As many of you know, Sarah and I just took a mini-vacation to Boston. I admit, we are history geeks, and that was the purpose of the vacation, plus I’ve always had this unexplainable heart and love for the North East, even though the furthest I’ve been has been NYC. Sarah and I started our journey in Boston following the Freedom Trail which included lunch at the Union Oyster House, this was all followed by touring Rose Nichols’ House, Harvard, and Sam Adam’s Brewery. So the vacation in and of itself was great, but there is a problem when your a church planter and a lover of the big city. That problem is, when you go into a city, that you have a weird love for, you can’t look at the city as a tourist, but rather through apostolic eyes. Mix that with three different reads I had going on: The Open Secret, Christianities Dangerous Idea, and lastly in my layover in Chicago, an article that mentioned that as of 2007 and before the North West was the greatest mission field in the US, but as of 2008 the North East was now the greatest mission field in the US. All of this, plus God allowing your mind to perceive this city differently, through spiritual eyes, to see the spiritual emptiness or darkness that is very present…
What’s going on? Why is this place so dark? What makes this place so different? The point with the NorthWest was supposed to be that it is unchurched, that the gospel never really penetrated it, but the NorthEast is the opposite. It was the entry point for Puritanism and protestantism. Everything in this part of the country had this Puritan belief system at it foundation, and as its motivation. As we took these tours, visited these old churches, the one thing you couldn’t escape was the involvement and leadership of the puritans. Heck, the Puritan’s love for education is the reason for Harvard. The Puritans were more addicted to education than they were the Holy Spirit himself. For being a people built on the doctrine of grace, they sure expressed it very poorly. For a people who supposedly believed that it was really the transformation of the Holy Spirit that changed a person, they sure demanded works and perfection. We cannot deny all that Puritanism did, however with the re-emergence of Puritanism we cannot ignore all they left in their wake. When we now look back at the North East, Wittenberg, Geneva, and Vienna we have to ask did, “the Puritans not learn from the power Constantine gave the Church. Did they idolize power and education so much that created an environment that would later reject their religion with such relentless hate that it could not be undone?”
Some would say, well, Catholicism came in with the Italians and Irish, and therefore it overtook Puritanism! Well, if that’s the case, it is even more damning against puritanism, because if it was so right, so God ordained, and so powerful, how could Catholicism become the religion of the NorthEast? Is the NorthEast really the result of the type of Puritanism that invaded and ruled the colonies? After all, the education they so idolized is still very present, but this area of the country has become too educated to need the Puritan’s God anymore.
Time magazine has recently released an article about the 10 Ideas Changing Our World, and New Calvinism is number three! Those of us who are bent towards Reformed Theology would say, “well, we are different.” But, I have to ask, “are we?” Are we not also seeing a rise in the idolizing of education? Are we not seeing a new respect (to a weird level) for the very Puritans that left in their wake the most spiritually depraved areas of our nation?
I say that to say, what can we learn from the past? Is it not obvious what this ostracizing puritanism leads to? So, how do we move forward? How do we learn from the past? Is there a movement that falls between the two extremes, that literally believes in God’s sovereignty? Is reviving an old Puritanism that has resulted in our current state, really the wise thing to do? Can we look globally and see that on a church level it is Pentecostalism and Catholicism that is changing third world countries, which happens to be full of the very poor, marginalized, and oppressed that Christ talks so much about? Is God doing a grand balancing act for His glory and the salvation of many?
Can we appreciate John Piper’s honesty and humility in this video?
If you want to read more of the good and negative results of the Protestant Puritanism then please read – Christianities Dangerous Idea.
Let us move on in faith, but let us not be so willing to reproduce a Christianity that idolizes not God, but power, education (which I’m not against by the way), and moralistic deism …
A Confused Reformed Guy…