Friday, January 04, 2008

The Protestant Work Ethic

From a post by Rev. Bob Vincent, a Pastor from Louisiana.

Harvard University professor, Perry Miller wrote about John Cotton, 1584-1652

One respect in which the Puritans seemed a diabolical contradiction in terms of their enemies, and to many modern viewers remain a riddle, was the way they took to heart -- and to an astounding degree translated into daily conduct -- an observation of John Cotton's:

'"There is another combination of virtues strangely mixed in every lively, holy Christian: and that is, diligence in worldly business, and yet deadness to the world. Such a mystery as none can read but they that know it."

'Recently this complex mentality has been scientifically analyzed by the great sociologist, Max Weber, and after him it is called, for shorthand purposes, "the Protestant ethic." Actually, it is a logical consequence of Puritan theology: man is put into this world, not to spend his life in profitless singing of hymns or in unfruitful monastic contemplation, but to do what the world requires, according to its terms. He must raise children; he must work at his calling. No activity is outside the holy purpose of the overarching covenant. Yet the Christian works not for the gain that may (or may not) result form his labor, but for the glory of God. He remains an ascetic in the world, as much as any hermit outside it. He displays unprecedented energy in wrestling the land . . . trading in the seven seas, speculating in lands: "Yet," says Cotton, "his heart is not set upon these things, he can tell what to do with his estate when he hath got it."

In New England the phrase to describe this attitude soon became: loving the world with weaned affections. It was applied not only to one's love of his property, but also to his love for wife, children, parents and country' Perry Miller, The American Puritans (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1956), pp. 171, 172

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