Puritans, Holism and the Emerging Church

One of the characteristics of the emerging church is the abolition of the sacred, secular divide and corresponding dualism that such an artificial and unbiblical distinction fosters in how followers of Jesus in postmodern culture live their lives. As Bolger and Gibbs put it, “For these communities, there are no nonspiritual domans of reality.”

As has been true with other renewal movements, this not a new perspective. While powerfully articulated at various junctures throughout the history of the Christian movement, one of the more interesting case studies of such holism is the English Puritan movement of the 16th and 17th century.

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LeLand Ryken calls them “…worldly saints – Christians with earth as their sphere of activity and with heaven as their ultimate hope.” Few in Christian history have lived out biblical holism as fervently where all of life belongs to the Lord and His kingdom rule permeates all.

For example, the Puritans believed in “two callings.” First was a general calling which was true for every follower of Christ. Such a calling focused on the biblical requirements of discipleship which were universal and lived out in community.

Secondly, however, was a particular calling, a vocation, dependent upon gifts and skills, which a person did to make a living.

The result of such practical integration of theology and life was that all work was considered holy. Both general and particular callings came from God and therefore the spiritual life was integrated fully into the warp and woof of everyday reality. Work was a “calling,” – a “vocation” – and therefore just as sacred as the requirements inherent in one’s general calling. And such work automatically involved the Puritans in fervently serving their fellow human beings. Theirs was a profoundly integrated paradigm.

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The result? It was as spiritual to clean out a stable or a latrine as it was to pray or read the bible. All was considered part of God’s calling and all was done under the Lordship of Christ. All were legitimate roles in Kingdom life where Jesus was head over all.

Ryken comments that “Such integration is one of the most attractive features of the Puritans. Their goal was an ordered and disciplined daily life that integrated personal piety, corporate life, every day work, and the worship of God.”
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Pictured above: Panel #1, L-R, Richad Baxter, most prominent English Puritan pastor, Oliver Cromwell, famed parlimentary political leader, John Owen, theologian.

Panel #2, John Bunyan, author of Pilgrims Progress, the most widely read Christan book next to the Bible which was penned during time in prison (next illustration), and John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, considered the greatest epic poem in the English language.

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