Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Puritan Theology in the 21st Century

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon at our church. In the sermon I mentioned, just in passing, that I feared one of the problems with our adoption of Puritan spirituality is an overemphasis on self-examination. The words caught the attention of my elder, and doctoral student in Church history, Aaron Menikof. Aaron inquired of me later if I believed that was true, because he felt that it was a mischaracterization of the Puritans that is all too common. I felt, quickly, in that conversation that I had not properly qualified my statement.

I beleive the Puritans were gospel centered in their spirituality, and were not legalistic. The comment I made in that sermon several weeks ago was a reflection on our perversion of their theology. I do not believe that the Puritans overemphasized self-examination, but that we tend to do so. Self-examination has, for far too long, gone unconsidered in modern evangelicalism, so perhaps its revival is being taken too far. But in any case, this is not a fault of the Puritans. To further clarify my thoughts on this issue I have posted online a paper that I recently wrote for a class on English Puritanism: Death By Duty?: An Analysis of John Owen's Theology of Moritification in The Mortification of Sin. In this paper I ask and attempt to answer the question, "Was John Owen a legalist in his theology of fighting sin?" The answer I conclude with is "no." You can read the paper if you're really interested. Go to Dave's articles.


Blogger Benjamin said...


I thought your comment was an insightful one. I know of a man from another church I attended who fit this description perfectly. He was a great fan of the Puritans, and he constantly talked about mortification of sin. When our small group decided on books to study, he wanted to do books about self-examination. He used every opportunity to talk about the subject. And when we finished the book and went on to another, he wanted it to be on self-examination and mortification of sin!

Interestingly, at the time this talented man was not serving as a leader, nor was he willing to take on many church responsibilities. I believe he has since gotten very invovlved, but at the time it highlighted just the problem you mention. Thanks for the thoughtfulness!

9:20 AM  

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