SemperReformanda said:

What it is? Is it always linked to liberalism or Wesleyanism? Could you call the Puritans pietists in a way?


We Christians should be a pious people. This is a word you don't hear much in the church today nor is it often used to describe us twenty first century Christians. You will notice by Mark Noll’s explanation of Pietism that many of the qualities of pietists are Christian practices. The reason pietists puts so much emphasis on the experiential character of their religiosity is because they are opposed to the cold formal practices of the Lutheran church.

Originally a German Lutheran religious movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, pietism emphasized heartfelt religious devotion, ethical purity, charitable activity, and pastoral theology rather than sacramental or dogmatic precision. The term now refers to all religious expressions that emphasize inward devotion and moral purity. With roots in Dutch precisionism and mysticism, pietism emerged in reaction to the formality of Lutheran orthodoxy.

A recurring tendency within Christian history to emphasize more the practicalities of Christian life and less the formal structures of theology or church order. Its historians discern four general traits in this tendency:

(1) Its experiential character, pietists are people of
the heart for whom Christian living is the fundamental concern;

(2) its biblical focus, pietists are, to paraphrase John Wesley, "people of one book" who take standards and goals from the pages of Scripture;

(3) its perfectionistic bent, pietists are serious about holy living and expend every effort to follow God's law, spread the gospel, and provide aid for the needy;

(4) its reforming interest, pietists usually oppose what they regard as coldness and sterility in established church forms and practices.

An overall evaluation of pietism must take into consideration the circumstances of its origin in seventeenth century Europe. Whether in its narrow German usage or its more generic sense, pietism represented a complex phenomenon. It partook of the mysticism of the late Middle Ages. It shared the commitment to Scripture and the emphasis on lay Christianity of the early Reformation. It opposed the formalism and cold orthodoxy of the theological establishment. And it was a child of its own times with its concern for authentic personal experience. It was, in one sense, the Christian answer to what has been called "the discovery of the individual" by providing a Christian form to the individualism and practical - mindedness of a Europe in transition to modern times.

In more specifically Christian terms pietism represents a significant effort to reform the Protestant heritage. Some of the fears of its earliest opponents have been partially justified. At its worst the pietistic tendency can lead to inordinate subjectivism and emotionalism; it can discourage careful scholarship; it can fragment the church through enthusiastic separatism; it can establish new codes of almost legalistic morality; and it can underrate the value of Christian traditions. On the other hand, pietism was, and continues to be, a source of powerful renewal in the church. At its best it points to the indispensability of Scripture for the Christian life; it encourages lay people in the work of Christian ministry; it stimulates concern for missions; it advances religious freedom and cooperation among believers; and it urges individuals not to rest until finding intimate fellowship with God himself.

Mark A Noll
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

There are segments of the church today that put more emphasis on this than others. I think you could say that some put more emphasis on experience over orthodoxy. As you can see by Noll's article this can become very subjective. What we need is both sound doctrine and practice.


When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride. - Isaac Watts