POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Puritan Luv - Chapter 2 – Why We Need the Puritans

In the fourth section of this chapter Packer removes any fog about his purposes in this book. He writes “This present chapter is, I confess, advocacy, barefaced and unashamed. In modern parlance this chapter is Packer’s “shameless plug” for the Puritan view of life. Packer begins the chapter by discussing the mud which has been made of the name “Puritan” throughout the ages. He realizes that he may be climbing a wall of resistance in his readers who just might think that we have nothing to learn from the Puritans. Recounting the recent scholarship in Puritan life and thought, Packer makes his case that the opinion of these people as backward, repressed, darkened hangovers from medieval times has been removed in the area of the scholarship opening new doors to understanding a truly Puritan culture. Packer then contends that the main thing we have to learn from this people, who suffered and labored under extreme difficulty, is maturity. Maturity - a solid, weighty Christianity as compared to the light weight faith of contemporary North American evangelicalism; this is the gift of the Puritans to us today. The middle of the chapter covers the several areas we can learn from these people who have gone before us. Packer expounds six themes: 1) An integration of their daily lives – seeing all of life as united in one purpose, the honoring of God with all that we are and do. 2) The quality of their spiritual experience – both theological and affective, head and heart, their joy was in God, and their mortification was at their sin. 3) Their passion for effective action – they felt it a Christian duty to reject idleness and laziness for a zeal for reform. 4) Their program of family stability – O for the devotion of the Puritan for “family order, courtesy and family worship” (Packer, 25) such are lost in our day of family entertainment, distraction, busyness in the name of activities. Packer’s cautious critique of the prayerlessness of evangelicalism was kind and gentle – the Puritans would be harder on us. Woe to us a prayerless people before the throne of God. 5) Their sense of human worth – each individual in the image of God – each individual racked and ruined by sin in great need of redemption. Though their view of human depravity is often reviled as pessimistic, their value of the human soul is great in contrast to today’s world saturated by Darwinian assumptions that declare us of little to no value beyond our so called social utility. And finally 6) An ideal for church renewal – and this flowing from reformed pastors, renewed to the calling of gospel ministry and prayerfully working for the good of his people. The final section of the chapter focused on how the Puritan view of life is fine medicine for the ails of our day. Packer lists three groups as candidate for reform under the pious pen’s of the Puritan pastors. The first he calls restless experientialists, those who “…have fallen victim to a form of worldliness, a man-centered, anti-rational individualism, which turns Christian life into a thrill-seeking ego-trip.” (Packer, 31). For such the Puritans offer God-centeredness, the primacy of the mind, a demand for steadfastness and humility, a recognition that feelings go up and down and that God tries us in times when we are emotionally downtrodden, worship as the primary purpose of all of life, the need for regular self-examination, and the great purposes of suffering to help his children grow in the faith (Packer, 31). Strong medicine for needy souls. The second group mentioned are entrenched intellectuals, those whose need for absolute intellectual perfection in all matters of doctrine cause them to be a bit like a cadaver at the wedding feast of the Lamb…or in the midst of the wine filled party with Jesus at Cana. To these the calling of the Puritans to holy affections, practical theological application, and to a zealous love affair with the living God are a potent elixir. The final group mentioned are the disaffected deviationists, here I could not help but thing “Emergent.” These are those who began as evangelicals but due to a plethora of reasons, have left hurt and/or angry. They are the haters and self proclaimed victims of the evangelical subculture. They see evangelism as intellectually infantile, trite, and even deceptive in its offer of the “good life” as defined by the pop prophets of evangelical blessing theology. To these the salve of the Puritans is a lofty and large, and yes mysterious God. To these is offered a God of redemptive love, which “converts, sanctifies, and ultimately glorifies sinners” (Packer 33). To these is offered the salvation of God, the truth of suffering, spiritual conflict and sorrow, and the protection of God amidst the dangers, toils and snares. Overall, this chapter was effective as a shameless plug. No shame in offering a counterview to all sorts of our goofiness today. My experiential focus, my entrenched intellectualism, and my self-righteous disaffectedness can all use some salve. I look forward to the read.