In short, this was an argument of elites requiring that the populace defer to its intellectual betters. As such, it contradicted democratic and republican intellectual instincts. In the culture of the United States, as that culture had been constructed by three generations of evangelical Bible believers, the nuanced biblical argument was doomed.
Trust like this is an affront to reason, the control our egos crave. Which is precisely the point. Trust does not work because we have captured God in our minds. It works regardless of the fact that, at the end of the day, we finally learn that we can’t.
Man is driven toward faith by his awareness of the infinite to which he belongs, but which he does not own like a possession. This is in abstract terms what concretely appears as the “restlessness of the heart” within the flux of life.
Faith is a total and centered act of the personal self, the act of unconditional, infinite and ultimate concern. The question now arises: what is the source of this all-embracing and all-transcending concern? The word “concern” points to two sides of a relationship, the relation between the one who is concerned and his concern.
If we keep in mind that it was never only a matter of interpreting individual biblical texts, but always a question of putting actively to use the authoritative Book on which the national culture of the United States had been built, then we are in a position to understand why in 1860 battles over the Bible were so important, why divergent views of providence cut so deeply, and why foreign commentary on the Civil War illuminated so much about the general character of religion in America.
The cumulative effect of these subtle ideological changes was to convince an ever-broadening number of Christians in the United States that they had the power within themselves to discover the true meaning of sacred texts, the power to see things in general as they really were, the power to act effectively against those in the wrong, and the power to choose righteously when faced by moral dilemmas—if, that is, they would only put their minds to the task.
Nowhere was the Christian-Enlightenment marriage more clearly illustrated than in the pervasive belief that understanding things was simple.