English Puritan Theology

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Christ the Center is pleased to welcome Rev. Dr. Mark Jones to the program to speak about puritan theology. With Joel Beeke, Mark has co-authored an exciting new book from Reformed Heritage Books titled A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. Mark is the minister of Faith Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Mark’s Ph.D. is from Leiden Universiteit (Oct. 2009) and his doctoral dissertation was entitled, “Why Heaven Kissed Earth: The Christology of the Puritan Reformed Orthodox theologian, Thomas Goodwin (1600–1680).” Join us for a stimulating discussion regarding several features of English Puritan theology.

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14 Responses to “English Puritan Theology”

  1. Steve says:

    What was the question that stumped Dr. Jones?

  2. Jason D says:

    Should do a Media Review show on Kingdom Through Covenant

  3. Concerning Vos/Owen, here’s what I said:

    Owen was more explicitly Christocentric than Vos. This is certainly not to say that Vos was not Christocentric. However, Owen’s Christocentricity was, simply, more explicit. This was seen in Owen’s exposition and paradigmatic utilization of Genesis 3:15, which were more in line with Reformed orthodoxy than Vos’, and Vos’ reluctance to interpret and apply Genesis 3:15 in a primarily messianic manner. Owen’s Christocentricity has been noted by others. For instance, Kelly M. Kapic sees Owen’s Christology shaping his anthropology and view of the Sabbath. He says of Owen’s view of the Sabbath:

    Although Owen views the Sabbath as a creation ordinance and not just as a shadow realized and done away with in Christ, his Christology shapes his doctrine of the Lord’s day, as it does with all his doctrine, and he argues that any theology of the Sabbath not centered on its Lord effectively denies the risen Christ.

    Richard Daniels adds that Owen’s “exegesis of the Old Testament demonstrates…that it is a Christ-centered book…” He adds later that Owen

    …relates the Christian system of doctrine to the person of Christ. That is, it is one thing to say Christian theology ought to be Christocentric, it is quite another to actually understand the entire spectrum of theological loci Christocentrically, or to articulate one’s theology in a way that manifests this Christocentricity. Owen does this, as we have observed with regard to the knowledge of God, creation, providence, the redemption of man, the mediatorial kingdom, the church, and the Christian life.

    Owen himself says, “He is the centre and circumference of all the lines of truth–that is, which is divine, spiritual, and supernatural.”

  4. Jason D says:

    Helpful context,… thanks!

  5. After having to defend the Puritans this week on a number of blogs due to a somewhat vitriolic rap song that has been put out called, Precious Puritans,
    http://www.joethorn.net/2012/09/24/precious-puritans-pt-1/, it was a pleasure to wash out my ears with this episode. This morning I just put the 9th chapter freshly narrated of John Owen’s Treatise on Indwelling Sin on my audiobook website. What is astounding is that his analysis on this issue alone would establish him as a first rank experimental theologian, but he had this amazing theological ability in so many other subjects as well. It is interesting to note that when Princeton formed in 1812, Alexander was its only professor until joined by Samuel Miller. How he did covering all of these subjects, we don’t seem to have a record. But I suppose this is something Owen could have done. Who could doubt that he could have taught Christology, the Covenants, the Doctrine of Man, the Trinity and so many other classes. And this is just one Puritan name. So many subjects could have been discussed. How about John Downame, William Gurnall and Richard Gilpin on the Christian Warfare? Or Solomon Stoddard, Thomas Shepard, Matthew Mead or Joseph Alleine at unmasking the close hypocrite? Or John Flavel, Thomas Goodwin, Isaac Ambrose and of course Owen on the doctrine of Christ? Stephen Charnock, William Bates, John Howe on the Doctrine of God? Where would the list end? These are just a list of the puritans I have narrated on the Mortification of Sin. Owen, Flavel, Manton, and Charnock and just discovered that Andrew Gray who died before his 23rd birthday preached on the subject as well. And all of this under persecution and in the case of Christopher Love who was hanged! By the way, Owen lost 10 children in infancy and an 11th at the age of 19 of consumption. NONE of his children survived and yet you won’t find a hint of this biographical note in his writings. As to who taught Amaraldianism, I suppose he forgot Richard Baxter. But Richard Baxter? Who could surpass him in zeal? Him and associate visited 16 families in the parish every Monday and Tuesday. Baxter wrote 120 books Cotton Mather was listed at 365 Bunyan at 66 – most of these from prison. Did you know that we would not have had Pilgrim’s Progress if John Owen had not promoted it and funded it? And yet Owen twice in his life said he would trade his learning for (1) to be able to preach like the Tinker from Bedford – stated to Charles II, and also to have some of his health restored from years of 4 hours sleep a night while he was studying. There I have rambled, but you drew it out of me. T M S – Jenison M I

  6. Gus Garcia says:

    Great program. I ask your opinion about a new song by a well known Christian rapper (well, better said, a rapper who is bible based?) that deals with his thoughts about the puritans and slavery. I did appreciate what I heard at the beginning of the podcast about the usage, ambiguity, or even abuse of the term “puritan”. The term as was said is not a comprehensive system of thought, which has me all the more interested in reading A Puritan Theology:Doctrine for Life. This is often an issue when talking with many of my friends, they will accuse me of pushing “a white man’s religion” or bring up issues like the one in the song. I’m often seen as a sellout because of my ethnic heritage (Hispanic/Latino), when promoting “ex-slave owners”. How do you deal with this issue? Below is the link to the song (I chose the one with lyrics to see it’s content). http://youtu.be/vb7Qmf9GwY0

  7. Mark J. says:

    There’s a lot to say re: “Precious Puritans”. And I’ve been strongly advised not to say anything, particularly given how charged the debate is right now. But it should be noted that Jonathan Edwards, and his contemporaries, were not Puritans. I love Edwards. But he was simply born too late to be called a Puritan. I date the end of Puritanism quite early (1662), but accept that 1689 is when it definitely ends.

