Friday, July 08, 2011

DF #9

So, we studied Jonathan Edwards from Colonial times with a focus on Calvinism and Puritanism and here is what I wrote:

Online Discussion: Participate in weekly online discussion regarding Jonathan Edwards/Calvinism in early America. How would you feel if you listened to Edwards give the sermon “Sinners …”? How do you define “Calvinism”? How are Calvinism and Puritanism related? So what? What does Edwards have to do with Hawthorne? Melville? Thoreau? Emerson?  How does our American history seem unique because of its Calvinist heritage? How is that history clearly evident today? What kind of person is the ideal person, according to the Reverend Mr. Edwards? Do you see correlations with Hawthorne’s view of humanity? What kind of a person shrivels up and dies, symbolically and/or literally, according to Mr. Melville? Draw a valid conclusion about all the answers your reach. How is this text singularly American? Who living today might remind you of Edwards?

7/6/2011 | 5:42 PM

Calvinism and the Fear of God in Early American History

Rating: --Author: Brower, Sandra

Jonathan Edwards as my reverend in our modern era would have lost me as a member of his church.  As I was reading "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God," my heart started racing and my pulse was beating so hard I could hear it in my ears. I felt as if there was no point to having faith in God if he could just on a whim decide to let me go out of his hands and I could end up in Eternal Damnation without some kind of covenant made between He and I. His God didn't sound loving to me at all! But, then I realized I missed a few key sentences with my usual mode of attacking a first reading and I had not read Mr. Edward's biography yet. I missed the spirit of this man’s sermon. “Thus are all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls.” (McMichael, 287) If we have a “great change of heart” we are able to have the Spirit of God and then we are now the elected beings that we were predestined to be.  Mr. Edwards was not the “beastly brayings,” (McMichael, 264) type of preacher that I initially saw; he was a tell-it-like-it-is, calm and steady voiced preacher who “…sought to teach men and women their utter dependence on God and to arouse their yearning for an inner sense of God’s spirit." (264) I am sure that his congregation felt the spirit of his message from the honesty of his words even if they felt they were being terrorized by the message of it like I did.

Calvinists hold the belief that God is omnipotent, the all mighty I AM. He is the Power of the entire universe and without being converted through The Holy Ghost a believer is just a “natural” sinner who has no way to get back to the Eternities but will end up in Hell. Calvinists believe that they are “Elected” before being born and that their sins are wiped away if they are part of that predestination through Christ’s Atonement. The Elected are given irresistible grace throughout their life and are thus “saved” for the Eternities. (B.A.Robinson)

Puritanism and Calvinism are in fact based on the same religion- Puritan’s were a group of people who believed in the Christian religion, Protestantism, but wanted it to be “purer” (hence the name Puritan,) because the Protestants from the Church of England still used rituals from the Catholic church. (Burton) American Puritans separated from the Protestant church in England and Calvinists were also separatists from the Protestant church when John Calvin reformed the Protestant theology in Geneva Switzerland and it was named Calvinism. The only difference that I could tell between the two was that Puritans saw their religion as more of a personal responsibility to make the covenants with God wherein they would find Grace from God, and as I said before Calvin’s believed they were predestined. 

Many of Hawthorne’s stories were about the Colonial times that Edwards lived in. He constantly writes about Puritan life and Christianity and their view on good vs. evil. Edwards was a Calvinist preacher who taught about inherent sin, focused on good vs. evil. Both used Imagery to get their message across. In a lighter vein; both men were married to women with the initials S.P. J

All the authors that we have studied thus far are Americans born in New England. They were transcended in their intellectual thinking and just like Edwards had a “Great Awakening” in their lives. All these men believed that a higher being was in control, but that they were individually responsible for their choices. America was formed based on the fact that all people were free to worship the way they wanted. Pilgrims/ Puritans left England for that very belief. The author’s we have studied so far believe this very idea. Historically, the formalness of being a Puritan carried over into the nation, and the religious portion was taught in churches. We still have glimpses of that today in our time, Christianity abounds in the numerous churches throughout the nation, our holidays, our government traditions: the Pledge of Allegiance, our national anthem, prayers at our local meetings etc…

The ideal human according to Jonathan Edwards would be someone who acknowledged the hand of God in all that he was and did. He would be intellectual, virtuous and enduring in their quest for Heaven through their life. Hawthorne also believed that a person needed to endure through life no matter what the situation that they are faced with. Ironically, I don’t know if he did so well on this himself by hiding out socially, but he wrote about facing your fears. Herman Melville so eloquently showed this in his novella, “Bartleby.” Poor Bartleby "preferred not to"  adapt to the changes in his life and thus became more and more like a ghost in the world, eventually he just “shriveled up and died” because the will to endure was lost internally. He seemed to not have a faith based on any higher power and thus had no way to draw inwardly for strength to endure. (McMichael, 1374)

