"The Unitarian Controversy and Its Puritan Roots"

See if you're able to contort your mind such as to be able to perceive this reasonably standard history of early New England religion (proffered by ashv) as supportive of moldbuggism -- or if you see aspects of human nature that might conceivably generalize beyond New England Puritans (along with important divergences of interest and opinion among early New Englanders and free transit of ideas from Europe).

Meanwhile, the growing mercantile economy of New England also exerted a moderating influence on New England religious life. Merchants belonged not only to a Puritan congregation but to the international trading community as well. They felt that in markets abroad they labored at a disadvantage, in that a certain stigma of intolerance attached to anyone from New England. One businessman complained that public punishment for heretical belief was bad for business because it "makes us stinke every wheare." The interest of the merchants in promoting free movement of people and goods conflicted with the desire of the Puritan leaders to keep New England isolated and free from foreign influence.

Moreover many merchants chafed under regulations imposed upon them by Puritan authorities. [. . .]

A number of early New England businessmen, finding they could not operate under the Puritan regime, returned to England. Some of these were replaced in the middle of the seventeenth century by Anglican entrepeneurs from England whose latitudinarian views put them in immediate opposition to the local parish churches. By the end of the century Puritan authority had lost its power to do more than utter ineffective admonitions against uncontrolled capitalist behavior. [. . .]

Chauncy and the other 18th century Congregationalist liberals held that the use of reason was a better means of religious growth. While this attitude had evolved from the old Puritan confidence in the exercise of conscience, especially in church members’ corporate discussions of issues of right and wrong, it was bolstered by new ideas in science and philosophy, in particular the writings of Isaac Newton and John Locke. The Arminian Congregationalists-and many others-saw in Newton’s orderly universe evidence of the work of God. From Locke they learned that human beings are not born with a set of innate ideas, but that all ideas come from experience. Chauncy wrote, "I am not convinced that we have any ideas, but what take rise from sensation and reflection, or that we can have any, upon the present establishment of nature, any other way."

On this basis, Arminians could envision the potential for continuous development in the human mind, including the refinement of morality and other aspects of religious character. From the perspective of the Lockean model of the evolution of reason and also from the orderliness of Newtonian creation, the irrationality of revivalism and the sudden emotional swing of instant conversion had no place.


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