Lessons For Modern Religious And Political Beliefs In Colonial New England Decline Of Calvinism
(The picture is of John Calvin.)
While this subject may not have been on your mind lately, read the excerpts for a sense of why ideologies and theologies fall out of favor with the public and fail.
Ideas that mean something and are useful to people must have both root and branch. There must both a core logic and a visible benefit.
While it’s true that many folks may place more stress on the visible benefit, you don’t have to be that way. It’s your call.
From Parrington— To preach with convincing force one must appeal to the common experience; dogma must appear to square with the evident facts of life….When it ceases to be a reasonable working hypothesis in the light of common experience, it is no longer a controlling influence in men’s lives….In an aristocratic society it is natural to believe that God has set men apart in classes; but as the leveling process tended to strip away the social distinctions, the new individualism undermined the older class psychology.
As the (17th) century advanced the growing dissatisfaction with Calvinism received fresh impetus from the new social philosophy of France. The teaching of Rousseau that in a state of nature men were good…..would appeal to men whose experience was daily teaching them the falseness of the traditional dogmas (that men were inherently wicked.)
Although the provincial colonial might not come into immediate contact with such speculative philosophy, in the long run he could not escape being influenced by it.
Calvinism had taught that people were depraved by nature. Living in small villages and in many respects dependant upon each other, people saw this was not true. The old faith faded away.
This fading away can happen to any idea that does not adapt to new times or that can no longer make the political case.
Regretfully, we have seen liberalism fail in this political sense in the last 40 years. Though, hopefully, that is now changing.