Like Button

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Puritan Mission

You have got to see this. I found it amazing. There has been, of late, a move to revise history. The goal seems to be to eliminate or tarnish the Christian origins of the United States. Many of us know that. What I didn't know was that this revision process has occurred before.

We've been told that the Puritans left Europe to escape persecution. I'm sure, to some extent, this was true. What we were not told was the missionary thrust of their journey. That's right. The Puritans were a group that were aiming at purifying the Anglican church. They were pressing for "reforms" which, if you know me at all, is shorthand for pressing for Reformed doctrine. There were none more "Calvinistic" than the Puritans. Having encountered nothing but hatred for their efforts, they looked elsewhere -- America.

Now, many people think that Reformed theology -- specifically the doctrine of Election -- terminates mission work. It's not a leap, really. Much of entrenched Calvinism had metastasized into hyper-Calvinism in Europe in the 18th century. When William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement, told his elders he wanted to go to India to take the Gospel, they told him "If God wants to save the heathen in India, he will do it without your help or mine!" Carey, a Calvinist himself, disagreed and went. Well, the Puritans disagreed as well ... and went.

I had never heard this before, but, as it turns out, one of the primary reasons for choosing America to which to go was precisely that purpose -- missions. We have been told that they went to America and ran roughshod over the natives, and some of that was certainly true in history, but the Puritans saw themselves as missionaries to the native people there, not conquerors. Here, take a look at this.
This is the Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In this seal there is a picture of a native garbed in the same shame-clothing as Adam and Eve after they sinned. He is saying, "Come Over and Help Us." One website would have us believe that this was a demonstration of "the superiority of the English and the inferiority of the Indian people. Yeah, right. According to the Massachusetts state website, the seal "featured an Indian holding an arrow pointed down in a gesture of peace, with the words 'Come over and help us,' emphasizing the missionary and commercial intentions of the original colonists." The quote, in fact, is from Scripture, taken from Acts 16:9 when Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia asking him to "Come over to Macedonia and help us."

One case in point was John Eliot, known as "the Puritan Missionary to the Indians". According to Cambridge University, "He is no longer regarded as an isolated missionary, a gifted and saintly man who stood quite apart from his environment; and entered upon a work which the men of his time did not appreciate; but rather as one who sought to carry out in definite and practical ways a missionary idea, which the Puritans had long before accepted, and which number of other men among the Colonists were also seeking to carry to successful results." Eliot started his mission work among the natives at the age of 40. By the age of 59 he had learned several of their languages and had translated the Bible for them into their own language. He was "best known for attempting to preserve the culture of the Native Americans by putting them in planned towns where they could continue by their own rule as a Christian society."

We are told that the Europeans in general and the Christians in particular were cruel, selfish, greedy folk who came to America to escape persecution and steal all they could from the natives. It isn't true. Some of that happened, to be sure, but the original intent of the immigrants to America was a missionary intent. This is all the more confounding when you consider that these folks were dyed-in-the-wool Calvinists who believed that God did the choosing. Their job wasn't to sit back and watch God work, but to obey the Great Commission and participate in God's work. They did. Don't buy it when you are told otherwise.


David said...

The only way you can get to being hyper-calvinistic is to ignore Scripture, which would really be the opposite of Calvinism, which would make hyper-calvinists...not-calvinists. Since Scripture says we don't do anything for our salvation, and tells us to preach the Gospel, then there must be some role God has for us in His plan for grace. Hyper-calvinism only goes to show that sin rots the brain because it is by no means the next logical step when faced by unconditional election.

Stan said...

Oh, I think it's a logical step. It's just the wrong logical step. Human beings have an amazing ability to think carefully and logically, step by step, to the wrong conclusion. Our logic needs to be informed and directed by God's truth.

David said...

Its only the next logical step if you disregard Scripture. I guess if you told someone that knew absolutely nothing of Scripture about unconditional election, then that could be a logical step. But when taken in with the commands to tell the Gospel, and ALL the work of Paul, it just doesn't make any sense.

Stan said...