A Thanksgiving Reflection on the Puritan Worldview

by Nate Sala

As I reflect on Thanksgiving and its Puritanical influence, I cannot help but wax sentimental about the Puritans themselves. These men and women were dedicated to developing a culturally contradistinctive lifestyle in line with biblical teaching that extended not just to Sunday morning services or “holy days” but to every single aspect of their lives. They were a people, as George McKenna describes, that, “shared a strong emphasis upon reform, which meant not only changing people’s personal habits but changing institutions and practices they regarded as sinful.”[1] Their particular vision of all-encompassing Christian living entailed reforms with regard to improving the treatment of prisoners, vindicating the rights of American Indians, and abolishing slavery.[2]

I believe contemporary American Christians, as we scan the current cultural/political landscape, would benefit greatly from remembering some of the practical aspects of the Puritan worldview. Here are six facets of their worldview to contemplate this Thanksgiving (excerpts taken from A Puritan Theology by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones):

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Facet 1: Biblical Outlook

“The Puritans urged people to become Word-centered in faith and practice. They regarded the Bible as an authoritative and trustworthy guide for testing religious truth, for guidance in matters of morality, for determining the form of the church’s worship and government, and for help in every kind of spiritual trial. ‘We should set the Word of God always before us like a rule, and believe nothing but that which it teacheth, love nothing but that which it prescribeth, hate nothing but that which it forbiddeth, do nothing but that which it commandeth,’ said Henry Smith (1560-1591) to his congregation. And John Flavel (1628-1691) wrote, ‘The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.’”[3]

Facet 2: Pietest Outlook

“William Ames (1576-1633), a renowned Puritan who authored a classic book titled The Marrow of Theology, defined theology as ‘the doctrine or teaching [doctrina] of living to God.’ For Ames, theology was a divine-human encounter that is not merely speculative but culminates in a practical end—the alignment of the human will with the will of a holy God. Ames went on to say that everything in the study of theology is related to practical godly living…

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