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How are some of Emerson's his ideas rejected conventional Christian teachings?

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kbistre10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 2, 2013 at 7:20 PM via web

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How are some of Emerson's his ideas rejected conventional Christian teachings?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 2, 2013 at 11:49 PM (Answer #1)

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One idea Emerson preaches in "Self- Reliance" that rejects conventional Christianity ideals comes from his location of power in the seat of the individual.  Emerson asserts that individual thought and identity is "a unique expression of God's will."  Such an idea could be seen as a rebuke of conventional Christianity in two ways. The first is that Emerson speaks from a position of understanding the will of the divine.  Conventional Christianity asserts that the infallible creative will of the divine is something that lies beyond the grasp of mortals.  Emerson is able to argue that this is not the case, as he believes individual identity is a divine attribute within human beings.  Another area where such a position could be seen as offending traditional Christian notions is that Emerson does not accept that the individual will should be subservient to religious notions of the good. Since Emerson believes that the individual spirit is imbued with divinity, there should not be any reason to subvert it in the name of religion.  For Emerson, his praising of the individual spirit is something that supercedes traditional religious notions of the good.

Emerson's emphasis of nonconformity might be seen as offending the conventional Christian idea that human beings are part of the herd that must heed the call of the divine.  Emerson would speak out against such an idea because anything that would suppress individual voice or identity would have to be rejected.  When conventional Christianity argues that individuals must mirror the actions of those who have been sanctified and are exalted in the religious scriptures, one can only cringe when Emerson suggests, "Insist on yourself" and ‘‘Never imitate.’’  An absolute and resounding affirmation of the individual voice regardless of all else is where Emerson's teachings can be seen as rejecting conventional Christian teachings.

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