Tag Archives: Puritans

Revival in secular New England? Yes, even this is possible


Sporadically we hear rumors of religious revival on the college campuses of one of America’s most notoriously secular regions: New England. The Boston Globe published one such report of Ivy League revival in 2003 (as of today, Jan 29, 2010, the link still works, and the article is still fascinating). Shocking? Not really. It’s just the latest in a long line of campus revivals in the land of the Unitarian Brahmins. The Globe article gave me the excuse (like I really needed it) to look into the story of those revivals.

An exciting New England development today: the campus of D. L. Moody’s Northfield College has now been purchased for the C S Lewis Foundation–the group that owns Lewis’s home, the Kilns, in England, and runs a study center there. Soon, Moody’s old stomping grounds will host of a new “great books” college (check out the videos at that link) named after Lewis.

Can Anything Good Come Out of New England?
Evangelical revival in the land of the liberal Brahmins may not be as historically odd as we suppose.
Chris Armstrong

A recent article in the Boston Globe discerns a spiritual “New Day” in New England—a day in which evangelical Christianity has penetrated even the liberal fortress of Harvard and stands poised for a full-blown regional revival.

To some modern-day evangelicals this may seem a bizarre—if welcome—a piece of news. On a level with God’s bulletin to Jonah that Nineveh would at last be saved. New England, such skeptics would say, long ago slid into a spiritual funk that has got to have John Winthrop (of Puritan “City on a Hill” fame) rolling around in his grave.

Never mind the glory days of Jonathan Edwards and his Northampton, Massachusetts-based Great Awakening (see last week’s newsletter), the evangelical skeptic might say. In a time when Harvard Divinity School students eviscerate their Bibles and celebrate “Coming Out Day” to affirm their homosexual colleagues, this spiritual legacy is long buried. No, the Unitarians and other liberals have, the critic would say, definitively won the day in that erstwhile blessed region, and God has passed over the land of his chosen (Puritan) children, moving on to revive hearts where the prospects seem more promising. Continue reading

To spank or not to spank? Benedict of Nursia and the Westminster divines speak


Corporal punishment is both a family and a state issue, in a time when more kids than ever are being subjected to physical abuse by parents and caregivers. Five years ago some political developments led me to devote one of Christian History‘s “Behind the News” online newsletters to this touchy subject. After laying out the issue, I looked at what Benedict’s Rule and the Reformed Westminster Larger Catechism had to say that bears on physical modes of punishment:

To Spank or Not to Spank?
A 6th-century abbot and a group of 17th-century Calvinist divines weigh in on the issue
By Chris Armstrong

June 1, 2004

In the post-Benjamin Spock era, fewer parents than ever seem to be favoring spanking as a method of discipline. One website cites a drop from 59% of American parents in 1962 to 19% in 1993 who use spanking as their main disciplinary method. Though the same source reports that in 1994, “70% of America adults agreed that it is ‘sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking,'” it notes that in also in that year, the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse found that “only 49% of American adults had hit or spanked their child in the previous year.”

Spanking is nonetheless still, if not the primary disciplinary method of choice, at least a backup option for many American parents—especially among the conservative Christians. Continue reading

Resolutions Worth Keeping: The origins of New Years’ resolutions, and one famous list


Resolutions Worth Keeping
The origins of New Years’ resolutions, and one famous list
Chris Armstrong

Like other Christian festivals, the celebration of New Years Day in the West started before the church came into existence.

At first, the Romans celebrated the beginning of the new year on March 1, not January 1. Julius Caesar instituted New Year’s Day on January 1 to honor Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. The custom of “New Years resolutions” began in this earliest period, as the Romans made resolutions with a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others. Continue reading

Play me that hot Puritan love song


The Puritans had, ahem, robust attitudes toward sexuality (“They were not prudes. . . . They were intense lovers” says historian Harry Stout). The Bible’s R-rated book, the Song of Songs, was a favorite of theirs. I checked into this in a newsletter a while back:

Play Me That Hot Puritan Love Song
A little-read book of the Bible reminds us of the astonishing intimacy we enjoy with Christ
Chris Armstrong

If you grew up Jewish in a certain time, there was a forbidden fruit in your Bible. You knew this book was in there. You whispered about it with your friends. You probably snuck a peek when you were sure dad and Rabbi weren’t looking. It was as canonical as any other book. In fact Rabbi Akiba had said, “If all the sacred writings are holy,” then this one was “the holy of holies” (Mishnah, Yadayim 3:5). But you wouldn’t be allowed to read it out in the open (some sources say) until your thirtieth birthday. Continue reading