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Puritan Spirituality and Evangelical Spirituality: Are They Different?

July 1, 2010

Throughout the history of the Christian church various types of spirituality have flourished, such as patristic, medieval, Reformed, Puritan, and Evangelical spiritualities.[1] This review article will focus on both the Puritan and the Evangelical spiritualities by examining the following two books: The Devoted Life edited by Kelly Kapic and Randall Gleason and Evangelical Spirituality by James Gordon. The former represents Puritan piety, whereas the latter, Evangelical spirituality.[2] Before comparing these two spiritualities, it is important, first, to define the term spirituality.

 

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[1] Joel Beeke, in his book Puritan Reformed Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2004), approaches Reformed and Puritan spiritualities as single entity. Others, however, treat these two kinds of spirituality separately. For example, see Frank C. Senn’s “Reformed Spirituality” and E. Glenn Hinson’s “Puritan Spirituality,” in Protestant Spiritual Traditions, ed. Frank C. Senn (New York: Paulist Press, 1986). John R. Tyson, editor of Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), divides his study of Christian Spirituality historically under five categories: (1) the ancient church; (2) the medieval era; (3) the reformation era; (4) modern spirituality; and (5) contemporary spirituality. It is under this fourth category that he places Puritan (in the person of Jonathan Edwards) and Evangelical (in the persons of the Wesley brothers) spiritualities together. This hints that these two types of spirituality have commonality.

[2] As to the terms “piety” and “spirituality,” Jerald C. Brauer notes that “Piety is the term that best expresses Puritan religiousness. Spirituality was a term seldom employed by Puritans, and when used it never referred to their essential religiousness.” Jerald C. Brauer, “Types of Piety,” Church History 56 (1987): 39. In this present study, however, I will refer to these two terms interchangeably.

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