The Puritan Family Resemblance

Dr. Randall J. Pederson offers a helpful method for resolving the perennial challenge of defining Puritanism. Pederson suggests that Wittgenstein’s concept of familienähnlichkeit (family resemblance) provides a perspective “that within seventeenth-century English Puritanism there is a unitas and a diversitas that, when considered together, suggest a unitas in diversitate that warrants the use of the term ‘Puritanism,’ in the singular, and is preferable to more deconstructionist notions of Puritanisms, which would seem to undermine confessional sensibilities of most Puritans.” Dr. Pederson’s dissertation, Unity in Diversity: English Puritans and the Puritan Reformation, 1603–1689, will soon be published by Brill. A summary and title page are currently available from the University of Leiden, who will release the dissertation from embargo in May 2015. Dr. Pederson is managing editor of The Westminster Theological Journal, the co-editor of Meet the Puritans, and the editor of Daily Readings: The Puritans.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Don Speedy

6 years ago

What a great discussion, which can help pastors and theologians understand the unity and the diversity within the seventeenth century puritan movement. Thanks for the discussion. It was extremely helpful.


6 years ago

It seems to me that two of the ‘issues’ exist on a continuum of sorts. Neonomianism Antinomianism. Then there would be two more, corresponding to the other two issues:
Mysticism ‘Institutionalism’
Precisianism ‘Latitudinarianism’
So, the taxonomy would seem to revolve around these 3 continua.

Ian Clary (@ianclary)

6 years ago

Great discussion. I’ve long been interested in this subject. I wrote on how to define puritanism in the Puritan Reformed Journal, though Dr. Pederson’s work is much more sophisticated! http://www.academia.edu/291795/Hot_Protestants_A_Taxonomy_of_English_Puritanism

Richard Snoddy

5 years ago

Great episode. Looking forward to reading the book.



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