    It is quite a stretch to lump together men like Goodwin (b. 1600) with men like Edwards (b. 1703), but that’s what many do, regrettably.

    MJ

  8. Gus, the words to the rap song says, Pastor, you know they (the Puritans) were chaplains on slave ships, right? It is interesting that there is not a lot of historical detail about these “ships” except that history tells us that three of these puritans who are most famous in New England sailed here in 1633 on a ship called, The James, doubtless named after the King of England. If you look up this ship even at http://www.wikipedia.org, it lists the cargo of this ship and there was nothing about slaves mentioned. So I don’t know who the author means since John Newton was neither a puritan nor a chaplain and was unconverted while on a slave trip. It is noted in Marsden’s work on Edwards that he had negro servants, but I am not aware of any other history of a puritan who had a slave. If there is such an evidence, bring it forward. A question I asked on another blog is “why is this debate being brought forward now?” I fellowshipped with dear black brethren, one 27 years ago, and we were discussing Owen’s work on the mortification of sin. The hypothetical character of a sensitive black brother sitting in the pew offended because the pastors quoted the puritans, such a character I haven’t met. I find it interesting that the generation that is trying to convince us that “rap” music is a meaningful, helpful, and powerful way to communicate theology, doctrine and worship is the same generation that is casting a new aspersion on the Puritans. Is the debate helpful when tensions between the races is already at a fevered pitch? But finally every time I hear the song I have to ask is the tone and the rhetoric the most helpful way to try to gain assent to one’s position? Could the artist not himself benefit by sitting at the feet of Jonathan Edwards and reading Charity and Its Fruits?

  9. David Morgan says:

    I enjoyed this very much, and look forward to reading the book. This isn’t a complaint, as you obviously couldn’t discuss everything, but I would have loved to have heard some discussion of the puritan views on church government (which I know is a topic discussed in the book).

    Since puritan works being available on google books was mentioned, I thought these two websites would be of interest to some:

    http://www.puritanlibrary.com/

    and

    http://www.prdl.org/

    Both link to documents available elsewhere (mostly internet archive and google books), and have proved to be helpful resources for me.

  10. Hermonta Godwin says:

    When will the book become available in kindle format?

  11. Gus Garcia says:

    Mr. Sullivan, sorry for a late response (college keeps me busy). I write to you because you said “Is the debate helpful when tensions between the races is already at a fevered pitch?” What do you propose to be a solution, to act as if racism through segregation even in the early founding of our Universities (then theological seminaries, ect.)? Please know that I harbor no resentment towards any brother in Christ for what an ancestor might have done, that is just nonsense. The reason I think these conversations are important is for theological reasons, to judge attitudes, and actions biblically. I don’t believe anyone is asking us to stop reading such and such because they owned slaves (in fact the blog you posted by Joe Thorn, Precious Puritans pt.#2, Propaganda states that is not his intention). Therefore, which Christian rapper (and reformed rappers at that, for most of them have a reformed understanding of the scriptures, at least the most doctrinally sound ones, Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Braille, ect.) did you hear that that “is casting a new aspersion on the Puritans?” I question that statements validity. Now sir you might not like rap, and that is fine but find a (just one) biblically sound rapper who is guilty of your accusation. I think Bob Dylan has a good point in The Times They Are A Changin’ “And don’t criticize what you can’t understand” and I might add, not just what we don’t understand but that which is just not our preference. I don’t mean any of what I am saying to rebuke you Mr. Sullivan (I don’t personally know you). There are two good articles (one from Scott R. Clark and the other from Thabiti Anyabwile) that acknowledge the racism of the past, that caution us against a romanticized view of our theological forefathers, do you deny that any of our theological forefathers were guilty of such atrocities, were they infallible? (http://heidelblog.net/2012/10/puritans-slavery-and-criticizing-heroes/) (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2012/10/02/the-puritans-are-not-that-precious/). My initial purpose was to pose another question. How do we understand such actions (not just limited to past theologians) in light of a chapter like the one I will post below. And yes I believe that Christ atonement pays for all of a persons sins, yet in bearing fruit (good works, or that which is a mark of a Christian, how do we biblically understand such actions with a persons profession of sound theology, faith without works). By the way, if you understood Propaganda’s main point to be about a black man being offended by a quote from a puritan or slavery bashing, you missed the point of his song. Again I would point you to the interview on JoeThorn.net with him, “The song was really designed to be a bait and switch. The indictment on the puritans is really a secondary point. They were not perfect in living out their theology. They had issues just like all of us. And I’m just as much guilty as them. The real point is the last line, ‘God uses crooked sticks to make straight lines.’ God uses us despite our depravity. That’s the main point…I’m guilty too!” With all respect and love, I seek your comments or advice. Here’s the passage, 1 John 4:1-21, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot [fn] love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

  12. After reading Dr. Ferguson’s foreword to the book, I now know where the question came from concerning me claiming Owen surpassed Vos as a biblical theologian. I think Dr. Ferguson meant no harm but what he says in the foreword is not what I argued for. In Ferguson’s endorsement for my book, he says, “…the author daringly asserts that Owen was a more Christocentric biblical theologian than Vos.” I did not catch that until just this morning. I did not claim Owen was a more Christocentric *biblical theologian*. I should have caught that years ago when I read his endorsement. Funny how these things happen.

  13. The book Nick was trying to think of is

    THE MUTE CHRISTIAN UNDER THE SMARTING ROD OF GOD by Thomas Brooks

    You can find it in Volume 1 of his works.

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I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. (Romans 16:17-18)

 
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