Thursday, May 11, 2006

Life After Neo-Puritanism

In recent articles, John Armstrong has commented on his journey in Biblical understanding. The first article can be found here, and the second article in the series is here. Here is a quote from the second article.
"I previously described (May 1 ACT 3 Weekly) how I have slowly moved away from my separatist and sectarian neo-Puritanism over the last twenty years. My movement has not been without profound struggles. Most of these struggles have not been within me, for there I have thrived and grown as I leaned into an assurance of faith that is still deeply rooted in Christ alone. No, my struggles have been with misunderstanding and misrepresentation in the minds of confused people who have heard all kinds of stories about me and my beliefs..."

My first acquaintance with John Armstrong goes back to his "Neo-Puritan" phase. At that time I was involved in a "Neo-Puritan" church and movement. John had come into contact with the pastor of that church, and there had been some correspondence and so forth. I may be a little foggy on some of the facts, but I have it in my head that John came to visit our church, and our pastor had visited his church in Wheaton.

It seemed like only a few years latter news came that John Armstrong had "left the fold". Like many others who did not cross all the "t"'s and dot all the "i"s of that "Neo-Puritan" church and the "Neo-Puritan" movement it was a part of, John Armstrong became "persona non grata". If his name was spoken at all, it was in that tone of voice that reminded you that the only thing worse then the devil himself is an "apostate". OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the tone of voice was un-mistakable.

It took me another 20 years to realize John Armstrong, along with many others, was right in his evaluation of the "Neo-Puritan" movement, at least the part of it I had been associated with. I too have found out there is life after "Neo-Puritanism".

Neo-Puritanism by definition is scholastic. The danger of a scholastic emphasis is that the scholasticism tends to get in the way of the Word of God. You have people who can quote the Puritan writers from memory, but you wonder if they give equal time to the Scriptures. Puritan confessional standards tend to be quoted in a way that sets them on an equal par with Scripture.

The original Puritan movement was far from perfect, and there was a lot more diversity in the spectrum of that movement then some of our Neo-Puritan friends acknowledge. The New England Puritan movement in particular was not able to keep itself from descending into Unitarianism and a splintered sectarianism.

I'm am NOT saying we can not learn things from the Puritans. I am saying they did not have all the answers as some in the Neo-Puritan movement would have us think. The Puritan writers were not above the Bible, and there is a whole lot the Christian Church has learned in the last 400 years since their time. Yes friends, there is life after "Neo-Puritanism".

Semper Reformanda!

~ The Billy Goat ~

PS: Another related article I wrote a while back can be found here.