The Effects of Antinomianism in America
Tom Webster defined Antinomianism in his book entitled Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America as (2006):
Antinomianism is a tendency to exalt the transformative power of free grace on believers and to denigrate, or even deny, the role and use of the Moral law as revealed in the Old Testament in the lives of converted Christians.
Antinomianism derived from the Latin word anti and Greek word nomos means “law”. Antinomianism first defined as a theological protest movement, headed by some prominent puritan ministers like John Eaton, Roger Brearley, and John Traske.
Antinomianism represents a historical methodology and post- modern evolution of individualized thought that seeks freedom from the confines of cultural, social, political indoctrination (Whitaker 1).
However many believed that there are misconception about what Antinomianism is all about, it is not an idea of non-obligatory moral law, however this idea is vague to mean having no morals or ethics. Roger Whitaker described the functions of Antinomianism (2000):
The function of antinomianism is to dissent from established religious, cultural and social ideas that are often not the result of personal experience.
The purpose of this spiritual dispute is to come to conclusions and ideas about the objective and subjective environment on a personal level that is your own. (3)
The antinomian strength of mind and character are guided by an introspection of intellectual and creative ways, the concept of rejecting faith by antinomians are historically inaccurate rather they denies blind faith and disobedience to ideas that is not your own especially if ideas did not developed through personal experience and philosophical inquiry. In American thought, Antinomianism become a visible aspect of the American mind in the late 18th century however it was not a characteristic of the thought who founded the American nation (Wyatt-Brown 2). It is important to have rational faith without simply accepting ideas because of religion, culture, customs and tradition that implanted in our society. By the last quarter of 18th century, Joseph Bellamy refused the religious thinking that “Christ came down from heaven and died, to purchase this abatement of the law of God, and procure his lawless liberty for his rebellious subjects.” This statement of Joseph Bellamy had a dramatic effect of liberating both God and man and his speeches revealed social abuses such as luxury, idleness, debauchery, dishonesty, gay dressing, extravagant high living (qtd. in Hoeveler 262).
The antinomianism is a way to be free from insensible culture and values which have been imposed upon the individual by the society, antinomians believed that a man needs to explore his unconscious in order to be free from repressing norms and values. When the Antinomian ideals occurred in America, people rationalized their own thoughts believing on things that are proven by logical and philosophical approach resulted to refuse to give in to colonial power. Antinomians accepted the fact that wisdom comes from the ideas and thoughts of the individual, they strongly believed that through this America will achieve its liberty and freedom.
The events happened during the American Revolution not only gave freedom to the American people but also inspired many nations to resist and perform civil disobedience against colonial power. American Revolution inspired Baptists to restore their energy; they read revolutionary thoughts and actions which encompassed the American natural rights and individual liberties. Baptists in New England took their own civil disobedience without any fear of persecution so that the world would know they fought discrimination and persecution until their last breath.
Isaac Backus described the civil disobedience of Baptists as:
Many who are filling the nation with the cry of liberty and against oppressors are at the same time themselves violating the dearest of all rights, the Liberty of Conscience.
For Ezra Stiles an American educator and Congressionalist minister who signified American Revolution as a moment of divine said in his speech in the Treaty of Paris (1973):
This great American Revolution, his recent political phenomenon of a new sovereignty arising among the sovereign powers of earth, will be attended to and contemplated by all nations. This knowledge will be brought home and treasured up in America, and being here dignified and carried up to the highest perfection, may re-blazed back from America to Europe, Asia and Africa and illuminate the world with truth and liberty (qtd. in Hoeveler 273).
Ezra Stiles who stood in front of prominent individuals from all over the world, expressed pride and honor for his country as one of the great nations of the world wherein people fought until the very last time not giving up the dream of liberty, freedom and equality.
Thomas Jefferson included an inspirational statement in the Declaration of Independence where he expressed the minds and hearts of the American people about equality (1776):
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal… that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The Declaration of Independence as America’s symbol liberty and freedom included not only thoughts of the nation’s founding fathers but also the common vision and dream of the American people, a recognition of what Americans are fighting for and a symbol of unity and equality without any discrimination of race, color, creed, nation, and class.
And in the present times, many people around the world recognized America’s independence and wisdom. Sacvan Bercovitch once said in his speech in Trans-Atlantic Conference (1997):
I came to the conclusion that Puritan origins were significant not because I went looking for them, but because, to my amazement, I found so much evidence of them all around me, in every form of discourse. And for the same reason I remain convinced that that fabricated, imposed identity the identity of “Americanness” as this has been usurped (by global consensus) by the United States.
Sacvan Bercovitch associated America in the game of “chess”, according to him America as symbol that appointed a distinctive social-symbolic system as “chess” a game with distinctive rules. The rules of chess associated to the American History, (1) the norms of a certain way of life, associated with capitalism and modernization; (2) an ambiguous territory, simultaneously confined to the United States, identified with the New World, and defined as boundless.
Bercovitch, Sacvan. “A Model of Cultural Transvaluation: Puritanism, Modernity, and New World Rhetoric.” 1997. 6 April 2009 <http://web.gc.cuny.edu/dept/renai/conf/Papers/Keynote/Bercovit.htm>
Hoeveler, David. Creating the American Mind: Intellect and Politics in the Colonial Colleges. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
Webster, Tom. Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: a comprehensive encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2006.
Whitaker, Roger.“Antinomianism.” 2000. 6 April 2009 <http://www.orakels.com/occult/Setian/Antinomianism.pdf>
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. “Antinomianism and Honor.” 2005. 6 April 2009 <http://www.mmisi.org/ma/30_3-4/morrison.pdf>
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