I recall fondly reading about George Whitefield as a teenager in the 80s. The small softback book (still on my shelf) brought to life the genuineness of this godly man. And his friendship with the Wesleys.
And yet it kept me in the historical dark for another seven years. In fact, many popular Christian "history" books kept me in the dark for years, never allowing me to dig too deep into what these famous men believed.
Weren't we all just Christians anyway...couldn't we just get along? Yeah...and Jefferson was a Christian...
No, seriously, I was taught that Jefferson was a Christian. When in fact--if our theological nearsightedness were only corrected with love of doctrinal truth--he and others were Deists.
Oh, and Whitefield was a Calvinist.
Somehow that little fact escaped the author. More likely he thought such doctrinal labels irrelevant.
Well, what motivates, excites and directs someone is not irrelevant unless, perhaps in the case of some historians, it is an inconvenience.
And it is not convenient for most of the conservative right-wing Evangelical leadership to admit that Calvinism played a large roll in early America. That is why reading secular historians can be helpful at times--they have no such qualms.
For instance, that famous excerpt you may have read in high school--Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God--was written by a Calvinist minister. Jonathan Edwards, considered by historians as one of the most brilliant men in early America, was a Calvinist.
A family of ministers, the Mathers--most notably Cotton--were Calvinists as well. In fact, the vast majority of Congregational and Presbyterian ministers from the early 1600s well into the 1700s were Calvinists. They publicly affirmed God's absolute sovereignty, man's total depravity and full and free justification through faith alone in Christ alone. They taught these truths. They sung these truths. They wrote about these truths. And they nursed generations of children on these truths.
Many conservatives pine for those great ol' days. But their wishes only exist in a vacuum. To return to the strength (in spite of their unique sins) of our forefathers, we will have to return to the truths they built America upon. To find new American preachers of such caliber as these men , Christians today will need to relearn the truths of Calvinism. And the Spirit is needed to create such god-fearing men.
LORD, may it be so.