Reformed Orthodoxy In Britain -- By: Carl R. Trueman

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 14:4 (Winter 2010)
Article: Reformed Orthodoxy In Britain
Author: Carl R. Trueman

Reformed Orthodoxy In Britain

Carl R. Trueman


“Puritanism,” like so many “isms” throughout history, has proved very difficult to define, and I am aware that no definitive solution will be found in this essay. Thus, what I offer here is a brief theological and ecclesiastical history of the twin poles that are, with different degrees of emphasis, often seen as constitutive of the Puritan identity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: religious experience, which separates the true believer from one with only an intellectual faith; and the development of Reformed Orthodoxy, particularly as it played out in the ecclesiological struggles in England during this time. Indeed, the key theological debates in Britain at the time, at least as they impacted on the wider history of England Scotland, and Ireland, tended on the whole to address matters of church and state, and the nature of liturgical reform, rather than the kind of issues which we see, for example, in Dutch church history of the time. Thus, while British theologians did produce a vast amount of literature on classical theological themes, such as the doctrine of scripture, God, Christology, and predestination, much of the focus of public debate was on differences in polity and liturgy between Erastians, Presbyterians and Independents. Historians have tended to focus on these matters of being of primary interest.1 Thus, Puritan studies, a field where perhaps one might have expected more of a theological concern, has been dominated on the whole by those whose interests are more with the sociology and psychology of the movement(s) than with its doctrinal contribution.2

The last twenty years have, however, witnessed the growth in interest among academics in the theological writings of Britain during this time. In part, this is clearly the result of the impact of the wider growth in this area fuelled by the scholarly contributions of Richard A. Muller to the broader field of post-Reformation theological studies, contributions which specifically integrate discussions of British theologians such as Samuel Rutherford, James Ussher, John Owen, and Edward Leigh (among many others) into the wider treatment of

continental reformed Orthodoxy.3

In the wake of Muller’s work, a number of writers have either pursued historical theological studies of English and Scottish figures which seek to apply his insights to specific English figures or debates, or have sought to integrate sensitivity to issues of historical theology with the more tradit...

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