Contradictions In The Puritan Religion


Life is full of many contradictions, and the basis of the
Puritan religion is no exception. The Puritans believed
that they were God's chosen people, as mentioned in the
Bible. They saw themselves on a level above the average
man, but in reality, their religion was full of
inconsistencies. The Puritans believed in something known
as the 'Doctrine of Elect,' hinted at in Romans 8:28-30,
9:6-24, and later at the Synod of Dort.. The doctrine
contradicted the more widely held belief of Pelagianism,
the belief that man could redeem himself through acts of
charity, piety, and by living an unselfish life. It came to
be one of the greatest theological discrepancies of all
time. Evidently, the Puritan beliefs were almost entirely
 Some of the Puritan beliefs were both simple and
believable. Others would seem outrageous today. Puritanism
was founded on the principles and beliefs of John Calvin,
and one of the major ideals they focused on was the
doctrine of predestination. Calvin believed that the grace
of God was the ticket into Heaven and that his grace could
not be earned. God's grace was bestowed upon a select few
regardless of what they did to earn it. This 'doctrine'
stated that God determines a mans' destiny, whether it be
redemption or condemnation, regardless of any worth or
merit on the person's part. It could be compared to the
failures of Communism in that no matter how hard a person
worked, how devout a person was, how often a person went to
church, there was no way to get into Heaven unless they
were chosen. Aside from the doctrine of elect, the Puritans
had other outrageous beliefs including the degradation of
one's self, the utter and total dependence on divine grace
for salvation, and the wrath of an angry God. 

 The God worshipped by the Puritans was not a forgiving
God, and definitely not a happy God. The Puritans fear him
and tried zealously to make themselves worthy in his eyes.
They insisted that they, as God's special elect, had the
duty to conduct affairs carrying out his will according to
the Bible. Though many of their beliefs seemed outrageous,
the most heinous of all was the aforementioned 'Doctrine of
 If this 'Doctrine of Elect' guaranteed the chosen a spot
in heaven, then there was no reason for them to behave as
pious, God-fearing Puritans. There was no reward after
death for those who had been good and were not 'chosen.'
The standard was the same for the special few who made
their way onto God's list. They had no reason to be good
people, for there was nothing they could do to lose their
spot on the great list. For this reason, it did not matter
what a person did in life, for his destiny was already

 Despite the fact that the chosen few had already been
elected, the Puritans still strove to be good people. The
Puritan life was one of plainness, strict prayer, and
physical and social submission to the duty of the Lord. The
Puritans valued themselves above others, because they felt
that they were representatives of God. They saw themselves
as compassionate, forgiving people, who believed that no
matter what the crime, a man could do right in the eyes of
God as long as he/she admitted their wrong. This completely
nullified the 'doctrine of elect,' because why would
someone attempt to right their wrong if it had no bearing
on their entrance to Heaven? Confession did nothing to save
a man condemned to Hell.
Throughout the Salem witch trials, confession was almost
forced by the court, and used by many who were not strong
enough to insist upon their innocence. The Puritanism took
much from the Five Teachings of Calvinism: The doctrine was
exemplified in the five teachings of Calvinism: (1)
humankind is spiritually incapacitated by sin; (2) God
elects unconditionally those who will be saved; (3) the
saving work of Christ is limited to those elected ones; (4)
God's grace cannot be turned aside; (5) those whom God
elects in Christ are saved forever. These teachings made
the trials and also the confessions meaningless, because if
one of the elect was on trial, then according to teaching
#5, a man was saved forever. So why confess? These
confessions were worthless in the eyes of the Puritan God,
because no matter what a man confessed to, no matter what
he did in life, his final resting spot was already
determined. So then why did the Puritans insist upon
confession as a means of salvation? Why did they force
innocent people to admit to lies in the face of death? This
is a hard question to answer. If a confession was made in
hopes that it would save a soul, then wouldn't that render
the doctrine of elect meaningless? What man should worry if
he dies guilty or innocent? Certainly not a man whose
future is already determined. If the Puritans believed so
fervently in the Doctrine of Elect, then why should anyone
confess his/her sins? 

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