Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is a Puritan? Pt2: What can they teach us today

Through explaining the importance of the Puritans and the desire I have of titling my blog after them, there are six important lessons that the Puritans continue to teach us Christians today. The six lessons come from a brilliant student of the Puritans, J.I. Packer. Let's get started.

1)The Puritans' lived a holistic lifestyle. Holistic is defined as being concerned with the complete system. They viewed everything of daily life through the lens of honoring God, “by appreciating all his gifts and making everything 'holiness to the Lord'.” As Packer states, “they integrated contemplation with action, worship with work, labor with rest, love of God with love of neighbor and of self, personal with social identity...” There is no separation of the sacred and secular. All of life to the Puritan was sacred. Today, we love compartmentalizing our livelihood. This part of life goes here, that one goes over there, and this stays here. We may practice this by keeping work at work and keeping our Christianity for Sunday use only. How many of us at times, seem to leave our Christianity at the door to pick up later when we get done? The Puritan outlook is one that we can learn from.

2)The Puritans' quality of their spiritual experience: What made the Puritans such spiritual giants? They were prolific in writing books and preaching sermons. They had people like Richard Baxter, John Davenant, John Owens, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards. Individuals who knew the importance of God's word. The Puritans meditated, applied, studied God's Word. Their minds were unfettered by the distractions of the world. In essence, they had ultimate clarity that only we could hope for. Our insatiable desires left unchecked, our trusts in how we feel more than what we know, our desire for self-help than for deep Biblical meditation, are in need of being under the scope the Puritans used.

3)The Puritans' passion for effective action: They desired above all to be used by God for His glory. They did not sit on their hands waiting for someone else to do the right thing. They did it. Puritans did not seek out as much as being dependent on what God desired for them to do. Prayer was not a by-line with them, but a call to action. They did not believe in a dualistic lifestyle many Christians today practice. Puritans practiced their beliefs in public and private with passion to do the right thing. We can definitely learn more from these saints.

4)The Puritans' stability of family: J.I. Packer reports, “The Puritan ethic of marriage was to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment, but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, and then to proceed with God's help to do just that.” Slightly different from love at first sight, falling in or out of love, or better yet, I just don't feel it anymore. With Christian divorce as bad as our secular brothers, we might learn something from the Puritans. Family worship was key for continuity, grounding the children to be equipped for productivity as adults. This is quite different from the child run family we have today. How concern are we for the spiritual development of our own children in comparison?

5)Puritans valued human worth: They respected those who differ from them in public discourse, never talking down to the other. How much value do we place in others around us? Does the modern day Christian see others as fallen without grace or someone who is to be outright rejected?

6)Puritans desire for church renewal: The renewal they espoused was personal and communal. The term used is 'reformation,' not in the sense of the Reformation. J. I. Packer explains, “The essence of this kind of 'reformation' was enrichment of understanding of God's truth, arousal of affections God-ward, increase of ardour in one's devotions, and more love, joy, and firmness of Christian purpose in one's calling and personal life.” Such a goal is one that I believe we as a church need to look at seriously and ask ourselves, “How do we apply 'reformation' in our lives, both personally and communally as the family of Christ?”

As you can see, there are many fine reasons for us to resuscitate “Puritan.” It is the main reason the term is in the name of my blog. It is my hope and prayer that my life, writing, and spiritual growth will imitate those who have gone before us. Are you willing to try on the “Puritan” name?


1 "Why we need Puritans" by J.I. Packer at

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