Saturday, May 31, 2008

Puritan Misconceptions

The commonly held view of the Puritans is that they were humorless, backward, repressed religious fanatics & bigots with a bug up their log splitter.

The truth is that they were brave, extremely well-educated men & women who loved the arts and encouraged sexual satisfaction in marriage to the point that they dropped elbows on any husband or wife who denied their body to the other. Oh, and the leaders were frankly embarrassed by the Salem Witch trial and they NEVER burned anyone at the stake!
They were also abolitionists who founded Harvard and established the model that would become compulsory primary education for children--I'll forgive them for the train wreck that both of those latter two intuitions have become.

I was forced to read a few of the Puritan works in Seminary but viewed them through prejudiced eyes. Over the last six months I have come to greatly admire the great Puritan thinkers like John Owen, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan and, of course, the brilliant Jonathan Edwards. Compared to modern theologians like Walter Brueggemann, Greg Boyd or even N.T. Wright and Miroslav Volf (both of whom I admire), reading the great Puritan thinkers is like moving from the kiddie pool to the ocean. Do yourself a favor and check out the brilliant Puritan John Owen at for starters and then check back tomorrow for the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge.