Tag Archives: New England Puritan

Epic Beards, Precious Puritans, and Enslaving Precious Black Bodies

And Other Adventures In Being An Iconoclast

The history of the Puritans, pardon the cliche, is one of the many sacred cows that U.S. American evangelical Christians have. Any criticism of these folks, even if it comes from a person who loves to read their work, is viewed as something akin to blasphemy.

When a friend from Twitter shared this post from Thabiti Anyabwile of the Gospel Coalition: The Puritans Are Not That Precious, I was both stunned and very happy. That in response to this video:

“Precious Puritans” is a new track from Holy Hip Hop artist, Propaganda (with Kevin Olusola) that can be found at Humble Beast.com, where you can buy it or download it for free!

“As if Jesus only spoke white men with epic beards.”

The upliftment of the Puritans (uncritically) whether from conservative or mainstream circles (yes, there are liberals who read them too) must be seen as idolatrous if the Puritans are viewed as inerrant, or beyond the scope of critique. There are a few other posts worth reading on this issue, from Joe Thorn: Precious Puritans part 1 and Precious Puritans Part 2 as well as Steve K McCoy: Missing the Point: Precious Puritans

I love how this song affirms the imago dei in all people, and I think it speaks volumes. Meanwhile, in 1987, Joseph R. Washington wrote a SIX HUNDRED PAGE essay on the Puritans and race: Puritan Race Virtue, Vice, and Values: 1620-1820, a text I have been searching for a way to get a hold of. Help anyone?

Also, a correction to Thabiti’s post: it is not that good theology leads to good actions, TA is right; no, it is Good Ethics that is Good Theology.

Jonathan Edwards on Love and Patriotism

A Refreshing Take and Interpretation on Love for the Nation-State

Not too long ago, I was into the best of what the Reformation had to offer theologically.  It seemed odd to me that people would make a delineation between Abraham Kuyper‘s worldview (Dutch Reformed) and the theological vision of Jonathan Edwards. But I think that one of the great distinctions which separates the two is their view of the nation-state.  For Kuyper and Woodrow Wilson, the Christian is obligated to submit herself to the government in one area of her life, and then in the area of the church, she is to submit herself to church authorities.  These spheres are separate and the highest good one can do is to know their role; for Wilsonian democracy, this included Negro Americans to live life apart for the rest of culture due to the color of their skin.

Philosophically, this approach bumps heads with another approach to the Reformed Christian tradition, the early American variety that was in dialogue with the Enlightenment and liberal Protestant theology (literally a protest against orthodox Christianity here in the U.S. historically).  During my first year in seminary, I came across Jonathan Edwards’ view of country, and the bad news for John McCain: there is no Country First.  In fact, Jonathan Edwards saw love for country, much of the time, was a vice rather than a virtue.  In his The Nature of True Virtue, Edwards suggests, “among the Romans, love to their country was the highest virtue; though this affection of their so much extolled, was employed as it were for the destruction of the rest of humankind.” He continues, “And this is the reason why self-love is not mistaken for true virtue.  For though there be something of the general nature of virtue in it, as love and good will, yet the object is private, the limits so narrow, that it by no means engrosses the view; unless it be of the person himself, who though the greatness of his pride may imagine himself as it were all. […] And though , self-love is far from being useless in the world, yea, it is exceeding necessary to society, yet every body sees that if it be not subordinate to, and regulated by another more extensive principle, it may make man a common enemy to the general system.” (page 88-89)

In other words, Nationalism is the outward going form of narrowly self-interested love.  No matter how pure our motives our, Edwards goes on to argue, humanity is corrupted by sin.  Therefore, the higher principle to patriotism, love of the state (self) is God.  Our love is God, the Holy Other, directs us to respond to love others (a self-giving  love/selfless-ness), for “all sin has its source from selfishness, or from self-love not subordinate to being in general.” (92).

Edwards could not be more correct here.  While Edwards disguises his language in the theology of the times referring to God as “Deity” and “Supreme Ruler” like something out of a George Washington speech, the one Self-Giving/Selfless God that Jonathan Edwards is obviously discussing is none of than the Crucified God, who emptied himself for the love of others, we unholy sinners.