The Surprising Puritanism of Ann Voskamp

I remember well the day a displeased blogger made the indictment: Ann Voskamp had trespassed Christian boundaries by writing of her love for God in sensual terms.

There was a lot of back-and-forth, some declarations of "disgusting!", gasps of shock and groans of embarrassment. Some of those responses can still be seen over in the Amazon reviews of Ann's book.

No question, Ann had been... rather forthright. She spoke of consummation. Spirit skin on spirit skin. No self-respecting Puritan could accept such language. This must be the language of secular Enlightenment, or something like that, yes?

Let Chapter 3 of Ravished by Beauty set the record straight. Enlightenment thinkers were embarrassed by the Puritans. The Puritans, surprisingly (perhaps) spoke unabashedly of their relationship to God in sensual language.

While Puritans like Richard Sibbes looked "to consummated union as the ultimate goal of conversion," pastors like Thomas Shepard spoke in words that might have been stolen from Ann, "he makes love to thee... 'Tis fervent, vehement, earnest love...The Lord longs for this...pleads for this...Take thy soul to the Bride-chamber, there to be with him forever and ever..."

John Cotton said it this way, "It will inflame our hearts to kisse him again, if the kisse be from God." And Francis Rous, in a sermon on Isaiah 54:4-5, encouraged his listeners to "fasten on him, not thine eye only, but thy mightiest love, and hottest affection...that thou maist lust after him..."


Ann Voskamp seems almost tame in comparison.

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Blogger Nancy said...

Those crazy Puritans. Love it.

Blogger Maureen said...

When I was in college, I worked for a professor in the English Department. One of his projects involved a study of Puritanism, and my responsibility was to read and annotate on notecards my findings from primary source documents. I learned then just what a bad rap Puritans receive in our poor historical introductions in pre- and elementary school.

I've often found it surprising the surprise with which people respond to love expressed in so exalted terms. And then I ask, what could be more sensuous and beautiful than Song of Songs?

Blogger David Rupert said...

The Puritans got a bad rap. They needed some better PR. But really, Christian sensuality is the best kind. It's safe. Its secure. Its trusting.

When done right, It's the closest thing to heaven on earth.

I'm just saying :)

So glad "puritan ann' said what the rest of us were thinking

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I love this. I love that the Puritans were so . . . descriptive. Marriage is meant to be a picture of God and the Church, and I think that by pushing sexuality down (even in marriage), Christians through the ages have missed out on a lot of truth about the relationship God desires to have with us-- the same kind of tender, intimate, shameless relationship I have with my husband. :)

Blogger Dea said...

Eucharisteo --- I thank God for this post :)

Blogger Jessica said...

"Yada" in scripture is defined: "to know, to know (a person carnally)". The word Yada is used in Genesis when Adam is said to have "know" or "lay" with his wife Eve (Genesis 4:1). David uses the same word in one of my favorite verses: "Cease striving and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10).

What could be more pure than being KNOWN by the God of creation? No prudes here.


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