The Puritans and Practical Theology

Posted: May 12, 2011 in books, preaching, puritans, quotes, theology

From J.I. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life:

[The Puritans were] physicians of the soul.  They valued God’s revealed truth for its healing power in sinners’ lives, and purely theoretical discussions seemed to them false to the true nature of theology… So theology is essentially a practical matter, and is best studied with a practical end directly – existentially, we might say – in view.

God’s revealed truth, they maintained, is for health-giving practice; therefore it is best studied in a practical way; therefore pastors must preach and teach in that way.  Gospel doctrine is to be obeyed; truth is to be, not just acknowledged, but done, in the sense of doing what it requires.  So the most biblical theologian will be the most practical theologian, and vice versa; and the preaching style, with practical applications and challenges at every turn, will be the most biblical manner of theologising. (64-65)

Packer sums the Puritans up nicely when he writes,

Those who see the Reformers as having given the church classical formulations of the doctrine of God’s saving grace should hail the Puritans as classical exponents, through their understanding of faith and conscience, of the application of that doctrine to human spiritual needs.  If the Reformers are classic theologians, then the Puritans are classic pastors and spiritual guides, as any who read them will soon find. (69)

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