Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Great Awakening "Heresies" in America

While exploring Google videos I stumbled upon this "gem," which is sure to ignite some good discussion. The video is from Judith Irene Matta, who is a devout follower of the Holy Orthodox Church (Eastern Orthodox Church). She is also a member of Decent of the Holy Spirit in California, where her husband, the Reverend James Matta, heads up the Mission. In the video, Ms. Matta endeavors to explain the religious history of the United States -- particularly during its founding era -- and how American society spawned an entirely new group of "heresies."

Though Ms. Matta's history is choppy in parts, she does do a decent job of providing and overall chronology of events. Again, my purpose for posting this here is to hopefully instigate some discussion on the various topics raised in this video.


Here are a few of my random thoughts as I watched the video:

*Matta provides -- in my opinion -- a very unfair categorization of Jonathan Edwards. She seems to label him as nothing more than a fire & brimstone preacher, whose God was vindictive and out to get man. While there is some truth to this claim, I do not agree that Edwards preached nothing more than hell, fire and damnation

*No sense of community in colonial churches? Ms. Matta is dead wrong on this. Colonial churches were THE source for community in early America. I'm not sure how she is making this claim.

*Charles Finney initiating abolition by himself???

*Nice attack on the Mormons as being nothing more than an imitation of "demonic practices." She could use some fact-checking in this area.

*Strange attack on Andrew Carnegie as well. I don't know what to make of it.


Phil Johnson said...

Matta says, "With the extreme rationalism that took hold in Europe with people saying, 'Well, now that we have science, or knowledge, then we don’t need to recognize God since man is in full control through his knowledge.'"
The viewer is led to believe that the Enlightenment re-presents a long standing nature of human beings to go against God in favor of their own ideas.
I don't think anything could be further from the truth. The Enlightenment expressed the human desire to be sure of what can be known using two major attitudes; 1. The Primacy of Reason, and 2. The Testimony of Nature. In fact, I think the Enlightenment fueld the Great Awakening in a very real way.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As she's speaking theologically, I don't think "heresies" is overly harsh. It's also fair to say Christianity is a heresy of Judaism.

Brad Hart said...

Good point, Phil. I agree with your two points on the Enlightenment. I have always failed to understand why so many people feel that the Enlightenment was somehow an anti-religious movement. It was not. As you point out, the Enlightenment promoted the primacy of reason and the testimony of nature. An excellent way to categorize the Enlightenment, Phil.

Phil Johnson said...

Right; but, I have to give credit to Gettysburg College History Professor Allen Guezlo, who is, incidentally, an outstanding expert in American history.
It would be great if we were able to entice him to make some comments here.

Lori Stokes said...

Wow, if we could get Allen Guelzo! That would be fantastic. But we're a good group, too.

I have to quarrel with her characterization of "Puritannical Calvinism" in which she says that the Puritans had no interest in evangelizing since everyone's fate was predestined. If this were true, the Puritans would never have been thrown out of England. The Puritans wanted mandatory church attendance and Bible study for all, that all might have the chance to open themselves to God's grace and become aware of whether they were saved, to use a more modern word. This desire lay behind the drive to teach everyone, male and female, to read, that all might read the Bible for themselves.

So the Puritans of America did not embrace the first Great Awakening in order to suddenly find out who was saved, or to suddenly become fishers of men. Real Puritans did not ever embrace it at all. Those who left Congregationalism to follow Edwards and others did so because the GA offered, it seemed, a chance to become saved in a public way that made you and everyone else sure of your salvation.

That's my long two cents--bring up the Puritans, and this will happen!

Phil Johnson said...

Matta, the teacher in the video, made a comment about community in colonial America.
The way people were accepted into the community was what Whitfield and Edwards were all about. And, that's the thing that got Edwards thrown out of the pastorship of North Church--his idea of how people got to be recognized. The Great Awakening was about how individuals got to be recognized as members of the inner circle of the community.