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Transcendental Ideas: Definitions

Comparison of Early American Theologies

R. W. Horton and H. W. Edwards

Concept Puritanism Deism Unitarianism Transcendentalism
Religious Yes Yes Yes No
Prime Mover God: triune, all-powerful, good, just wrathful God: One, powerful, initially benevolent, now detached God: One, powerful, benevolent Oversoul: not anthropomorphic but good
Universe Creation of God, predestined, unknowable Creation of God, but man's charge; eventually knowable, good Same as Deism Manifestation of creative power of the Oversoul
Man God's creature; not an animal Same as Puritans Same as Puritans Same as above
Nature  Created by God, but often hostile, evil, and source of temptation Created by God, benevolent, mechanistic, proof of God's existence Created by God, benevolent, proof of God's exist Same as above, benevolent, proof of of Divine existence
Human Nature Corrupted by Original Sin, depraved Perfectible Partakes of the Divine Nature Basically good (comes from Oversoul)
Source of Evil Man's nature (through Adam's fall) Ignorance and the "passions" Human perversity Evil non-existence
Attitude toward Life Deterministic (predestination) Optimistic--progress through reason Optimistic--progress through faith, good works Optimistic--inevitable progress
Man's Will Not free Free Free Free--self-reliance + compensation
Man's Duty Faith, glorification of God, prepare for afterlife To cultivate reason, do good works To imitate the goodness of God To realize his fullest capabilities
Social Attitude Obedience to authority, spiritual stewardship of man Environmentalist, ethical, humanitarian Same as Deism Individualistic and humanitarian
Man's Destiny Election or reprobation Happiness on earth, rewards and punishments after Progresss forever Reemergence with the Oversoul
How Determined Will of God Good works, rationality Same as Deism Cultivation of innate Divinity

Backgrounds of American Literary Thought, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice- Hall, 1974.