Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The Enlightenment and its influence on the U.S. Installment 6
A new type of religious devotion emerged alongside the rationalism of enlightenment; it was often referred to as the religion of the heart. This was because it was centered in the heart not the head. It urged people to abandon external proofs, and authorities. It urged people to discover the God that was in the heart of everyone.
John Wesley, (1703-1791), the founder of the Methodist Religion, had always been a fervent Christian. When he was a fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford, he and his brother Charles started a society known as, The Holy Club. It was strong on method and discipline. so its members became known as Methodists.
In 1735 John and Charles sailed to the colony of Georgia in America as missionaries. John however returned to England disconsolate two years later. This was because he felt he needed converting himself.
During the voyage home he was impressed by some missionaries of the Moravian sect. He was impressed with the fact that they avoided all doctrine. He was agreeable to the thought that religion was simply an affair of the heart.
John underwent a conversion experience during a Moravian meeting. His conversion convinced him that he had received a direct mission from God. He believed that he had to preach this new kind of Christianity throughout England.
The experience of being born again was crucial. It was absolutely necessary to experience God continually breathing on the human soul. Experiencing God would fill the Christian with a continual, thankful Love of God. This was consciously felt. Ultimately this made it natural, and even necessary to love every child of God with kindness and gentleness.
Doctrines about God they felt, were useless and could be damaging. The psychological effect of Christ’s words on the believer was the best proof of the truth of Religion. An emotional experience of religion was the only proof of genuine faith and hence of salvation. But as we know today, this mysticism can be dangerous.
Mystics have always expressed the perils of the spiritual paths and warned against hysteria; peace and tranquility were the signs of true mysticism. This born again Christianity could produce frenzied behavior.
The American scholar, Albert C. Outler points out that the new religion of the heart and the rationalism of the enlightenment was both antiestablishment. They both mistrusted external authority. Rationalism and the enlightenment both allied themselves with the modernists against the ancients. They both shared a hatred of inhumanity, and an enthusiasm for philanthropy.
It seems that a radical religious devotion actually paved the way for the ideals of the enlightenment to take root among Jews as well as Christians.
Many of these sects seemed to respond to the immense changes of the period by violating religious taboos. Some even appeared blasphemous. Of course some were dubbed atheistic.
Puritans had left England and settled in New England during the 1620s. This as we know, was to pursue their religion in peace. This time also brought about the first Quakers.
Quakers preached that all men and women could approach God directly. There was an inner light within every person that only has to be discovered and nurtured.
Once it had been discovered and nurtured everybody, regardless of class or stature, could achieve salvation here on earth. They also preached pacifism and nonviolence. Life Today The Real Story "2005"