After writing yesterday's post I realized I should probably clarify a few things. I am definitely not saying that the sole aim of theology is to make one a better person. I believe that the aim of religion (and theology) is to connect the individual to ultimate reality. The problem is that our current generation does not believe in objective truth claims. Therefore the standard of belief for today is "will this religion make me a better person?" In one sense this is a positive development because it forces Christian thinkers to evaluate their beliefs with a moral criteria. Moral reasoning should be an integral part of theologizing. This is why groups such as the Quakers and the Methodists could read their Bibles and come to the conclusion that God wanted to deliver the oppressed even though there are passages in Scripture that seem to indicate a neutral position on slavery. I would argue that the idea of prevenient grace laid the moral foundation for them to consider the equality of every human being. In another sense, the moral criteria can be misleading if it is posited against the idea that objective truth is grounded in revelation. This is the dilemna that many apologists face today. How do you present objective truth to a culture that doesn't believe objective truths exist?
Secondly, I also do not mean to imply that only Methodists and Quakers were on the right side of history. I am certain that there were a few Calvinists who opposed slavery as well. The problem is that the entire belief system of 19th century Calvinism was hierarchical and lended itself to the conclusion that God ordains some to rule over others. If God selects certain individuals to be saved, then why wouldn't He select certain races to rule over others? A Calvinist today would decry such reasoning, but what is obvious to us today wasn't so obvious to people back then. The bottom line is that although certain theologies lend themselves to greater social consciousness than others, there are good and bad people within every belief system. It was a Calvinist named William Carey that launched the modern missionary movement and socially and economically transformed the country of India. If I were a Calvinist, I would be very proud of that...and rightly so.