The Pietist Story: Part One

Greetings readers, it has been some time since I posted to this blog. However, I have hardly stopped writing. In fact I am writing more than ever before as I am currently in the process of writing my doctoral dissertation. Despite the heavy load of doctoral work I have no intentions of abandoning this blog. In fact, my research has motivated me to write all the more. After much prayer and reflection, I have decided to write a series on “Pietism” which has been my primary research focus over the last 3 years. For those unfamiliar with Pietism, this movement is perhaps the most significant renewal movement to ever be born out of Protestant Christianity. Despite this, many Christians are largely unaware of it.

Pietism was a Protestant Renewal movement that thrived within German Lutheranism during the 1600s and 1700s. Although many Pietists were Lutherans, the movement also included many Reformed and Anglican Christians as well. Pietists emphasized the study of scripture in private and in small groups. They also deeply valued the spiritual life and one’s personal connection to God. Furthermore, while most Pietists valued the orthodox Christian tradition, they emphasized that right doctrine alone did not make one an authentic Christian. Rather, a holy and transformed life was needed as well.

Why do I feel called to write this series on Pietism? First, I feel called to write this series because I am absolutely passionate about Church history and renewal movements in particular. I believe that learning about our past is an essential spiritual exercise for the Christian. By learning about our history we are introduced the great spiritual masters and minds of the Church. We are introduced to perspectives that challenge and convict us. Perspectives that deliver us from the “tyranny of the present.”

Furthermore, as a an Evangelical Christian of a Wesleyan-Holiness bent, I recognize that I am an inheritor of the Pietist tradition and that it has shaped my own traditions quite substantially. Indeed, the movement started by the Wesleys, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitfield (which we have come to call Evangelicalism) is essentially a fusion of Puritanism and Pietism with a strong emphasis on revival. Thus, I write on Pietism to understand my own heritage better. I hope that other Evangelical Christians will read this series and come to understand their heritage better as well.

Finally, I write this series on Pietism because I believe the Pietists have much to teach us. Wracked by scandal, denominational strife, and accommodation to the worst aspects of American culture, the Evangelical church in America is in desperate need of renewal. The Pietists were faced with similar challenges in the churches of their day too. However, with time and effort (and I think the help of Almighty God) they managed to infuse their churches with renewed life and vigor. Perhaps its time we take a page from their playbook.

I hope you enjoy reading this series as much I look forward to writing it. God Bless!

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