Almost any Dictionary of the English language will give you two definitions of the word Puritan.
The first should tell you that they were a group of English Christians in the late 16th and 17th Century who were convinced that the English Reformation was not effective enough and who wanted to bring about a true reformation, or restoration of the church along New Testament lines.
The second will say something like this (eg, the Oxford American Dictionary) ‘a person with censorious religious beliefs, especially about pleasure and sex’.
Censorious means ‘severely critical of others’ and is from the Latin ‘censor’, which meant, basically a judge (magistrate).
So that’s why there aren’t many Christians stepping forward and wanting to identify themselves as judgemental, severely critical, pleasure-denying ‘puritans’!
But, as with the generally undeserved negative feelings the word ‘Calvinist’ provokes, so we need to re-learn this word ‘puritan’, even though we know that ‘puritanical’ is probably past saving.
NB The Compact Oxford English Dictionary has ‘self-indulgence’ rather than ‘pleasure’, which is more accurate as the puritans were not against pleasure as such (deriving pleasure from the creation, pleasure in the presence of God etc) but they certainly were negative about self-indulgence.
English Puritanism is important in Christian history because of the wider influence the Puritans had on the church in many nations especially in relation to the massive revivals of the 18th century and the missionary outreach of the 19th century.
So we will take a brief look at these ‘restorationists’, these radical reformers, who wanted to purify the church of every unscriptural trapping and fancy and bring the word of God to the people of England.
Read more in ‘Puritans and a passion for Truth’
© 2009 Lex Loizides