Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Disagreeing with the Puritans

I know, pretentious, right? The Puritans put us all to shame with their scholarship, their piety, and their seriousness about the scriptures. But, that doesn't mean they were without flaws, (who is). . and so I offer this critique:

I get the daily John Owen blast in my email. It's usually a great John Owen quote from his masterpiece, "On the Mortification of Sin in the Believer", a foundational work that was life-changing for me a few years ago. (no, Mortification is not just a questionable Christian band from the 80's).

Here's the quote from a few days ago:

Let us be in an expectation of such changes of providence, that they may not be great surprises unto us. When we are in peace, let us look for trouble; when we are at liberty, let us look for restraint; and when our children are about us, let us look for the removal of them; and be content to see all our comforts in their winding-sheet every day. It is impossible but our hearts will be too much upon them, unless we keep them in this frame.--John Owen

I used to subscribe to this philosophy, because I had a season with many "changes of providence" (i.e. crappy stuff. . come on puritans!!! :) ) .

And, there is wisdom here, of lowering the bar of expectation, and "not to be surprised" by various trials, as the book of James tells us.

But, this is not the way the whole of scripture tells us to interact with the various situations and relationships in our lives. I don't think it is helpful or biblical to walk around with a Chicken Little view on things like these. . like "it's going to go wrong. . better not get used to this good thing". My dad used to rebuke me for being sort of melancholy about things going well in life. I'd say things like "well, better get ready for something bad to happen". He was right to call that out.

I feel like Owen is encouraging us to look at life like this. We've been going through Ecclesiastes in our Young Adults Bible Study, and that book is full of encouragement to enjoy life, and enjoy the things God has given us. (pretty hard to do if when we're at peace we should be "looking for trouble", or "when our children are about us, let us look for the removal of them", yikes).

For sure, in America we are too attached to our stuff. No argument there. But, the solution to that is not to always expect the worst. We should hold loosely to things, and not worship/idolize them. But, that's different than expecting your children to be taken from you. We need a more fully-fleshed-out theology of Joy for the Christian today. It seems the only guys that are talking about Joy in God's gifts are spouting heresy about prosperity theology and wearing a shiny blue suit. Please.

We can and should enjoy God's good gifts, while enjoying the Giver most of all. We should not walk in fear or despair at possible struggles, but take them as also gifts from God's hand. We can enjoy our car while not expecting God to give us a new one if we have enough faith.

We shouldn't stare at our navel during the guitar solo!!! Know what I mean? Enjoy the guitar solo, . . jump off the riser! (sorry musician nerd reference)

Here's some encouragement from Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 8:15b. . . ". . for man has no good thing under the sun bot to eat and drink and be joyful. . . "

Ecclesiastes 9:7 "Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, . . . "

Ecclesiastes 9:9 "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of our vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun".

(that's all from one page of the bible. . . )

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