“There are militant forms of pietism found in the polyester theology of fundamentalism. Here the emphasis is progressive morality. Or, on the other end of the pietistic spectrum, there are more popular and therapeutic forms. Anytime a sermon sounds like a self-help course and preacher sounds like a life-coach, you’re on this end of things. Despite the extreme and obvious differences in these two brands of pietism, they have one thing that binds them together; they are mainly concerned about how the individual lives. The fundamentalist wants to make sure you’re behaving. The pragmatist wants to make sure you’re flourishing. Different tones. Same focus—the life of the Christian.

Not long after the Reformation a tedious and drawn out theological debate occurred within German Lutheranism over many number of issues. Disputations, as they were known, were common practice among the clergy. The pulpit was more or less a scholar’s desk.The pendulum had swung in the direction of hyper-orthodoxy and away from the initial personal effects of the Reformation. The Christian life was largely unaddressed. This focus created a distance between the clergy and laity. It put the practical truths of Scripture out of the hands of ordinary people. The combination of these and other factors led to nominalism within the Church. People attended church because that’s what German Protestants do.

Many prominent leaders of the time bemoaned the condition of the Lutheran state church and sought to change it. The Church needed to recapture the vital spiritual experience of the individual. To accomplish this they began to introduce elements of medieval mysticism back into common Christian practice. They wanted to replace hyper-orthodoxy with inner spiritualism and an “applied Christianity.” This is the moment pietism was born. Pietism is by nature a reaction to the extremes of confessional theology and the Church’s negligence of spirituality. In the pietist’s eyes sacramentalism and confessionalism were to blame for the condition of the Church. As a result, the confessional standards of the Church were largely ignored. The pendulum was pushed back in the opposite direction. Individual experience rather than orthodoxy was the central focus of the pietists. Pietism, wherever it ends up, carries with it elements of quietism (Christian mysticism), legalism, and separatism. Our modern idea of “personal holiness” finds its origins here, as does our penchant for obsessive spirituality, our modern concepts of “devotions” and a “devotional life,” and our practice of spiritual disciplines. By contrast, we might say reformed confessionalism emphasizes the objective realities of the work of Christ, and pietism emphasize subjective experiences of the individual Christian. The theology of the Reformation pointed out to Christ .The theology of pietism pointed in to the Christian.”

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