A major publishing event has recently taken place. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life is a large-scale work by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. In 60 chapters, it summarises Puritan teaching on Christian truth, from principles for Biblical interpretation to ‘theology in practice’.
Beeke and Jones were recently asked to highlight those aspects of Puritan teaching that might be most helpful for today’s church. They mentioned the following:-
- The glory of God. Many of the problems in the contemporary church arise from our losing sight of God’s glory. The Puritans help us to regain a sense of the majesty of God.
- The centrality of Christ. The Puritans constantly point us to Christ, not only as teacher and example, but also as Priest and King. They help us to turn the focus away from ourselves and onto our Lord and Saviour.
- The evil of sin. They took very seriously the horror and evil of sin as rebellion against a righteous and loving God. We can take a very superficial view of sin. The Puritans call us to humility and repentance.
- The necessity of personal sacrifice. The Puritans were in earnest about their worship and their witness. Some, like Thomas Goodwin, gave up good prospects of advancement in order to serve God with a clear conscience.
There are a few areas where the Puritans are less helpful to us These include:-
- Eschatology. Those who thought that the teaching of the book of Revelation was unfolding before their eyes seem to have got it quite wrong.
- Apologetics. The Puritans were speaking and writing to people with different assumptions and presuppositions, compared with those to whom we seek to witness today. They do not help us directly in dealing with Marxism, scientific naturalism, or liberal feminism, for example.
- Political liberty and equality. These concepts, which we hold so dear, had not yet matured in the time of the Puritans. Sensitivity to racism and sexism had simply not developed in the common mind as it has today.