Who were (are?) the Puritans?

Most Americans know little to nothing about who the Puritans were and what they taught….and a major part of what people do know is wrong!  Puritanism was nothing more or less than an English expression of the doctrines of the Reformation as formulated by Luther and his associates and other Reformed figures such as Calvin, Bucer and Zwingli.

For Lutherans it is interesting to compare Puritan thought with Lutheran Pietism–a movement which has profoundly affected Lutheranism in the United States.  The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations has its background in that Pietist movement brought here in the 18th and 19th centuries by immigrants.  When we look at the two movements (Puritanism and Pietism) we can see the relationship is not just between two past movements, but has to do with what we believe, teach and confess today at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Leitersburg.

Both Puritans and the Pietists sought to teach and experience a faith that was truly guiding their lives, the kind of faith we say we desire today.

If you are interested in learning more about the Puritans, my husband, Pastor Terry Culler, will be teaching a continuing education class through Shepherd University via Zoom.  The class will begin on Wednesday, March 17 from 3:30PM-5PM and will continue for 6 weeks at the same day and time.  To learn more follow the link below:

Shepherd University | Lifelonglearning

You can also contact Pastor Culler at St. Paul’s at 301-739-5443 or email him at freelutherans@myactv.net.

For other posts about the Puritans see:

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

An Introduction to John Owen by Crawford Gribben–Book Review

Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review

For more on pietism see:

What is Pietism?

Lutheran Pietism

 

 

An Introduction to John Owen by Crawford Gribben–Book Review

John Owen(1616-1683) is considered one of the leading English Protestant theologians.  He lived through Civil War, regicide, the change from republic to restoration, the Great Fire of London and the plague.  He was prodigious in output writing eighty titles over the course of forty years.  His works spanned a variety of genres including poetry, political commentary, New Testament exegesis and theology.  He endured personal tragedy, losing his first wife and all ten of his children.  Over the course of a tumultuous life, his opinions on issues such as baptism and the nature of church/state relationships evolved and changed considerably.

The author of this book on Owen describes it as a work of “biographical theology.”  Rather than focusing on Owen’s responses to major debates in the Reformed tradition, it highlights the kind of Christian life Owen sought to promote.  Owen was greatly influenced by Henry Scudder’s The Christian’s Daily Walk (1627) one of the best selling Puritan devotionals of the day.  He believed that an emotional and volitional response to the gospel was extremely important and the greatest threat to true faith was a scholastic Calvinism that engaged the mind but not the heart and will.

The book includes a time line, maps, and an introduction about Owen’s life and work.  There are sections on childhood, youth, middle age and death in which Owen’s views of the spiritual formation of each life stage are examined. There is also an appendix with Owen’s Prayers For Children, The Primer (1652). He saw the Christian life as growth in grace.  Every Christian needed to know God, walk with God and understand themselves.

I selected this book because my husband (a pastor) has developed an interest in the Puritans, and frankly I found it tough going.  Although it isn’t long, it is fairly academic and assumes a good bit of knowledge about English history of the time as well as Reformed theology.  It wouldn’t be a good choice for the average layperson.

VERDICT:  3 STARS

For more information or to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.crossway.org/books/an-introduction-to-john-owen-tpb/

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-book in exchange for a fair and honest review. . Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255

For more on the Puritans, go to this post:

Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review

 

Study to Do Good

I already mentioned that our Sunday School class has been studying the fruit of the Spirit.  Recently, after a lesson on self-control in financial matters, I gave the class a homework assignment — find a way to be generous this week, something beyond what you would normally do.  Then  I came across this quote by Richard Baxter (1615-1691) who was an English Puritan church leader, poet and theologian.

“Do not only take occasions of doing good when they are thrust upon you;  but study how to do all the good you can, as those ‘that are zealous of good works.’  Zeal of good works will make you plot and contrive for them;  consult and ask advice for them;  it will make you glad when you meet with a hopeful opportunity;  it will make you do it largely, and not sparingly, and by the halves;  it will make you do it speedily, without unwilling backwardness and delay.  It will make you labor in it as your trade, and not consent that others do good at your charge.  It will make you glad, when good is done, and not to grudge at what it cost you.  In a word, it will make your neighbors to be as yourselves, and the pleasing of God to be above yourselves, and therefore to be as glad to do good as to receive it.”

In other words, we should not only study to know God’s Word, we should study to apply it.  Have you been studying this way?

For more on generosity see this post:

the thank-you project by Nancy Davis Kho–Book Review

 

Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review

This book is part of the Leaders In Action series edited by George Grant.  The series was recommended in one of the Fanning the Flame CD’s our team listened to recently.  The idea is that leaders should seek out historical and Biblical leaders they can emulate.  I chose this particular book because it is the only one in the series whose subject is a woman.

Anne Bradstreet was a wife, mother, devout Puritan and also a poet.  She, her husband and other members of her family came from England to American in 1630 and eventually settled in Boston.  Both her father, Thomas Dudley, and her husband, Simon Bradstreet served as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The author goes to great pains to show us that the Puritans were not dull, dour or uneducated, and that Anne, as an intellectually curious, passionate and winsome woman was not out of place in their midst.  Her world view was completely Christian and orthodox (in her case, Calvinistic).   Her poems dealt with her own everyday concerns such as family, household possessions, deliverance from illness, and the struggles that come with the death of loved ones.  She considered everything that was happening to her in light of Biblical teaching.  She questioned, but never challenged God.

“Like all Christians, she (Anne) had to strive in her faithfulness to God …. she was a Christian growing in the midst of trials.”

Cotton Mather called her poetry “a Monument for her Memory beyond the stateliest marbles.”  She was the first American poetess before Emily Dickinson, and unlike Dickinson, she wrote while in the midst of a full and rich family life.  However, biographer Elizabeth White says:

“It is as a human being,…. that she can still appeal to us over the centuries.  She had a firm and lively character, avid for knowledge, generous in affection and admiration, with a quiet but perceptive humor….”

Anne is certainly worthy of admiration and imitation.  She was a woman of her time, and she lived in her time and her station with joy.  Isn’t that what we all want to do?  Her personality comes through in her poetry and in the way she conducted her life and influenced others in her family and community.  I would recommend this book as a means of learning more about Anne and the early Puritans.  Verdict:  4 stars — I enjoyed it, but it may be too much of an English major moment for some readers!