An Interview with Roger D. Duke about his co-edited book Venture All for God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 194 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As an admirer of John Bunyan, I am pleased to see a new book on Bunyan that especially highlights his spirituality.

Here are some of my questions for you about your co-edited work:

 

  1. The book focuses on the piety of Bunyan. What do you exactly mean by the word piety, especially since the term is rarely used today? Is this term different from the word spirituality? Also, what is central to Bunyan’s piety?    

Piety– We mean by piety, something very similar to the Free Merriam-Webster (online) Dictionary meanings: 1) The quality or state of being pious: a) fidelity to natural obligations (as to religions or God), b) dutifulness in religion, i.e. devotion to a religion or religious ideals, 2) an act of inspired by piety, 3) a conventional belief or standard such as orthodoxy.

Truly it is our belief that Bunyan was an orthodox Christian who was a totally devoted follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the main purposes of our contribution to this Reformation Heritage Books series was the belief that Bunyan was one who demonstrated true piety towards God because of persecution in such a politically turbulent time. This is demonstrated by the extracted works in the second half of the volume.

Spirituality-Please allow me an anecdotal observation on this concept of spirituality. I have been in the classroom teaching World Religions for about fourteen years. There is spirituality in all of the major world religions. That is, there is a sense that most devotees have a sense of the “other” or the “divine” or a sense in which there is a spiritual realm or world beyond ours.

What I talk about in my classes, for I teach classes with person from all of the world religions in them, is that we are all spiritual.  We have a sense that there is a higher and better in humanity than the animal kingdom. This entire discussion is “teased out” under the Image of God Christian concept. Then I bring to the discussion that we are all made intrinsically to worship. And that we all do worship something or someone. But generally the object of our affection ends up looking like us, or something that can be seen with the eyes, or fashioned with our hands, or can be held in our hands. There is a sense in which “spirituality” has seen a recent revival. But it is not a Christian spirituality. This small Bunyan contribution, we believe, speaks to that.

What is central to Bunyan’s piety: Here I am speaking for myself alone. It seems to me that Bunyan was overwhelmingly concerned with being “right with God” and then “having an assurance” of that right standing with God. When one does just a cursory reading of his Grace Abounding this is so very easily seen. Secondly, the persecution of the non-conformist of his day put him in a position where he had to decide personally whether or not to pay the price for his convictions even to the point of spending years in imprison. This time of persecution defined and deepened, from my perspective, his deeply pious commitment to Christ and to preach his Gospel at whatever it might cost him.

 

Note: Roger D. Duke, a professor at Union University, would like to inform his readers that his answers do not necessarily speak for his co-editor Dr. Phil A. Newton.

To continue reading the interview, click here.

 

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“A Holy Life”: Bunyan’s Theology of Piety

The Puritans are well-known for their strong emphasis on purity both in doctrine and in practice. In fact, this very emphasis is obviously one reason why they have been labeled puritans. In chapter one, a case was made that on the ground of this same emphasis, Bunyan can be deservedly regarded as a Puritan. Bunyan undeniably held the essence of Puritanism which may be described in two words: God (doctrine) and godliness (practice). The Puritans believe that right doctrine of God prompts holy practice, and that the practice of holiness becomes only superficial when it does not emanate from the proper knowledge of God.

Charles Hambrick-Stowe contends that ‘“at its heart… Puritanism was a devotional movement, rooted in religious experience, and that ‘the rise of Puritanism and the settlement of New England ought to be understood as a significant episode in the ongoing history of Christian spirituality.”’[1] This reinforces the importance of reading Bunyan in light of his spirituality.

Bunyan’s pursuit in all of life—especially in preaching and in writing—was personal piety. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he made every effort to “be a pattern, and example of piety.”  From Bunyan’s own testimony:


[1] Cited in Dewey D. Wallace, Introduction to The Spirituality of the Later English Puritans: An Anthology (Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1987), xi.

 

Note: This article is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Brian G. Najapfour, “‘The Very Heart of Prayer’: Reclaiming John Bunyan’s Spirituality.” Th.M. thesis, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009. Click here to continue reading the article.

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Puritan Spirituality and Evangelical Spirituality: Are They Different?

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.

 

Click here to read my entire essay.


[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.

Evangelical Evangelical Spirituality Piety Puritan piety Revival Spirituality