Emerson and the Bible: A Major Transcendentalist’s View of God

June 13, 2019 by Essay Writer

One of the greatest problems that readers have when reading Emerson’s work is grasping his religious beliefs. Religion is essential to Emerson because every essay he wrote seems filled with references to earning a more perfect relationship with God. Emerson’s emphasis on a “universal soul flowing through individual souls” can strike us as mystical and abstract, and, therefore, hard to grasp. Emerson’s belief in individualism and accepting Unitarian principles, this is based fundamentally on someone’s private relationship with God and on the individual’s own judgment in matters of morals and ethics. Contrary to biblical Christianity, Emerson believes God is an image of what we should try to be like, we are the individual that trumps everything in society, and to be right with God we must be perfect. Rather than seeing the truth about God, Emerson believed God was no more divine than you or I.

Emerson saw Jesus not as God, but as the most significant example of what all humans should look up to. Emerson says about God, “One man was true to what is in you and me. He saw that God incarnates himself in Man, and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of his world.” (Emerson, Divinity School Address) Emerson’s view of God suggests that people should not necessarily believe in a God through ideas seen in the Bible, and shown in nature, but instead use their own understanding through poetry and philosophy to determine their own God. His beliefs do not reflect a Christian worldview. Instead, they base man’s salvation on his own intuition. The bible says God is creator and redeemer of Humans. The Bible reads, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (ESV, Colossians 1:16) The Bible clearly states that God is our creator, redeemer, father, and King. God is the divine being who died for our sins, came back to life to save us from our sins, and show us how to live a life of Righteousness. Even with so many different views of who God is today, there is only one logical explanation for who God is. God is our creator and redeemer; we are his people. In Emerson’s point of view, we are the head of ourselves, and there is no greater person. In the Bible’s point of view, God is our King, and if we trust in him, we can become Children of God.

In terms of human perspective Emerson believes people to should see the things in the world as minor details of the whole universe and to trust their own intuitions. “Society is a joint stock company in which the members agree for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater.”(Emerson) Emerson teaches that society pushes for conformity and not what is best for us and as a result, he builds up a picture of how society has become an institution that deprives its members of basic freedoms important to self-reliance. The Bible says that if we believe in Christ, we are children of God. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12) People do nothing to deserve being a child of God, there is nothing people can do to take it away. People can’t become more of a“child of God” by his/her own merits, and people can’t become less of a “child of God” by someone’s mistakes. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, and easier to think we’re better than people who are living their lives in sin. In reality, we’re no better than they are. Contrary to what Emerson believes and teaches, God tells us no actions can get us right with God, only through the Holy Spirit can we be saved.

Emerson, in another departure from purely traditional theology, believes that salvation depends on intuiting our soul’s connections to what He says is the “World-Soul” or “Over-Soul”. The more we come to realize this “Over-Soul,” the more perfect we become. Emerson says, “Nature has a higher end, in the production of new individuals than security, namely ascension, or the passage of the soul into higher forms.” (Emerson) Emerson’s view suggests that an individual can reach truths through spiritual intuitions that surpasses reason and a clear experience. Their basic point was a belief that God is present in everything. The Bible says that in order to be saved, we must trust in Jesus Christ. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God rose from the dead, you will be saved.” To be saved we must understand and truly believe the gospel, repent of our sinful way of life, be baptized by water into Christ, and live a new life by the commandments of Christ. The only accurate way to be saved and to get right with God is through him. Not by works of righteousness, but by the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Contrary to biblical Christianity, Emerson believes God is an image of what we should try to be like, we are the individual that trumps everything in society, and to be right with God we must be perfect. To Emerson, God is a normal human being who we should look up to, we are the individual that is the head of everything, and to be right with God we must be flawless. The Bible says that God is the authority, we are his people, and to be right with him we must believe in him. Emerson had the wrong view of Christianity. The only way people can be truly happy is to submit to Christ.

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