Puritan III: Precise Piety and Experiential Theology

In the first episode of this short series, we looked at the historical context of the Puritans. Last week, we looked at the first two core values of the Puritans: 1) Sola Scriptura and 2) Personal Conversion. This week, John and Matthew explore the final two core values: 3) Precise Piety and 4) Experiential Theology.

If you’d like to learn more about the Puritans, check out our new film PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of God.

3) PRECISE PIETY

The Puritans saw the importance and beauty of the interiority of the Christian life. This is not miserable introspection, but rather the holiness of heart flowing out into holiness of life. It is not enough just to “do the right thing,” but to do the right thing out of love for Christ. Scripture is the guide for how to express and promote love to Christ. They used Scripture to fuel experiences and obedience, not feelings.

Religion without experience is empty. The Puritans would never have been happy with a person calling themselves a healthy Christian whose head was full of doctrine, but had no experience of those doctrines, nor a practical daily reality of those things. Neither would they be happy with someone who had experiences that did not flow from or remain in harmony with Scripture. There must be a face-to-face interaction with these Biblical truths.

“Vain is all our best devotion,

If on false foundations built;

True religion's more than notion,

Something must be known and felt.” 

—Joseph Hart

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). It’s wonderful that we don’t have to pick between concepts and experiences. The Lord will lead us down a path to where the two are married.

4) EXPERIENTIAL THEOLOGY

Finally, the Puritans believed in theologia cordis, or “a theology of the heart.” The mind is certainly involved in Christianity, but it goes beyond that and reaches the heart. The Puritans emphasized good theology, always coupled with a warm application. But they were not satisfied until these truths showed themselves in their lives. Evidences are a normal part of Christian life and experience. Christianity does not exist only in words and notions. There should also be a visible testimony of the goodness of God in a believer’s life. This does not mean we are perfectionists. A baby Christian is a baby Christian. But if there is no fruit, we should be careful to not give false assurance to anyone. It is a matter of love not only to Christ, but to the souls in front of us, to be willing to look for concrete evidence that the truths have actually taken root.

As John says, “We haven’t seen the last Puritan.” God has used the great truths of the Puritans in the lives of many people and they are still being reproduced and spread even in our day. Today we are seeing a resurgence of men and women gripped by the truths of the Scriptures. We pray that you, too, will be gripped and that these truths will be pressed out into every area of your life. 


For the last two weeks, we have highlighted two different sets of modernized Puritan works that we believe can serve as “on-ramps” to reading these old writers. This week we have another modern on-ramp in a film. We mention it a few times in the podcast because we are very proud of it and pray it will whet your appetite for Puritan books, commentaries, sermons, and biographies.

If you have not done so yet, check out Puritan: All of Life to the Glory of God. In this film, meet and hear the stories of men who were (and still are) profoundly used by God in His Church. Learn where they came from and how their faith is still making an impact on our families, culture, and world.

Resources:

Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

Great Ejection Sermons