Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Puritans' Biggest Mistake

The Puritans influenced the history and culture of the United States in  many ways.

The Puritan ethic of Original Sin indicated that man, for all of his good intentions or good ideas, cannot escape from a deprave venality which deprives even the best of us of the perfection that we seek in our leaders.

The Puritans valued hard work and saving one's money for a rainy day. The thrift-shift ethic has its place, even today where banks who played fast and loose with deposits in the name of moral hazard caused more problems than they solved. The corruption and dysfunction of the public sector to discipline the private sector also proves that the corrupt and selfish nature of man will trump attempted safeguards to protect our rights and our nation.

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, implemented a health respect for fallen human nature by incorporating checks and balances into our federal system. The pressure of individual, corporate, and elite ambition would check one another, thus preserving power and freedom for the individual states and the people.

The Progressive mindset has warred against the humbling reality of human nature, that mankind not only cannot predict their needs, but most often makes his own needs and wants paramount in the face of the well-being of others. The Puritans are right to flout such naivety, yet they refused to rest in the truth that man on his own cannot further the Kingdom of God. That work requires the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in us and flowing around the world. Inevitably, the Puritan need to control merged with the Progressive's arrogant and ignorant trust in man, neglecting the power and influence of God, His Son, and His Holy Spirit.

The Puritans were red-handed rebels against the tyranny of the state, against the royal prerogative which presumed to tell men and women whether they could worship or not, and in what manner.

They ventured to another country, a new world, in which they adopted a regime of government which was just as intolerant. While the wickedness of Great Britain's monarchy had pushed them away, the Puritans then learned that religious liberty means nothing if it does not include the right for people to worship differently from them, or not to worship at all. The Dissenter spirit of the Puritans sent men and women of different opinions to settle divergent communities, including the more tolerant Rhode Island and the more Catholic Maryland.

The Puritans' biggest mistake, their greatest error did not lie in their religious intolerance. Their insistence on seeing themselves in the Word of God instead of seeing Christ and Him Crucified throughout the Word, from the Old Testament to the New, corrupted their understanding. They insisted on reading the Bible with the Vail of Moses still covering their eyes. They believed,  as many Christians still struggle to understand, that mankind following the Death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus are still obligated to follow the Law, to remain disciples of the Servant Moses instead of entering into the family of God through the Son Jesus, who is by far greater than the Servant.

The Puritans looked at every typological parallel and saw themselves. Instead of viewing the Red Sea as a picture of baptism, in which man dead in his trespassed loses the heritage of Adam and receives the standing of Christ, they saw themselves as political refugees, just like the Israelites fleeing from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. The Word of God speaks of Jesus, and these revelations instill in us far greater truth than comparing events and persons to ourselves. We are in Christ, so learning about Christ will teach us more about the blessed, eternal heritage  which we have received because of His Death at the Cross.

Inevitably, the Puritans still exercised a greater faith in the power of the state instead of the power of the Holy Spirit. The misinterpreted a number of passages in the Bible, including the issues of predestination, which to them meant that only certain people were going to be saved, and that salvation for them would be irresistible. They failed to read fully what Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Ephesians:

"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will," (Ephesians 1: 5)

The will of God is grace, and this grace is then predestinated to transform us from dead in our trespasses to alive in Christ. Paul later explains the dynamic of grace and faith:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" (Ephesians 2: 4-8)

We are saved by grace through faith -- and both are received as gifts. Jesus died on the Cross, reconciling the world to His Father. It's a simple choice for everyone on the earth. Either we believe the Good News, that through Christ we receive remission of sins and justification from all that the law of Moses could never justify us from (Acts 13: 38-39),or we perish in our sins.

God does not control everything, in that Adam forfeiting his leadership of the earth through His sin, yet the grace of God superabounds where there is sin, and through Christ, we receive the gifts of righteousness and grace (Romans 5: 17).

The Puritans had no understanding of righteousness and grace, and for that reason they spent more time paying attention to their sins and lived in constant doubt whether they were saved or not. The problem with all of that wrangling within oneself makes us too self-focused, when we are supposed to be paying attention to Christ our Justifier who sits at the right hand of God the Father.

The Puritans never talked about Christ seated. They emphasized a workish, slave mentality. They made too much of man and what he does instead of resting in all that God has done through His Son. Never have I read any mention or explanation of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, either.

And let us not forget the distorted primer of Puritan schools:

"In Adam's fall, we sinned all."

This distortion is unscriptural. Little children have sin in their nature, in their likeness, as every one of us is born into this world in the likeness of fallen Adam, but a little baby has not "sinned". In Romans, Paul almost entirely speaks of "sin" as a noun, not a verb. We have wrong being before God, in that we are dead in our trespasses, and thus we sin because we are sinners. Yet Jesus came down to give us Life, to give us Himself, so that through Him sin would have no dominion over us, and by His gift of righteousness, sin cannot hold us back, hold us down, and by His Spirit we are transformed from glory to glory.

The Puritans were too political, too earthly minded. They paid too much attention to what people in government could or could not do. Like civil rights activists of the 190's, they spent more time fighting for their rights instead of resting in God's righteousness, and the blessings which fall on everyone of us who rests in Him and receives His glory for glory, grace for grace.

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