How is the theology of Emerson different form Calvinism?How is the theology of Emerson different form Calvinism?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would stress a couple of things right on the outset.  The first is the use of "theology."  I think that this term can be used to describe Calvinism because of its stated desire to articulate the relationship between individual and God.  Calvinism's desire to articulate a new vision of how the individual operates within Christian faith is where the term "theology" can be used.  I don't think these same parameters are present in discussing Emerson.  Calvinism is working within the traditional framework of Christianity.  While it does seek to reform it, there is a deliberate embrace of the traditionalist notion of institutional religion.  Emerson is not here, at all, in my opinion.  I think that his embrace of individualism in seeking to find a path for spiritual identity is not associated to a particular institution. The stress on individualism and the overwhelming support of natural beauty and the experience within it is nearly pantheistic in nature.  This is not something that Calvin is advocating, primarily because of his desire to reform the institution of Christianity.  It is here where both belief systems are different.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oh my gosh, PLEASE don't use the term "theology" here in regards to Transcendentalism.  I had to spend an entire class period convincing one of my more fundamentalist Christian students that I was not trying to get her to convert to some crazy "Oversoul" god and its religion.  [I found the entire thing very ironic just because I am Roman Catholic, and I would NEVER consider Transcendentalism (which yes, is very awesome, but is stilll a primarily LITERARY movement) to be an actual religion.]

My question is why can't Emerson and Thorough use words like "oversoul" and "transparent eye-ball" without instituting a new theology?

Okay, yes, I see your point with this statement:

I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all.  The currents of the universal being circulate through me.  I am part and parcel of God.

It seems worrisome at first.  However, the way I read between the lines here is that this is the way a true Transcendentalist would describe a truly supernatural experience when experiencing nature to its fullest.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These two belief systems seem to be completely different to the point that they are not even comparable.  Emerson's is a universalist faith where we are all a part of nature and commune with the rest of the universe (including God) in our own way.  Calvin's is a much more dogmatic, traditional way of looking at the universe.  You have a paternalistic God who is clearly above humans -- on a completely different plane.  Calvin would not talk about how we are all part of God and God part of us.  It would be too wishy-washy for him.  He is the kind of guy who believes in a stern father God, not a universal spirit like Emerson's God.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question