The Hermeneutics Of The Puritans -- By: Thomas D. Lea

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:2 (Jun 1996)
Article: The Hermeneutics Of The Puritans
Author: Thomas D. Lea

The Hermeneutics Of The Puritans

Thomas D. Lea**

What is a Baptist? The answer to that question will depend both on the type of Baptist one may be considering and also upon the place in time where one finds the Baptists. Seventh Day Baptists emphasize the seventh day as the time of worship. Particular Baptists in England were strongly Calvinistic in their doctrinal statements. Southern Baptists in America have emphasized financial cooperation as a means of fulfilling the great commission.

British Baptists have normally looked with favor upon participation in the ecumenical movement with other Christian groups. Southern Baptists have been critical and skeptical of ecumenical involvement.

Baptists in the American south have often dominated the culture of their communities. Baptists in Asia constitute a tiny minority. Baptists in America and in western Europe have normally faced little persecution. The vigorous spiritual life of Romanian Baptists has been molded by their poverty and persecution.

Walter Rauschenbusch, theologian of the social gospel, belonged to an American Baptist church. Nobel Prize winner Martin Luther King came from a Black Baptist background. Evangelist Billy Graham lives in North Carolina but belongs to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.

What is a Baptist? It all depends on the time in which you live and the group with which you worship.

I. What Is A Puritan?

What is a Puritan? Scholars struggle to define this virile religious movement. The term possesses an elastic meaning that has even been used to refer to some religious leaders of the twentieth century. Some would use the term Puritan to refer to John Wesley and the Methodists. Many would regard the nineteenth-century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon as a Puritan. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, late pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel, was styled by many as a twentieth-century Puritan.

Puritanism began as part of the Protestant Reformation in England. We cannot easily link its inception with a specific event or date. It appeared as an organized movement during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the 1560s. Its roots extended back into the early part of the 1500s and included fig-ures such as the Bible translator William Tyndale and later the Protestant

* Thomas Lea is professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 22000, Fort Worth, TX 76122–0088.

exiles who came to Europe under the persecution of Catholic Queen Mary (1553–58).

Puritanism began as a movement related to the Church. In 1559 Queen Elizabeth’s Act of Unif...

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