“So how can we know what the Bible really says?” my classmate timidly asked at the end of a long lecture about interpretation. She was not playing the devil’s advocate, but was clearly discouraged by the fact that there seem to be many different and discordant ways of interpreting the Bible. Sometimes reading intense scholarly debates that dissect every tiny part of a passage, listening to sermons that use methods we don’t know how to use, or overhearing a friend joke about misapplying passages like Jeremiah 29:11 make us shrink back from Scripture. Continue reading “Encouragement for Bible Reading from Puritan Women”
In 1663 when Bunyan was cooped up in prison and expecting to be executed, he wrote a little conduct manual called Christian Behaviour. Though Bunyan’s fear of execution was based on a misunderstanding of the law, it was not unreasonable for him to be concerned for his well-being because the conditions in prison were horrible. If you were in the same situation, what would you write about?
This summer I had the privilege of taking Dr. Tom Schwanda’s class on Puritan Spirituality at Regent College. What struck me most about Dr. Schwanda was that it was obvious he really believed and practiced what he taught. Just like I’d never trust a hairdresser with bad hair and always pass by the makeup artists in the Bay with weird makeup, so am I suspicious of those who have a lot to say about the Christian life but don’t really seem like they’re striving to do it.
A couple of years ago at a conference in Vancouver, one of the speakers was asked in a Q&A session, “what are some of the greatest struggles facing North American Christians today?” I usually find these types of questions too broad or vague to be interesting, but because the speaker was my favourite theologian, J. I. Packer, my ears perked up.
In my previous article, I showed that the Puritans believed that loving all people was a hallmark of the Christian faith. Though some may be surprised that these summative and forceful statements came from the Puritans, many would not be surprised to hear that the greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. However, actually doing this in real life is hard. Continue reading ““The greatest honor…is to be like Jesus Christ, and to excel in charity”: Baxter’s List of Motivations and Practical Tips for Loving All People”
Probably the last thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the Puritans is a loving attitude towards all people. Many imagine the Puritans as obsessed with themselves as God’s people, and obsessed with God’s judgment against humanity at large. Though it is true that they believed in the doctrines of election and hell, they also believed that Christians had a duty to love all people, and this did not contradict the former, nor was it less important. In fact, one might argue that because of the Puritans’ highly developed views of God’s law and love they were able to speak of this command in a deep and meaningful way, rather than a shallow or vague way. Continue reading ““The law and glory of Christianity”: Loving All People According to the Puritans”
I started my first church history class with absolutely no understanding of church history. I was still trying to grasp the very basics of Christianity, nevermind the various expressions of Christianity over hundreds and hundreds of years. The only thing I remember from the lectures was finally grasping the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. When it came time to write my paper, I cried and agonized over it so much that I went to the school counsellor to ask if my frustrations were normal.