Emerson was raised within a Calvinistic society by a father who was a Unitarian minister. Even though he was raised in a society which supported Calvinistic theology, Emerson followed his own path and beliefs when it came to religion.
Calvinism has five basic points. They are:
1. Total depravity (Original sin)
2. Unconditional election (God's election)
3. Limited atonement (Particular redemption)
4. Irresistible grace (Effectual calling)
5. Perseverance of the Saints
Emerson's theological beliefs centered around the following:
1. God was THE central figure in his own life. It was only through relying on God that one could find the ability to become self-reliant.
2. Moral law outweighed all other laws (physical or human).
3. Given that all things are part of a greater whole, the "whole" could only be found in nature. God created nature and, therefore, held the truth to all things.
4. The "law of love". Everything has good in it.
Emerson did not live by Calvinistic theology at all. Instead, he seems to have found a way to internalize and create a religious theology all of his own. This theology does not carry the bitter accusations that those of the Calvinistic thought do. Instead, Emerson's ideology fits into a more positive way of thinking instead of taking a more negatively toned aspect (such as Calvinism).
The largest differences between Emerson's theology and Calvinism seem to be ones in which Emerson focuses upon the good in life- if a person is to focus on God alone. For Emerson, there are no ambassadors to lead one to God. Calvinism, instead, focuses upon the hurdles that one must overcome to find God.
More specifically, Emerson (see Emerson #4) found good in everyone. Calvinism (see Calvinism #1 and #4) speaks to the evil in all people; the evil that humanity must search for and destroy within their life if they are going to be able to find and follow God.