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1.27.2015

How to distinguish Puritans

There is some confusion among Reformed academics - theologians and church historians - as to how to define who was and who wasn't a Puritan and whether there was any such thing as Puritans at all to begin with (some actually wonder this).

I see it this way: my observation that there is an academic approach to the faith and a spiritual warfare approach plays into this problem they have. The academic types can't see the spiritual warfare types or their approach.

The Puritans are defined as Reformed (Calvinist) believers who took (take) a spiritual warfare approach to the faith. This is why they are seen as practical and "reducing to practice" the Christian faith; because when you take a spiritual warfare approach you are like a soldier on a battlefield (the spiritual battlefield), and there is no more practical individual or group of individuals than a soldier on a battlefield. They need real things, no arguments. And doctrine becomes the real armor of God. They don't care that real doctrine is "hard" or insults their fallen nature. They are on a battlefield facing real enemies. They don't care if some people's feelings are getting hurt by the existence of real unwatered-down doctrine, that is what they need to survive.

The Puritans (then and today) understood regeneration and how it puts one on a real spiritual battlefield; and how doctrine becomes real armor of God.

People who take an academic approach to the faith - God bless them, we all benefit from their work (some of their work anyway) - can't see the seriousness or even reality of the spiritual battlefield and what soldiers on that battlefield need, hence they have difficultly even seeing those soldiers or sometimes even admitting they exist at all.

Another difference between Puritans and other Reformed types is Puritans tended to be outside the Establishment of their time. In fact they were often fleeing the law and even their home countries.

When John Owen met John Bunyan we saw the two types together; and notice who it was who admired the other with more respect and awe. If you don't know it was John Owen who expressed his respect for John Bunyan, and you can feel that in the anecdote as it's come down to us. Owen may actually have been more Puritan than his position allowed him to be. Gurnall would be another who felt the tension of being a Puritan by type yet who hadn't crossed the divide from Establishment to outsider during his life and career.

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