Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I Thank God for the Puritans

If you've read much of what I've posted here in the past, you'd see a common topic repeated.  I tend to write a little more frequently about the Puritans and their theology than contemporary Christians or authors, because of my admiration of them.

Not all of them have the same theology, and some did shameful things.  They are generally considered in a very negative light by most people, but there were many great and godly Puritans who lived some amazing lives.  Those that had a love for God and His people left us with some tremendous insight to glean from.

I began doing a little researching and reading their work after I realized what a unique time in history they lived in.  First, they were a direct result of the Protestant Reformation, and the bible was being printed in English so everyone could read it.  As a result, the gospel message was much easier to understand for everyone.  Secondly, this was the beginning of the Modern Era, and the Age of Enlightenment.  High priority was placed on Knowledge and education, so that an increasing number of people pursued knowledge of God.  Finally, in light of the first two historical settings, the third is something that we've lost in our developed world.  They lived in a time that saw great suffering from disease, war, and poverty.  So, not only did these people have an immense thirst to know God and His word, but they also were in the midst of grief and suffering frequently.  These combinations, I believe, created an amazing foundation for great insight into how to live a Christian life.  How to love and trust God when loved ones lay sick and dying, and when there is such uncertainty about the future.  Early American colonists had the added stress of frontier life to deal with.

The Puritans, and those who came after them in the 18th century American colonies, were well acquainted with grief and sorrows.  Those of us who benefit from modern medicine should take some time to look back on these people, and learn from them.  Many of them were prepared and able to suffer and grieve well.

So on a similar topic, Joel Beeke took part in an interview discussing the Puritans and use of their work today.  below is just an excerpt telling how they are helpful to the church today.  The original post is here, and there he has a list of where they are least helpful.  Everyone has their blind spots.

Where do the Puritans speak most helpfully to the contemporary church?

Puritanism was first and foremost about the church. All of their efforts, whether in writing, preaching, or lecturing, aimed to reform the Church of England in a manner more consistent with God’s Word and Reformed principles of worship and piety.

Here are a few areas where the Puritans are very helpful to the contemporary church:

1. The Glory of God. The Puritans had a robust doctrine of God. Many of the problems in today’s church stem from losing sight of who God is. Both their writings and their prayers evince a view of God who brings to mind his majesty.

2. The Centrality of the Mediator. The Puritans constantly pointed to Christ, not merely as an example or teacher but as priest and king. Man-centered preaching is so popular today. Even expository preaching can also go astray if it loses sight of Christ as the center of all biblical truth and Christian experience.

3. The Evil of Sin. The Puritans reflected deeply on the Bible’s witness to the horror of rebellion against a righteous and loving God. Sin rests lightly on the contemporary church. We need to hear the Puritan call to humble ourselves and repent of our sins.

4. The Obedience of Worship. The Puritans understood that true worship is always an echo of the Word created in the heart by the Spirit. The contemporary church has wandered dangerously far into the territory of worship based on man’s will and ideas.

5. The Necessity of Personal Sacrifice. Many Puritans made great sacrifices in order to worship according to their conscience. Thomas Goodwin, for example, gave up fame—he was quickly advancing in theological circles—and moved to Holland, where he ministered with other Puritan divines in Arnhem.

I thank God for the work He did through these men and women to give us such firm shoulders to stand upon.

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