I have for many years appreciated the Puritans for their sound exposition of the Scriptures and their keen application of biblical truth to the lives/souls of individuals. In fact, I will often explain that pastors are “soul doctors,” an expression I picked up from the Puritans.
Tim Keller wrote an article a number of years ago about how the Puritans have served as an invaluable resource for his own biblical counseling. His six reasons are the following:
- The Puritans were committed to the functional authority of the Scripture. For them it was the comprehensive manual for dealing with all problems of the heart.
- The Puritans developed a sophisticated and sensitive system of diagnosis for personal problems, distinguishing a variety of physical, spiritual, tempermental and demonic causes.
- The Puritans developed a remarkable balance in their treatment because they were not invested in any one ‘personality theory’ other than biblical teaching about the heart.
- The Puritans were realistic about difficulties of the Christian life, especially conflicts with remaining, indwelling sin.
- The Puritans looked not just at behavior but at underlying root motives and desires. Man is a worshipper; all problems grow out of ‘sinful imagination’ or idol manufacturing.
- The Puritans considered the essential spiritual remedy to be belief in the gospel, used in both repentance and the development of proper self-understanding.
Cf. Tim Keller, “Puritan Resources for Biblical Counseling,” The Journal of Pastoral Practice 9/3 (1988): 11-44. (The journal is now named The Journal for Biblical Counseling.)