Two quintessential questions our culture raises by its nature and development are what is truth? and what can we believe? Our culture doesnâ€™t know the answer. It never did. The Puritans knew that. They looked beyond themselves. They looked to God. But from this point in American literature we will be entering a wasteland . . . after the humorist Mark Twain wrote his satire and early Realism, American writers lost confidence in a single truth and came to the conclusion that truth is unattainable. Today we hold to a plurality of truths and the tolerance of them is now a virtue. Truth, to our secular world, is discovered in this struggle.
Archive for the ‘Puritans’ Category
Puritans saw the world in terms of individual sin and in terms of principalities and powers. They always saw themselves as being part of a larger, more important cosmological story. They knew, without a doubt, that every knee would bow, every tongue confess . . . With the rise of Lockian rationalism and its emphasis on individual rights, supported so vigorously by men like Thomas Jefferson, Americans privatized its faith and morality. Morality was defined according to each individual preference and Americans avoided static moral structures–as that which is given in the Bible. For the first time in American thought, manâ€™s agendas were more important than the Word of God.
Transcendentalism is a sad commentary on the failure of American Puritanism. By the end of the seventeenth century Puritanism was declining because of a lack of conversions and a disrespect for authority. As a result of this demise, American society lost a strong sense of community. Some thinkers, like Peter Berger argue that one of the features of our modern day has been the loss of mediating institutions, so that we now have increasingly atomistic individuals and a powerful state, with no buffers in-between. Berger also argues that we Americans have lost all sense of community. Puritans rarely talked about themselves–they just lived their lives in the community of the Lord. We talk about community so much because we experience it so little in our life. The church ceased to be a mediating institution like it was in Puritan New England. And, as a result, Christianity lost credibility as a viable institution.
As a result, I wonder if we were ill-prepared for the present onslaught against Christian culture. What do you think?
Puritans very effectively combined sound scholarship and profound spirituality. They led American society in education and science for a century. They founded most of the universities in the new england. Some modern Evangelical scholars lament that that combination has been lost. Evangelical Professor Mark Noll, a former professor at Wheaton College, but now a professor at Harvard University, argues that “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Noll is speaking of a comprehensive ability to think theologically across a broad spectrum of life (e.g., politics, arts, culture, and economics). Evangelicals, he argue, have a propensity for shallow analysis of complex cultural issues (See Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994). This is a view held by other scholars as well . See David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Eerdmans). “Surely the God who is rendered â€˜weightlessâ€™ by modern culture [especially evangelical Christians] is quite different from the living god.” Do you agree with Noll and Wells? Is there hope that born Christians again will regain the high ground in culture and thought?
I believe the vanguard of that reclamation project is the evangelical home school movement!