Alyssa challenging traditional thoughts after he published his first

Alyssa LynchMr. McDormanEnglish 11, Per. B29 January 2018Christianity and TranscendentalismTranscendentalism was a movement in philosophy, literature, and religion that blossomed in the nineteenth century New England with the help of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Both of these men were transcendentalists who expressed their beliefs through writings, poems, and essays. They went out of their way to express, these beliefs to the society they lived in. Transcendentalism involves the relationship between ones self and the world at large. They believed that each individual was the center of their own reality that could only be understood by withdrawing into ones own thoughts and deciding what is truth and law. In his essay “Nature”, Ralph Waldo Emerson lays out his argument that humans use nature to build and understand their own world. In Matthew 7:24 and Luke 6:46-49, the Bible talks about how a wise man builds his house upon the words of Christ. The foolish man builds his house as he sees fit based on his own understanding. The foolish mans house does not withstand the storms of life and is destroyed. Scripture directly refutes humans using their own wisdom and observation to build their realities meaning. Their efforts to become self-aware are called foolishness. One cannot be both a Christian and a transcendentalist without contradiction. Born in New England in 1803 is a well known transcendentalist author, Ralph Waldo Emerson. This author has powerful and interesting views on life. He entered Harvard Divinity College where he trained to become a priest. However, he later withdrew from the ministry because he did not share the same ideals that were imposed on him by the church authority. Emerson was known for challenging traditional thoughts after he published his first essay by the name of “Nature” which is the best expression of transcendentalism. He places man as equal to God and infinite in nature like God and infinite in nature like God. He asks “Who can set bounds to the possibilities of man?” Likewise, he says that “man has access to the entire mind of the Creator.” (Nature). Claims like this contradicted the supremacy of God and His omniscience.  Emerson whole heartedly believed that observations in nature were potentially the answers to nearly every one of life’s riddles and that once a person was completely connected to nature, only then they could achieve total inner peace. The essay “Self-Reliance” is one of his most famous works. Emerson’s main point he is asserting is the importance of thinking for oneself rather than accepting other people’s ideas. If one relies on others judgments, they are a coward without inspiration or hope. People who rely on the opinions of others lack the creative power necessary to be a strong individual. He places the highest value on man’s own thoughts regarding his own existence. Emerson states in “Self-Reliance” that “nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind”. 1 Corinthians 2:44 says that the things of the Spirit are foolishness to the natural man. Man’s natural mind cannot understand sacred or holy things unless they are revealed by the Holy Spirit, not nature. Transcendentalism teaches that human nature is sacred and is the only true reality. Emerson writes “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.” (Self-Reliance). Psalm 19:7 says that the law of the Lord is perfect and sure and it makes wise the simple. Romans 3:20 says that the knowledge of sin comes through the law. Christianity demands that the believer looks to the perfect law that comes from God and not man. The law of God points out the sinful nature of man. This is completely opposite to the transcendental idea that ones purpose and existence is found in human nature. Transcendentalism assumes the nature of man is pure and noble at its core but the Bible clearly reveals mans’s sinful nature. Along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau was also an important author and philosopher in transcendental literature. He was an American transcendentalist who wrote purely on what he believed based on his own experiences. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts on July 12, 1817. In 1837, Thoreau graduated from Harvard College. After college, he became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emerson introduced transcendentalism to him. Thoreau built a small home on Emerson’s land on Walden Pond. After moving to the property he wrote “Walden” inspired by the insight and teaching Emerson gave him regarding his philosophies. Thoreau had a different way of viewing humanity and religion. “Walden” was written to document his years spent living at Walden Pond. He expressed his ideas on simplicity and the individual nature of humanity. He also wrote “Civil Disobedience”, which was a means of educating people on why they should not settle for a less than perfect government. Thoreau goes on to claim that if an individual believes a law to be unjust, he should not obey the law. He believes that the government should be based on conscience and that citizens should refuse to follow the law. Romans 13:1-7 says that since God has ordained government authority for ones good, they must subject themselves to the government.Transcendentalist thinking has no value to the Christian believer. Much of transcendentalism can be summed up in just two words, “Trust Thyself” (Self-Reliance). Scripture is very clear that when man is left in his natural state to determine for himself what truth is that he will “exchange the truth for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the creator.” (Romans 1:25, ESV). The Bible tells us that the law was given to Moses and revealed through Jesus (John 4:7, ESV) Emerson, Thoreau and other transcendental philosophers argue that man makes his own reality through deep thoughts about nature around him. Christianity says that nature reveals God but that only to those who build their reality on the words of God (Scripture) will understand truth and be eternally secure. Proverbs 26:12 says “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (ESV).Works CitedEmerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature., Ralph Waldo. “Self-Reliance.” American Literature, edited by Raymond St. John,3rd ed., BJU Press, 2016, pp. 199-201.The Holy Bible: English Standard Version “ESV”, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print.Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” American Literature, edited by Raymond St. John,3rd ed., BJU Press, 2016, pp. 204-206. Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. h/205-h.htm.


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