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 contradictory. 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 Elect.' 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 chosen. 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?