We Can Learn a Great Deal about Suffering from the Puritans

Written by Mark Farnham

On February 19, 2018

spilled milk

It’s not that we shouldn’t talk about our suffering, but we should stop expecting that we won’t have any and should also not dilute the term with our petty inconveniences. Carl Trueman explains:

First, the Puritans lived in a time before the discovery of antibiotics, analgesics and flush toilets.  Disease and pain and filth were thus part of everyday life.  A good day. a really good day, for a seventeenth century person would have involved something akin to a low-level fever which today would involve time off work.  A bad day would be… Well, best not to dwell on that if you want to sleep at night.   Read Samuel Pepys’s account of his bladder stone operation if you are truly curious.

Second, with catastrophically high infant mortality rates, scarcely a family would have been untouched by something that today would be regarded as exceptional and horrific.  John Owen buried all eleven of his children.  Imagine that.  And in all his voluminous writings, he never mentions these tragedies even once…

But did they have a theology of suffering? Well, few of them dwelt on their suffering in their writings so not really, no.  Not explicitly so anyway.  But implicitly even this silence indicated that yes, they did have a theology of suffering.  It was a theology that denied cosmic significance to the pain and injustice which they personally endured.   They simply did not consider themselves or their experiences to be that important.

Read the whole thing here: Did the Puritans Understand Suffering?.

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