||Calvin (1509-1564) was a Protestant
reformer in Geneva, Switzerland whose theological beliefs he summarized
in "five points" which became the basis of the Presbyterian church and
formed the basic theological tenets of Puritan theology. Calvin's
points, based on a literal interpretation of the first chapters of
beings are totally evil, born sinners because of Adam and Eve's sin of
disobeying God in the Garden of Eden; God is all, hmans nothing and the
source of all evil in the world.
Election--Although not obligated to do so, God has
chosen to save ("elect") certain people, with NO reference to their
lives or works; in fact, he knows beforehand who will be elect
did not die for all, but only for the Elect.
grace is freely given by Him (to the Elect) and can neither be earned
nor refused. Grace is God's saving power to redeem and save us through
the forgiveness of sins, newness of life, the power to resist
temptation, and peace of mind and heart.
the Saints--God gives the Elect the full power to do
God's will and live uprightly to the end of their lives.
The "Pilgrims," so named in the ninete
enth century, were Dissenters from the Puritans, who wanted to reform
the Anglican Church not separate from it as the Dissenters did (thus
their other name, Separatists). The Puritans were a group of Anglicans
who wanted to reform the Anglican Church theologically, not just
politically as Henry VIII had done in declaring himself head of the
church. The Separatists were followers of Robert Brown (thus their
other name, the Brownists) who taught the following, beginning in about
1580: "The true church is a local body of genuine believers in Jesus
Christ, united to him and to each other by a voluntary covenant. Such a
church is self-governing, with Chirst as its real head. It chooses its
own pastor and other officers as prescribed by the New Testament, but
in r eality every member is responsible for every other. No church has
authority over any other, and thus there is no ecclesiastical
hierarchy. . . . On the other hand, . . .Puritans were alarmed at this
radicalism, which to them seemed little more than spiritual and
political anarchy. They resented also the implication that true
understanding of the Bible could be attained simply and directly by
Divine revelation, thus placing the unlettered lower classes on a par
with their educated superiors. . . ."
Rod Horton and Herbert Edwards, Backgrounds of American Literature.
Both Puritans and Dissenters
believed in a "God of History," like the God of the Israelites, who
would intervene actively and constantly in their lives.
Both, therefore, believed in a
"Covenant Theology," believing that each individual and each
congregation must enter into a two-way covenant with God , based on the
Old Testament theme of covenant (c.f. Exodus' Ark of the Covenant), as
a way to explain the Calvinist doctrines of Election and Perserverance
of the Saints and God's relationship with His creation. Both Puritans
and Dissenters were "Calvinist." The doctrine of Limited Atonement,
that Christ did not die for all humanity but only for the Elect, and
that God has "elected" to save these few, which election is foreknown
(because God is all-knowing) and foreordained and therefore not based
on one's life or "goodness" (because, since Adam and Eve's Fall, no
humans are Good), is based on Calvin's interpretation of many Biblical
passages, for example, this one from the book of Romans, 8:29-30: "29.
For those whom he [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to
the image of his Son, in order that he might be first-born among many
brethren. 30. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those
whom he called h e also justified; and those whom he justified he also
glorified." (Notice how verse 29 relates to Calvin's doctrines of
Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement, and how verse 30 relates
to Calvin's doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Perserverance o f the
Early American Women Writers: Voices in
1630 and 1690, there were as many university graduates in the
northeastern section of the United States, known as New England, as in
the mother country
Who were the Puritans?
Word has got negative connotations now, but religious radical views
aside, they were pretty interesting people.
The first Puritan colonists who settled New England exemplified the
seriousness of Reformation Christianity. Known as the "Pilgrims," they
were a small group of believers who had migrated from England to
Holland -- even then known for its religious tolerance -- in 1608,
during a time of persecutions.
Like most Puritans, they interpreted the Bible literally. They read and
acted on the text of the Second Book of Corinthians -- "Come out from
among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord." Despairing of purifying
the Church of England from within, "Separatists" formed underground
"covenanted" churches that swore loyalty to the group instead of the
king. Seen as traitors to the king as well as heretics damned to hell,
they were often persecuted. Their separation took them ultimately to
the New World.
According to Kathryn VanSpanckeren, a specialist in American
literature, "It is likely that no other colonists in the history of the
world were as intellectual as the Puritans."
wanted education to understand and execute God's will as they
established their colonies throughout New England.
Life was seen as a test; failure led to eternal damnation and hellfire,
and success to heavenly bliss. This world was an arena of constant
battle between the forces of God and the forces of Satan, a formidable
enemy with many disguises.
Scholars have long pointed out the link between Puritanism and
capitalism: Both rest on ambition, hard work, and an intense striving
for success. Although individual Puritans could not know, in strict
theological terms, whether they were "saved" and among the elect who
would go to heaven, Puritans tended to feel that earthly success was a
sign of election. Wealth and status were sought not only for
themselves, but as welcome reassurances of spiritual health and
promises of eternal life.
The manifestation of this belief is one of the
first big differences in American writing.
Moreover, the concept of stewardship encouraged
success. The Puritans interpreted all things and events as symbols with
deeper spiritual meanings, and felt that in advancing their own profit
and their community's well-being, they were also furthering God's
plans. They did not draw lines of distinction between the secular and
religious spheres: All of life was an expression of the divine will --
a belief that later resurfaces in Transcendentalism and authors like
Margaret Fuller and Louisa May Alcott
From a lecture given by Margarette Connor, 21
September 2000 at the American Library of Geneva