Growing up, I pictured Puritans similar to Quaker’s. A hillside community, of limited technology, Thee’s and Thou’s flowing from suspender laden elders, and bun braided wives atop horse-drawn carriages accusing young women of witchcraft. But, brief interactions with the Puritans through college survey courses, and more recent studies into the roots of a reformed theology, have enlightened me towards what was not a subsection of legalistic naysayers, but a passionate group of devout Christ followers, willing to die for the change of a nation, and committed to purity for almost three hundred years.

WHAT THE PURITANS BELIEVED

1. They believed God as sovereign over all and directing all things to good conclusion.

2. They held all men were sinners and could not earn heaven outside of God’s grace.

3. They held to moderation in all things stating, “Overdoing is the way to undoing.”

4. They held to a true Sabbath, intending the day for prayer, not games or work.

5. They claimed to be “set apart” as a new Jerusalem or kingdom unto themselves.

6. They believed in spontaneous prayer instead of the ritualized prayer of the day.

7. They held that each church should be autonomous, free to practice God’s calling.

8. They held that, like Christ and the church, Father loves and leads the home.

PURITAN THEOLOGY STILL IMPACTS YOU

Even churches today who do not agree with the more rigid positions of Puritan doctrine, are greatly influenced by Puritan thought and methodology. Are you part of an independent church? Do you hold a congregational vote? Do you enjoy democratic liberty as opposed to being under a supposedly divine monarchy? All Puritan. An item called the, “Protestant work ethic” a natural proponent of capitalism as man’s effort to gain God’s approval. Also Puritan. Are you enrolled in public education? Have you heard of Harvard? Yep, Puritan.

MUST WE BE PURITAN AGAIN?

There has never been a sect of humanity, nor religious order, that has been perfect. Nor, would I suggest that our Puritan forefathers were. But, may I propose that we may now again need an order of people set apart from the world?

Firstly, a simple study of human progression reveals theological movements always move from fundamental to liberal. Be it ancient Rome, the old-school new-school split of 19th century America, the modernist theologians of 20th century America, Fuller seminary, or any one of our Ivy League institutions, once crowned theological enterprises, only to now be secular centers of philosophical freedoms, they all suffice as examples of fundamental to liberal. Similar to the scientific second law of thermodynamics which says that, “Everything goes from order to disorder.” Theological law accepts that everything moves from, “Fundamental order to libertinism flexibility.” Thus, a time is upon us again where we must reexamine the truth’s of scripture and establish the church in its New Testament roots, regardless of what culture or supposed brethren may say. 

Secondly, the earth has always been depraved and sin has always been imputed through Adam. Yet, for millennia the lifestyle of sin was something one must choose to travel towards, be it the bar, a club, a fight, prostitute, drugs, theater, or pornography. Thus, making sanctification “to be set apart” a conscionable, and possible, choice when powered by the Holy Spirit. However, technology has changed the game – Around the 1950’s man no longer needed to go out to find sin and no longer needed to go out to find sinful friends because television brought those friends into his living room. As television grew in popularity, the argument for sanctification was that television could be regulated and families could do it together. In the 1990’s the computer came of age and the internet grew to adolescence, thus allowing unregulated sin and sinful friends right into the kitchen. The argument for sanctification has since remained, as with the television, that the computer was a necessary family function and could be controlled via passwords. Then, came the era of the smart phone, wherein every man, woman, and child, would lock himself away to a private audience of sinful friends, personal temptations, and feigned relationships. Even when at the kitchen table, his head still mired in soul-shaking quicksand. And, there is no real sanctifying answer as to why everyone must have their own sin device! And, the greater plight is that no dares even ask! Thus, a time is upon us again where we must reexamine the truth’s of scripture and establish the church in its New Testament roots, regardless of what culture or supposed brethren may say. 

BECOMING PURITAN

I will not suggest that you move to an Amish community in the Pennsylvania hills nor will I even recommend you become Puritan per say, but I will suggest you implement some of their principles. Pray over the Puritan principles mentioned above and imagine what would happen if you held a family meeting and instituted just one or two!

If you were to accept that God does cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, you’d know deep peace regardless of any pain or circumstance.

If you lived in moderation you would as Richard Baxter said, “Avoid overdoing that leads to much undoing.”

What would it mean to actually hold the Sabbath Sunday as holy? Refusing to forsake the gathering with saints? Spending true quality time with church friends, tangible friends, reading the scriptures to one another, and praying over the coming week?

Where is the man who will again cherish and lead His family in the ways of Scripture? Or the woman who trusts her husband and will not join the vain sitcom infused models of reaming his character, emasculating him in front of others, calling it humor?

Dare you set your family apart? Remove the eyes of your little girls from treacherous evil?

I challenge you all the deeper, to cancel your cable, turn off Netflix, remove the social media apps from your phone, not for a day as a “fast” from guilt, but for life.

I was confused about the narrow road and whether it applied to our day, but more and more it makes sense. I’ve done these things. I am still no Puritan.

Although more and more I want to be.

Posted by Anthony Wood

Anthony is Pastor of Mission Bible Church in Tustin, CA, and has authored the books Defining Church & Defining Family. He’s married to Bre, and they have three children. More @AnthonyGeneWood

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