Friday, November 21, 2008

Young Restless and Reformed - A Puritan Love Affair

I know it has been a while since I commented on the book Young Restless and Reformed, but there is at least one more thing worth discussing. This book is filled with new and interesting ways to be “Reformed”. Whether it be Reformed Baptist, Reformed Independent, Reformed Charismatic, or Reformed Emergent, there is a place for you in this book. There was not a clear tie that binds in my opinion. If so the author did not make it clear enough. However, there was a deep appreciation and love for the Puritans in most of them. Jonathon Edwards is mentioned in every chapter including the Epilogue. Puritanism in general is mentioned in every chapter not counting the Epilogue, and it is mentioned twice as much as Protestantism in general. Obviously Collin Hansen defines Puritanism differently than I do. But, the question remains why the love of the Puritans? I am not saying the Puritans are bad. But, the Heidelberg Catechism is mentioned only twice. The Westminster Confession of faith only six times. Oliver Cromwell is mentioned more than Ulrich Zwingli. The only link between all of these reformed movements is the Puritans.

I have a theory as to why this might be. It is not because of how practical the Puritans might have been or anything good they might have done. It is because the Puritans were not a denomination, and only loosely a movement. Doctrinal distinctive did not exist. You could be a Baptist and a Puritan. You could be a Congregationalist and a Puritan. You could even support charismatic outbreaks and be a Puritan much like Jonathan Edwards did.

Let me expand my point. Edwards, Cromwell, and John Owen were all Congregationalists. John Bunyan was a Baptist. All of these guys are mentioned in the book. One could also add several Presbyterians and Anglicans to this list although they are not mentioned in this book. The point is to be a Puritan is not to be a member of anything other than a broad undefined movement. Church government is unimportant and the sacraments are unimportant. In fact the only thing that seems to be important is a Calvinistic view of salvation and a focus on Christian living. This is exactly what I would say seems to be the glue that connects the Young Restless and Reformed churches and pastors.

This brings me full circle. Is this really Reformed? Is it so important to meet the world where it is that we leave behind so many things, or as the Bible puts it ‘the meat’ of God’s Word? I am not saying that all of the churches in this book are doing that. By no means. I am simply saying that trying to make a connection between these many varied churches and theologies is a mistake. And if we want to put such an emphasis on the Puritans, we need to remember their shortcomings. After all the Puritans failed both in England and in America. An important fact to remember.