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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Why We Need the Puritans: The Quest for Maturity

The Puritans, by contrast to a scattered and immature church, were spiritual giants. They were great souls serving a great God. In them clear-headed passion and warm-hearted compassion combined. Visionary and practical, idealistic and realistic too, goal-oriented and methodical, they were great believers, great doers, and great sufferers. But their sufferings, both sides of the ocean (in old England from the authorities and in New England from the elements), seasoned and ripened them till they gained a stature that was nothing short of heroic. Ease and luxury, such as our affluence brings us today, do not make for maturity; hardship and struggle do, and the Puritans’ battles against the spiritual and climatic wildernesses in which God set them produced a virility of character, undaunted and unsinkable, rising above discouragement and fears, for which the true precedents and models are men like Moses, and Nehemiah, Peter after Pentecost, and the apostle Paul. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why We Need the Puritans

I recently had a discussion with a friend about the use of images in worship. For example, I have an icon of Jesus in my room; it has "spoken" to me about who God is and it reminds me about Jesus. I don't, however, bow down to it, kiss it, talk to it, or venerate it in any way. But even the use of Christian art for contemplation or meditation is offensive to many evangelicals for good reason: the historic use of images in most of the Church's history has bordered on idolatry, and in many places has entered into that realm, bringing no doubt God's judgment on those who claim to be His followers but unabashedly break the second commandment. 

One of my favorite theologians is J.I. Packer, whose classic, Knowing God, is still read by thousands today after almost fifty years. Mr. Packer is still alive; he's an Anglican and has worked in England as part of the Church for many decades. He's decidedly low-church and evangelical, championing the cause of conservative, Word-centered Christianity in England and in the world. His view of images, which is tolerated by some in Anglicanism, is not that their use is wrong (after all, God commanded artistic representations to be created in the Temple) but that it is unnecessary and ultimately unwise, considering human's propensity to turn objects into idols. I respect him immensely as a writer, a pastor, and a scholar and his use of the word "unwise" as opposed to "wrong" shows a clear desire to be gracious yet clear. Ultimately it's up to an individual's conscience, for only an individual can know whether a piece of religious art, used for contemplation and inspiration, is becoming the central focus of their worship.

This kind of debate between what's necessary to the Christian faith and what's peripheral or perhaps detrimental has been going on in the Church for centuries. In comes the Puritan.

"Yup. You need me."

Thursday, October 23, 2014



It's been three months since writing DandleBlog. I came close to doing away with it; I felt my life was taking another turn. Turns out the turn is still somewhere up ahead. The past three months have been something of a whirlwind. I've considered possibilities in new relationships, romance, careers, ministry, and even churches. There have been mostly disappointments along the way, or unresolved opportunities, possible moves that didn't turn out as I'd wanted them to. There were searches for "signs" from God that remain just that: searches, as I keep hobbling on to the next signpost. I'm trying to get comfortable with not knowing things and living with undisclosed answers, but it's disappointment, what I call the dead things in life, that still pack a hard punch. Hard as they are to bear, I'm trying to believe they will fertilize my future victories.