By Jeff Ziegler
Published March 31, 2008
While evil is being codified at the highest levels of American government and carnal chaos erupts in our urban centers, the Church in America is undergoing a massive and historic paradigm shift, which despite her failings is positioning her as an agent for the inauguration of yet another great spiritual awakening along with the accompanying fruit of societal reformation.
This shift, which emphasizes a victorious ecclesiology and a biblically optimistic worldview, is nothing less than a renaissance of Puritanism, and is a common trend historically, especially in the embryonic stages of spiritual awakenings. Not only is the rise of Puritan thought a common “pre-awakening” occurrence, the great body of Puritan truths are essential to any biblical revival and reformation and thus should be welcomed and nurtured.
This sweeping Puritan resurgence is cutting a broad swath across the evangelical spectrum as a whole and its promotion is rapidly preparing the Church corporate in America as an agent for the most comprehensive societal reformation in this nation’s history. Indeed “neo-Puritanism” is having its greatest effect among those evangelicals who are involved in the revival prayer movement which has acted as something of a spiritual womb in incubating the first fruits in a “Golden Age” of strapping Christianity.
Of special note is the mounting momentum which Puritan thought is having among charismatic churches who have, in general, been intuitively covenantal in relationships and church polity and have had a subjective appreciation for the “Dominion Mandate.” This is a common thread in historic Puritan thought. Charismatics, who have had this unconscious and subjective appreciation for Puritanism, are now overcoming an inbred prejudice of American anti-intellectualism and are building in the objective theological moorings of Puritan thought. This will inevitably bring and unflagging and comprehensive worldview to their ranks an with it an historic Protestant orthodoxy which will shake the very foundations of the United States.
However, I must caution, this encouraging movement among evangelicals at large should not be viewed with a “Pollyanna” optimism. There exists, unfortunately, many entrenched strongholds of sin within the Church which must be vanquished in order to see genuine awakening. These fixed fortifications of iniquity will not fall easily, for sin has been theologically rationalized, codified and institutionalized by widespread antinomianism (or contempt for the moral law of God), pietistic monasticism (or fatalistic and private religion) and sentimental mysticism; with its inherently relativistic morality and emphasis on emotionalism as being superior to immutable biblical principle.
It is equally important to note that the existence of such evil should not cause us to have a “give up the ship” mentality. Our Sovereign Lord has ignited the engines of the Puritan juggernaut throughout history, often (from a human perspective) just in the nick of time. Thus we, the Lord’s elect knighted ones, cannot cower in hopelessness nor retreat to the bunkers of fatalism.
While each Puritan renaissance has its particular emphasis, there are elements which are common to each. The most common element is a distinctly reformed soteriology or theology of redemption. Historically, reformed soteriology is sometimes accepted wholly and at other times in degree depending on the depth and force of the particular Puritan resurgence in question.
A general explanation of such would entail an Augustinian-Calvinistic approach to the issues of salvation and sanctification. This could be defined in very simplistic terms by placing the majesty and supremacy of God over against man’s absolute total depravity. This “goodness and severity” principle is brought to the fore primarily through preaching, not only in an evangelistic sense, but also in the provoking of the saints to “run the race unto perfection.” Reformed soteriology and its application in revival preaching is the surest antidote to the antinomian, pietistic, sentimental, defeatist theology which has surrendered American society to hellish machinations.
Another elemental key to any resurgence of Puritanism is a victorious ecclesiology or a triumphant view of the purpose, function and doctrine of the Church. Such an optimistic view of the Church would see her as victorious in time and history and would emphasize a covenantal approach to Scripture as well as a covenantal model as a basis for relationships between individuals, churches and the state. This covenantal model could be thus summarized: “The God who created the universe reveals himself in history, lays down immutable fixed Biblical laws, brings predictable results, both blessings and sanctions in terms of these laws, and raises the elect to a place of victory in history.”
Some of the practical benefits of such a covenantal and conquering worldview will include actions by the Church which have not been evidenced since the days of the Scottish Covenanters and John Knox. There will be an increase of cooperative ecclesiastical actions such as functioning presbyteries, which will legislate God’s moral law over cities and regions through covenantal imprecatory prayer and public proclamations. Practical cooperation between ministers in covenantal relationships will be evidenced in such areas as church discipline, reformation think-tanks, ecclesiastical courts and the sharing of resources to accomplish goals.
Generally, an increase of Christian activism at the grass-roots level will be in evidence. Operation Rescue and the covenantal-prayer-proclamation movement are the first-fruits of this new Puritanism. Socially, one can expect great reaction and upheaval from both Church and society as the pluralistic moral relativists within the Church and the secularistic social Darwinists within the power structures of society rise in raucous denunciation of any movement which dares to proclaim and enforce the absolutes of God’s Law-Word. But such is the stuff of such “Puritan storms,” for revival, reformation and revolution are very close cousins indeed.
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