American’s are people who don’t back down without a fight, we are confident, we keep pushing along and we stand for all that we believe in and are free to believe in what or who we want to. But, we are also able to change if we are shown a better way.  Mr. Edward’s sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God,” shows how diligent a person must be to not fall down the slippery slope of sin. He wanted his congregation to fight to stay on the safe side of that slope acknowledging God’s hand in all that they do. He showed them another way to endure and expected them to do so. His final words show this, “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountains, lest you be consumed.” (McMichael, 293) In other words, quickly change your ways, don’t look to the sins of your past and reach for higher levels of goodness so that you don’t waste the blessings you are given and receive a spiritual death.

I am Naive when it comes to men today who would remind me of Rev. Edwards. The only Evangelist preacher that I know about was when I was a child and that was the great Billy Graham. I don't feel that Billy Graham taught like Rev. Edwards, but then again he might have since my experience was a snippet on a television set. In our church we have lay men that teach in our classes and to the congregation and God is a God of Love who expects us to make our choices and it is up to us whether we return to his presence or not. 

Works Cited

B.A.Robinson. "Belief Systems within Christianity - Calvinism." 13 Jul 2002. 02 07 2011 <>.

Burton, Edwin. "puritanism, puritans." May 1997. BELIEVE Religious Information Website. 03 07 2011 <>.

McMichael, George, et al. Anthology of American Literature. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.

7/8/2011 | 10:13 AMRE: Calvinism and the Fear of God in Early American History

Rating: --Author: Robison, Cassandra

Flag: --Score: --

Dear Sandy,

This is a superior posting, perhaps your finest. You offer rich proof, well organized argument and well documented claims with ample textual proof.  I particularly love the graceful and sophisticated wording/syntax of these: "The ideal human according to Jonathan Edwards would be someone who acknowledged the hand of God in all that he was and did. He would be intellectual, virtuous and enduring in their quest for Heaven through their life." (would be their lives, plural)    Note the second sentence's graceful persuasion.

You are a scholar.

Dr. R.

Comment from peers:

7/7/2011 | 1:15 AMRE: Calvinism and the Fear of God in Early American History

Rating: --Author: L, Cassandra

This was a wonderful post to read. I agree with practically everything you said. I love how you went even further than I did in your description of the last line of the sermon, it was perfect. :) 

Comment to Peers:

7/7/2011 | 8:31 AMRE: Jonathan Edwards

I agree with your feelings of wanting to get out of the congregation if Edwards was my preacher. I didn't feel the drive of wanting to do better from it, I felt as if all was lost and there was no point in trying. It is interesting how some religious aspects change over time and now most religions have a fear of God but don't really fear him? Is the Westboro Church in Gainesville the ones that wanted to burn the flag against Islam ? I am eluded to the name of that church or it's history. I am just curious...

7/6/2011 | 7:56 AMRE: Jonathan Edwards

Rating: --Author: Brower, Sandra


I never even noticed about the reference that Rev. Edward's made about Nature. I love the use of the 2nd block paragraph that you used. I had an aha moment with that one. I think you are right about how Edward's sermon makes you realize (that if you are inspired by his words) that you need to make a choice. Maybe that is why I was so anxious when I first read it. I thank you for opening my eyes to places that I over looked.

Comment from our Prof to other Peers---  I don’t know how I feel about these…

7/8/2011 | 10:18 AMRE: Jonathan Edwards

Hi Amanda, while what you do write is apt and shows some close reading, your post is too brief to answer all questions and earn a score higher than average.  Take a look at your peers who earned five stars like Lambert and/or Brower to see how to improve your postings in the future or how to revise and add to this one to earn a higher score.  Note that you need to reason step by step and offer textual proof.

I hope this helps you earn higher scores in this class and in others too.

Dr. R. : )

7/8/2011 | 10:20 AMRE: Jonathan Edwards

Hi Gerard, like I wrote to one of your peers above, what is here is apt and good, but your post is too brief to earn a higher than average score.  It's a shame as you are a good reader and thinker. You can increase your posting score this week and in future weeks by (a) reasoning step by step (give us more detail and thought) and (b) offering adequate textual proof. Take a look at your peers' Lambert and Brower who earned 5 stars this week to see how to write a fully developed, adequately proofed and persuasive post, okay?  I know you can do it too. : )


Dr. R.