Monday, July 14, 2008

Historical and Biblical Veracity of Peter Marshall's book The Light and the Glory

I have read The Light and the Glory. There is no question that it represents a thoroughly Evangelical Christian bias in the interpretation of American History. Does America have a Destiny? Yes. Is it as the Safe Keeper of Evangelical Christianity? That is a debate that will not be settled, except by faith, until or unless Jesus Christ actually returns to earth as predicted by the Bible. It will do no good to try to prove it as an empirical scientific statement to one who does not believe it because even by the Bible’s definition of faith, it is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”

I will have to disagree wholeheartedly with the Dr. Shelli James Baker in the video, who quotes John 14:1 as proof of God's Divine intervention in preparing a place for the Pilgrims. She has blatantly misinterpreted this scripture. It is clear, from the context that this "place" that Jesus is referring to is Heaven and definitely NOT a prophecy of some future New World haven for Christianity. This kind of theological irresponsibility may give nominal Christians a kind of inspirational lift but they are of little use in encouraging faith in anyone seeking the truth because they contain a blatant disregard for truth.

Having said that, many more of the Providential claims, including the place Squanto played in this drama are matters of faith rather than being provable by empirical data but I can allow those that are not a direct misinterpretation of a biblical source. Some may disagree, but it cannot be proven one way or another anymore than the existence of God. This does not mean that God does not exist, nor that these providential claims are not valid. However, concrete proof will not be known in anything other than the heart of faith until or unless God reveals his own plan and purpose to the faithful and the faithless alike.

I also disagree with Marshall's statement that the Pilgrims were Evangelical Christians or that their joy in worship was the reason they were shunned by their Anglican brothers. Evangelical Christianity would not take root until during and after the First Great Awakening. Until then the New Birth, which is the capstone of Evangelical Christianity was not a major part of Puritan thought. In fact there was a general and pervasive lack of “Christian Confidence” that clouded Puritan thought. They were never quite sure if they had lived well enough to have the privilege of being Children of God. This Calvinistic afterthought came from the fact that they emphasized verses that said they were to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. In fact it was almost seen as a matter of obscene pride to even claim that they were the children of God when each of them knew in their heart of hearts that they lacked the perfection in Christ that this would imply. Also, there was a decided bias against Evangelistic endeavors because it would be wrong to encourage anyone who was not predestined by God to try to be part of the Christian family. Since the only way to tell if one was chosen was by a change of heart that exhibited itself in Spiritually becoming behavior, all Evangelism was left strictly in the Holy Spirit’s capable hands. “Witnessing” was many times seen as a prideful usurpation of the work of the Holy Spirit.

While there is no doubt that the Great Awakening had one of its greatest champions in the person of a Puritan son named Jonathon Edwards, it was by no means set aflame by “Puritan” theology. The Evangelical nature of the Great Awakening did much to encourage more individual thought and was a further work of “Reformation” in Protestant Theology. It was also another blow to “Establishment Religion” in that it curtailed the influence and authority of “State Religion” in favor of a more personal relationship with God. This helped to usher in a sense of political independence and the further social “permission” to rebel against established authority. It was NOT a specific product of those Pilgrims or the Puritans of New England.

I would also like to visit the subject of the origin of the Thanksgiving Holiday. There is no doubt that there was a Thanksgiving tradition that could trace its roots to the Pilgrim Thanksgiving feast in 1621. However, the Thanksgiving Holiday was not an annual event in America until after the Civil War and after a barrage of letter writing begun and encouraged by a very brave single mother, Sarah Jessica Hale from, yes, New England, to President Abraham Lincoln. It is also recorded historical fact that Thanksgiving days (generic) were not peculiar to New England. They were part of almost every other Colony and were called for, if sporadically, in the early history of the American Republic as well.

1 comment:

Brad Hart said...

An excellent assessment of "The Light and the Glory."