Something the Puritans Got Right

christianity growth

Imagine a family with two parents with college degrees. They both have jobs that require continued education each year. They want to make sure their kids grow up to be well-educated too. That's why they take an active role in their schooling and discuss the latest ideas they are learning together as a family. Dinner time is often the passionate exchange of new ideas or the latest book they've discovered. They are up to date on scientific thought in most areas and love discussing new research as it is published. The kids are encouraged to think for themselves and push back on their parents or teachers when something doesn't make sense. They've learned how to disagree with each other without turning it into a fight. They've seen how these arguments push each person to formulate the most reasoned way to approach something, even if their current opinions aren't there yet. As a result, all members of the family are comfortable changing their minds on a topic, even if they've held their opinion on it for a long time. Together they model an environment for critical thinking. A good question is often valued more than a good answer.

Now, if I asked you to imagine the spiritual beliefs of this family, what would you assume fit most naturally?

Obviously, a lot of our own biases come into play here. But I would suspect that for the majority of people, we would likely assume this family is not spiritually affiliated. The idea of atheism or agnosticism seems more likely than Christianity. I know from many years of experience that these children would not fit well in many kids' ministries at church.

In 1647, the people of Massachusetts passed legislation to ensure that growing communities of people were valuing education. In particular, the new law made it so that any town with more than fifty householders had to appoint someone to teach children to read and write.

That likely seems like a good idea to most of us, but the interesting part is what they called it. This act was known as the "Old Deluder Satan Law." The idea was that ignorance was of the devil.

Now there are plenty of things those Puritans got wrong, but I love this idea and the way they applied it. All truth is of God. Conversely, ignorance and deception are not.

So why is it that Christians today are often known for conspiracy theories, theological ideas that haven't changed since medieval times, skepticism of new ideas, and a stubborn resolve in the face of logic?

I've been walking alongside a friend of mine as he's been exploring Jesus and Christianity and he recently asked me an interesting question: "Do I have to be a Christian to follow Jesus?"

The reason he asked this is that he's intrigued with Jesus but sees much of Christian thought to be outdated. Does following Jesus mean we have to stop learning and thinking for ourselves? How far we've come from the Old Deluder Satan Law.

Thankfully, I've found that Jesus does just fine without evangelical Christianity to prop Him up. I continue to grow and change my mind on all sorts of topics as I get older and I've had no issue recognizing that Jesus is with me through all of it. If you want to see more of how that's possible, perhaps it's time to embrace an ending, lean into your doubts, read the Bible as a starting point, or stop assuming there is one right way to view everything (and that you have it already).

Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

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