Puritan Ideology Essay

This essay has a total of 1605 words and 7 pages.

Puritan Ideology

Puritans have had some bad press throughout the years. Often they have been ridiculed by
Christians and seculars alike for their seemingly legalism and hypocritical attitude, but
they also had some of the most interesting beliefs of the early religious groups. "They
sought an intellectual, moral, and spiritual "clean-up" of institutionalized Christianity.
Their standard of purity was the Bible. The most comprehensive, but concise articulation
of their ideology is the Westminster Confession of Faith" (Gatis 1). They had goals to
achieve. They wanted to frame their whole lifestyle on the word of God. They also wanted
to assert every bit of their ideology by the Bible. Puritans were very reverent to the
Bible as inspired by God. Their attitude was in complete submission, to them what the
Bible said, God said (Brow 4). They believed that by adherence to this basis would remove
them from the chance of heresy. The Holy Scripture was their foundation. Upon this, they
built their whole theology, society, and government. Puritan ideology consisted of a
staunch belief in Calvin's Institutes, covenant relationships, and a theocracy.

Theology is extremely essential to every religion's dogma. The Puritans happened to base
a large portion of theirs on John Calvin's teachings (much of which is in the Westminster
Confession of Faith). Puritans adhered to the basic sinfulness (or depravity) of man, and
the fact that some will be chosen through the righteousness of Christ despite their
transgressions. No man can be sure in this life what his destiny will be (Puritanism 1).
That statement summed up the basic elements of Calvin. Within the basic points there are
specialized points of Calvin, which were strictly held by the Puritans. These are also
reiterated in the Westminster Confession of Faith. For convenince, the quotations shall
be stated from there as opposed to the lengthy and difficult Institutes.

The first point of Calvin deals with the total depravity of man, which could also be
referred to as basic sinfulness of man. This is one of the easier points of Calvin to
accept. In this writer's opinion, the basic sinfulness of man is very evident throughout
the Bible. The Westminster Confession states in Chapter 6 that, "from original
corruption, by which man is completely averse, disabled, and made opposite to all good,
and thoroughly inclined to all evil, and man does proceed all actual transgressions".
That is total and complete depravity. Not only does the Bible state that from Adam all
men are sinful, but just observing the current culture and human nature throughout history
explicates the absolute wickedness of the heart. The Bible also says (Jeremiah 17.6),
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

Puritans were strong believers in unconditional election, Calvin's next point. The
Westminster Confession directly states in Chapter 10, "All of those whom God has
predestined to life…He effectually calls…out of that state of sin and death…". So God
calls the predestined elect out of total depravity to become his saints. The calling is
of God's free and special grace alone (which is boundless). No amount of works can get
one to heaven. Works are totally inefficacious, that is also stated in the confession.
However, it goes on to say in chapter 10 that good works…done in obedience to God's
commandments, are fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith. Certainly good works
are fruits, but some contend advocating works as proof of the elect would support getting
to heaven by works (Packer 136). Seeing this, one must read on to the next point. This
says that others are not elected…can never come to Christ. If there is unconditional
election, then there are going to be some people going to hell. In other words, Christ's
atonement for sins is limited. How damaging would it be to preach only certain elected
people can go to heaven? From this researcher's viewpoint, the Bible clearly refutes
limited atonement. The Bible says Christ died for all. Some want to add two words in the
margin, Christ died for all (the elect). That seems to be a gross misinterpretation.

The next point is irresistible grace, which makes sense, seeing that God's grace is
greater than anything is. Calvin taught that those who God allowed into His arms (the
elect) can neither entirely nor ultimately fall away from the grace of God, but shall
forever persevere and go to heaven. As also found in Chapter 17, only the decreed elect
would be those recipients of irresistible grace.

All of this was not what made the Puritans unique in their convictions. Many prominent
theologians believe the same particulars. At the heart of their unique theology was the
idea of the covenant (Keesee and Sidwell 88). As will be seen, this molded their church
and their state. First of all, the word covenant refers to a commitment to Christ and to
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