Primer on the Puritans

Theology Refresh: Podcast for Christian Leaders

He was the kind of adolescent who would keep secret reading material stashed under his mattress. Long after he was supposed to be fast asleep, the teenage Joel Beeke would lay in bed with the light still on, pouring over the pages. He had stumbled across his father’s forbidden collection, and long before most youths are exposed to the adult world, Beeke was getting acclimated.

By Beeke’s own admission, he was raised in a hyper-Calvinist home, and his wandering heart found a haven for indulgence. It was the Puritans.

These old English pastors and theologians, from the second half of the 16th century and the entirety of the 17th century, informed his mind, wooed his heart, and began guiding his life. He was only nine years old when he found the Puritans on his father’s shelf and began devouring the grace they exuded. Far from the staid and prudish caricatures we hear far too often, Beeke was finding the Puritans to be “the happiest group of people who ever lived on the face of the earth.”

Beeke now has been enjoying the Puritans for over 50 years, and he has authored, with Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology, the book he says he’d dreamed of writing as a teenager. He’s eager to help as many as he can “get a flavor for the incredible riches of their spirituality.”

In this new episode of Theology Refresh, we asked Beeke, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Puritans, to put them on the bottom shelf for us. This short interview is Puritanism 101 — a primer on the Puritans — not just for those who know them some, but especially for those who would ask, “So what’s the big deal anyway with the Puritans?”

is chancellor and professor of homiletics and systematic theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, Michigan.