the average man’s mind. Average men are incompetent, helpless, mindless creatures, depraved and unworthy of social interactions. So they must be purified to serve the collective organism.

Men cannot deal with other men voluntarily because they have no peaceful means to settle disputes. They have no means to act as contractual beings because they are metaphysically incapable of doing good. Human salvation always boils down to an elite clique endowed with some mystical insight, and that insight qualifies them to rule men. They are dictators of an omnipotent, benevolent state, doing what is best for the “common good.”

All collectivist ideologies hold the same political assumption. All collectivist doctrines seek the exact same end – subjugation of the individual. Man must be chained to the collective. Man is property of the state. Statism is always implemented by force.

The measure of social slavery is directly proportional to how much the slogan of “common good” is embraced. Conversely, the measure of civil liberty is directly proportional to how much the same slogan is overtly rejected. Our Founding Fathers rejected this notion of “common good”. They recognized that the legitimate role of government was specifically to defend the individual and his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness. These are notions contrary to “common good.”

It is an easy slogan to reject because there is no such thing as a generalized good, because only individuals receive values. As soon as you realize it is a hoax it becomes a matter of course to refuse to pay homage to the fraud. Good is not being done. The reality is that people are enslaved to the fancies of others. No man has a moral obligation to subjugation to another man.

 

The Longing for Revival

We erroneously believe that a return to God will naturally be a return to morality. A return to morality is really a return to a belief in divine extortion. When morality is the product of divine command, the fight becomes about which divine we follow. What the Platonist/Augustian/Calvinsit version of Christianity has shown is that it has nothing to offer as a counter to militant ideologies.

Their first test was Islam. The eastern church showed itself impotent to stop the ideological tide of Islam. Christianity had so gutted the intellectual rigor of intellectual thought, that when confronted with a totally irrational ideology based on war, it could offer no counter.

Of course, Protestants like to push these things off as “those dastardly Catholics.” But Protestants have not fared any better. The Southern Presbyterian Church was in the forefront of slavery within the United States. Of course, Presbyterianism has a direct pedigree line with ties to the reformed tradition.

The reformed tradition’s next test would be National Socialist Germany. It failed miserably. Lutheran churches, with almost no exception, joined “the party” and remained committed to National Socialism until the collapse of the Third Reich.

Christianity has shown itself impotent to offer any intellectual defense against Marxism, National Socialism, and Islam, and that’s just in the modern day.

But they cannot lay claim to mere impotence. It isn’t “God’s will.” Christianity has with far too much consistency been connected to the tyranny. This is not a new observation.

james-madison“7. Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

~ James Madison, “A Memorial in Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”, 1786

 

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own.”

Thomas Jefferson SAR Picture~ Thomas Jefferson

 

“Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth”

~ Thomas Jefferson

 

“I could never join Calvin in addressing his god. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be, or rather his religion was demonism. If ever a man worshipped a false god!”

~ Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, April 1823

 

Here is the absolute conclusion of all we have studied in this series. For anyone with intellectual integrity, these things should be fully and entirely unacceptable. This should compel you to evaluate the content of Christianity for what it has said for the whole of its history. It is not an accident that the same tyranny abetted by the church has occurred over and over and over.

And now, having heard where all this is rooted, you are without excuse. Now you have seen where the core of Protestant doctrine comes from. The intellectual pedigree goes as far back as Heraclitus and the Pythagoreans. It finds its full philosophic formation in Plato, it is welded into Christian thinking by Augustine, and it is put into practice by Luther and Calvin – from Augustine to Luther to Calvin to the Synod of Dort to the Westminster Confessions to the Puritans to the local pastor pounding the pulpit.

The dots are all connected, and now it rests on you to resist the disaster.

~ John


Click here for part one
Click here for part two
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

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

%d bloggers like this: