Tag Archives: Puritans

A LOOK BACK: Bewitched

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14, NLT)

TheWitch01

The lights darkened, the room silenced, and the discordant sound of stringed instruments filled the air in an unsettling and disturbing manner. The sounds of violin and cello cut through me like serrated steel as the theater screen faded in from black to the image of a teenager’s stone pale and frightened face. It was clear from the way that she was dressed that she was living in seventeenth century New England and that she was among a group of people known as the Puritans.

As it turns out, her father is standing trial for not adhereing to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at the time a British colony, because he believes those laws to stand against the teachings of the Gospels. As such he and his family are banished and end up moving out of the village they were in and settling in the wilderness of New England on the edge of a think and dark wood (aka forest). While I will not give away anything, as I run a tight “no-spoiler” ship, this is where the 2016 film, “The Witch”, opens up and where the horror begins.

This film, as I see it, is a work of fine art and there is much for us Christians to pull from it. On the surface, the horror is centering on a potential witch that lives in the woods and is preying upon a New England family that is doing everything they can to remain godly and to stay together as a family. But as misfortune after misfortune happens, and as the family becomes more and more certain they are “witched”, the more and more it is that the real horror is revealed.

Right from the opening scene onward, we are made aware that this family is hypersensitive to their sin, to the sin of others, and to the soveriegnty of God. It is not wrong to be sensitive to those things in a healthy kind of way, but this family is overly sensitive, to the point that every conversation is filled with talk about their sinfulness, the wickedness of the world and the uncertainty of their own, let alone anyone else’s, salvation.

At every turn, the family is reminded that they are wicked and sinful and they start to have the feeling that they are “witched” because God is punishing them and handing them over to the devil as a result of their wickedness. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is God’s grace really at play here in this film and in the psyche of the family. Even when God’s mercy is mentioned, it is with the understanding that they are in need of mercy because of their wickedness, and their pleading for it betrays their theology that they worship a God who just might not show mercy to them.

It becomes clear to me, without giving anything away from the actual story line of “The Witch” itself, that the family is bewitched by their own stringent, and horrific, theology. While it is true that God is  sovereign and it is true that we fall short of God’s glorious standard, it is NOT true that God is out to get us for our fallenness. Their theology is so damning that they could never, ever experience the grace and mercy that was already there waiting for them. They were so busy worrying about the prowling devil in the woods that they could not see that they had all they needed to thrive in the wilderness: their family and their faith.

Today’s challenge is this: don’t let yourself get bewitched by a negative and graceless theology. Rather, at every turn, steer clear of the devil by choosing to see the grace of God throughout your life, in your family, and in your community. Community is not perfect, but God is working to perfect it through your presence as well as others. Remember, God saved you from slavery to sin and death, so why negate that by making those things the foundation of your faith? Jesus Christ is the grace of God. That, and that alone, should be your faith’s foundation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The devil’s work is division and separation from others.  God is the great uniter.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from bewitching myself with bad theology. Remind me daily of your grace. Amen.

Another Form of Trifling

Read Exodus 20:8-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE 
So I commend enjoyment because there’s nothing better for people to do under the sun but to eat, drink, and be glad. This is what will accompany them in their hard work, during the lifetime that God gives under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15 CEB)

  America was founded on what I call the Puritan ethic. That ethic is deeply ingrained in the theology held by Puritans who were TULIP Calvinists. “What is TULIP, you might ask?” It stands for the following:

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election 
  • Limited Atonement 
  • Irresistable Grace 
  • Perserverance of the Saints 

In essence, this theological position states that humans are totally depraved and filled to the core with sin, that God elects those whom God elects due to God’s will and NOT due to any sort of condition, that Jesus only died for the elect (whoever they are) and not for anyone else, that those who are elect cannot resist God’s grace, and that once one is elect one is always elect. One cannot lose their election or their salvation.

Of course, no one can know whether they are elect or not. Not even the Puritans knew whether or not they were elect, though they believed certain things were signs of election. One of the biggest signs was how hard one worked. If one was a hard worker, and did not trifle time away, that was a sign that one was possibly elect. It wasn’t guaranteed, but it was a sign.

This may sound absolutely ludicrous to you. I mean, who in their right mind would even remotley point to a merit-based measure of Christian Salvation. Of course, the Puritans would say that hard work does not earn salvation, but just that a hard work ethic is a sign of one being saved. It is the fruit of salvation, so-to-speak. So, it would be a complete and total misunderstanding to say that TULIP Calvanists such as the Puritans ever thought one could earn their own salvation. With that said, their theology put hard work into the soul of America.

You might now be asking, what in the world is wrong with that? In and of itself, hard work is a good thing, right? It is what has propelled America and the world into progress. As a huge Disney fan I think of the Carousel of Progress, which shows how our society has amazingly progressed from the turn of the twentieth century to where we are in the twenty-first century. Yet, in that progression I can also see the downside of a world that continually moves and never stops to slow down or take a pause.

In my last devotion, I wrote how time is of the essence and how Rev. John Wesley (following the guidance of Scripture) had the rule of never trfiling away time and/or of never being trifingly employed. This is an important rule, for sure; yet, I will put forth the following proposition, which I feel is an important addendeum to John Wesley’s rule: resting, the observation of Sabbath and holy rest, is an important time to not be trifled with. Working without cessation is trifling with God’s time as much as is working mindlessly without purpose on unimportant tasks.

Today’s challenge is for us to start to work hard at resting, at observing Sabbath. We can do that by making sure we take regular time off. We can do that by ensuring that we do things that bring us fulfillment and enjoyment. While it is important to work hard for the glory of God, it is just important that we rest and that we play. Just as God works, finds enjoyment in creative playfulness and rests, so too it is important that we do not let the Puritan work ethic get the best of us and our souls.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.” – Eugene H. Peterson

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see that rest and the enjoyment of play are equally as important as hard work. Amen.

Bewitched

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14, NLT)

TheWitch01The lights darkened, the room silenced, and the discordant sound of stringed instruments filled the air in an unsettling and disturbing manner. The sounds of violin and cello cut through me like seraded steel as the theater screen faded in from black to the image of a teenager’s stone pale and frightened face. It was clear from the way that she was dressed that she was living in seventeenth century New England and that she was among a group of people known as the Puritans.

As it turns out, her father is standing trial for not adhereing to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at the time a British colony, because he believes those laws to stand against the teachings of the Gospels. As such he and his family are banished and end up moving out of the village they were in and settling in the wilderness of New England on the edge of a think and dark wood (aka forest). While I will not give away anything, as I run a tight “no-spoiler” ship, this is where the 2016 film, “The Witch”, opens up and where the horror begins.

This film, as I see it, is a work of fine art and there is much for us Christians to pull from it. On the surface, the horror is centering on a potential witch that lives in the woods and is preying upon a New England family that is doing everything they can to remain godly and to stay together as a family. But as misfortune after misfortune happens, and as the family becomes more and more certain they are “witched”, the more and more it is that the real horror is revealed.

Right from the opening scene onward, we are made aware that this family is hypersensitive to their sin, to the sin of others, and to the soveriegnty of God. It is not wrong to be sensitive to those things in a healthy kind of way, but this family is overly sensitive, to the point that every conversation is filled with talk about their sinfulness, the wickedness of the world and the uncertainty of their own, let alone anyone else’s, salvation.

At every turn, the family is reminded that they are wicked and sinful and they start to have the feeling that they are “witched” because God is punishing them and handing them over to the devil as a result of their wickedness. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is God’s grace really at play here in this film and in the psyche of the family. Even when God’s mercy is mentioned, it is with the understanding that they are in need of mercy because of their wickedness, and their pleading for it betrays their theology that they worship a God who just might not show mercy to them.

It becomes clear to me, without giving anything away from the actual story line of “The Witch” itself, that the family is bewitched by their own stringent, and horrific, theology. While it is true that God is  sovereign and it is true that we fall short of God’s glorious standard, it is NOT true that God is out to get us for our fallenness. Their theology is so damning that they could never, ever experience the grace and mercy that was already there waiting for them. They were so busy worrying about the prowling devil in the woods that they could not see that they had all they needed to thrive in the wilderness: their family and their faith.

Today’s challenge is this: don’t let yourself get bewitched by a negative and graceless theology. Rather, at every turn, steer clear of the devil by choosing to see the grace of God throughout your life, in your family, and in your community. Community is not perfect, but God is working to perfect it through your presence as well as others. Remember, God saved you from slavery to sin and death, so why negate that by making those things the foundation of your faith? Jesus Christ is the grace of God. That, and that alone, should be your faith’s foundation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The devil’s work is division and separation from others.  God is the great uniter.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from bewitching myself with bad theology. Remind me daily of your grace. Amen.