One of my favorite Doctor Who moments is in the episode with David Tennant where aliens made a replica of the Titanic in space. It was a Christmas episode where viewers became afraid that angels would throw their halos at them and slice them.
In this episode is an "earthologist" named Mr. Copper. He knows all kinds of facts about planet Earth, or thinks he does, and tells all the people.
"I shall be taking you to Old London town in the country of UK, ruled
over by Good King Wenceslas. Now human beings worship the great god
Santa, a creature with fearsome claws and his wife Mary. And every
Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey.
They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner, like savages!"
This famed earthologist got many things wrong when describing the UK and Christmas. I always think of Mr. Copper when a well-meaning person writes information that exposes how much they don't really know about a subject.
I peruse a volume of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is written by many people. Some are accurate when they describe philosophies. When they bring up Christian topics, however, they seem lost like Mr. Copper.
In the article "American Philosophy" they say this about the Puritans:
"The Puritans agreed with many of the principles of Calvinism. They believed that God is absolutely sovereign and that man, beset with original sin, is totally dependent upon him. Salvation cannot be earned by virtuous works; God has foreordained who shall be elected to the "Society of Saints," although presumably the performance of good works predisposes man's soul to receive God's grace."
Up until the italicized part, I mostly agree. Yes, the Puritans were Calvinists. Yes, we Calvinists believe that man is completely dependent on God and contributes nothing to his salvation. Yes, we believe God foreordained the elect.
What is this "Society of Saints"? In seminary and in all my reading of the Gospel Coalition, Ligonier, and other blogs, that term is nowhere. We do not have anything we call a Society of Saints. I can see where they get the idea because we do believe in the communion of the saints that can never change throughout history. But no, there is no Society of Saints.
"Good works predispose man's soul to receive God's grace." No they don't. We just established that nothing predisposes a soul to receive God's grace. God gives people grace because he wants to based on no condition. Romans 9 is explicit in this when Paul talks of Isaac and Ishmael and then Jacob and Esau. God chose Jacob to have his special blessing when Jacob and Esau were still in the womb. They were both scoundrels who did unforgivable things, but God went with Jacob because he wanted to bless Jacob with Jesus's lineage.
Now, we do believe that a person who displays good works is saved, but good works do not predispose a person to be saved. Without being arbitrary, salvation is completely free of conditions, but still based on God's plan.
Back to Mr. Copper:
"It has often been pointed out that the Puritans' rejection of the authority of the church and their stress on the privacy of man's relation to God manifested a certain individualism."
What? Rejected the authority of the church? Never. Their theocracy proves that. It's such a misunderstanding from the outside that Protestants reject church authority because of their split from the Roman Church. But no, Christ established the Church and will always have the complete authority. Protestants and puritans simply reject the leadership of the Pope and to a lesser extent, the Queen of England for the Anglican Church.
The things we reject rely on meaningless rituals, place a man or governor on Christ's throne as head of the church when Christ is the church's only head and husband. Without saying that the Prots don't also rely on rituals, oh we do, the church we reject places salvation value only on following rituals of good works and penance rather than simply trusting Christ's permanent payment for sin alone. But other than that, we wholeheartedly follow the church and say with the church fathers, "If the Church is not your mother, then God is not your father."
Ultimately, Mr. Copper will never quite understand unless the Holy Spirit illumines him. At least for the episode in question, the Tenth Doctor did send him to live on earth and learn the true earthology. It is always my hope that the Holy Spirit changes a person so that he or she can truly understand Christ's headship, exclusivity, and why the reformation is far from over until Christ returns.