Puritan origins

Posted: November 11, 2008 by joelmartin in Politics, Social Issues, Theology
Tags: , ,
Singer begins his account of American history with a sharp focus on the Puritans. Puritans carved out a unique political and ecclesiastical culture in the Northeast, and to understand our history, you must understand their thought and practice. Singer outlines Puritan political philosophy; he writes: 

In the Puritan view of life man could no more create the government under which he would live and endow it with its just powers than he could effect his own salvation…The earthly magistrate held his position and exercised his power by a divine decree. He was a minister of God under common grace for the execution of the laws of God among the people at large, for the maintenance of law and order, and for so ruling the state that it would provide an atmosphere favorable for the preaching of the Gospel.

     Singer continues:

In Puritan political theory the magistrate derived his powers from God and not from the people…both the voters and the magistrates were to look to the Scriptures as a guide for the general conduct of their government. The rulers and the people were thus subject to the revealed will of God, and the will of the people could never take precedence over the divinely ordained powers and functions of human government.

     The Puritans believed in separate roles for church and state:

They never expected the state to perform any duty which the Scriptures assigned to the church, and they were never willing to allow the church to take to itself those functions which were “secular” in nature…The state was concerned with the earthly life of the people of God and the unregenerate who might live in their midst. It was concerned with the enforcement of the Ten Commandments, not for the purpose of bringing people to a knowledge of salvation, or to force them to a kind of external righteousness as a means of earning redemption, but for the purpose of maintaining the sovereignty and holiness of God for his own glory…The state is an instrument of common grace, while the church is an instrument of redemptive grace.

     Let’s just stop here for a minute. It is painfully obvious from just these few paragraphs that our current political situation is entirely different from that of the Colonial days. If you had to sum up our current belief system in the USA, could you be any more succinct then to say “the people are sovereign?” 

     Many, many of our right-wing leaders and Christian personalities extol to the high heavens democracy and the rule of the people. But let us ask ourselves: if the people decide that killing babies is fine, homosexual abominations are to be honored, greed is to be commended, and that the worship of all gods is as acceptable as the worship of the one, true God – who is to stop or gainsay them? Laura Ingraham, a lady that I enjoy listening to and respect, has a book called Power to the People. While I agree with the ends, I don’t agree with the means. Do we really want power in the hands of an evil people? And yet this is what we are  pushing all over the world – democracy, the rule of the people. We should ponder this and question our commitment to a sovereign people.
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