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Posted By: MarieP Pietism - Tue Jul 27, 2004 2:43 PM
What it is? Is it always linked to liberalism or Wesleyanism? Could you call the Puritans pietists in a way?
Posted By: Wes Re: Pietism - Tue Jul 27, 2004 6:29 PM
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.

Posted By: John_C Re: Pietism - Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:33 PM

Thanks for the information.

I'm wondering if the Keswick movement in England had some elements of pietism in it?
Posted By: gotribe Re: Pietism - Tue Jul 27, 2004 11:50 PM
I was thinking that the Keswick movement was called quietism rather than pietism. I'll bet Pilgrim knows. . .
Posted By: Pilgrim Re: Pietism - Wed Jul 28, 2004 12:08 AM
gotribe said:
I was thinking that the Keswick movement was called quietism rather than pietism. I'll bet Pilgrim knows. . .

A form of religious mysticism based on the doctrine that the essence of religion consists in the withdrawal of the soul from external objects and in fixing it on the contemplation of God.

Quietism is especially used for the doctrine of Miguel Molinos (1640-96), who taught the direct relationship between the soul and God. His followers were called Molinists or Quietists. Outward acts of mortification were held to be superfluous, and when a person has attained the mystic state by mental prayer, even if he transgresses in the accepted sense, he does not sin, since his will has been extinguished. Molinos was accused of heresy and condemned by the Inquisition.

For more, see here:

On the "Keswick movement" see here:

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Wes Re: Pietism - Wed Jul 28, 2004 3:55 PM
John_C said:


Thanks for the information.

I'm wondering if the Keswick movement in England had some elements of pietism in it?


I’ve been reading a little about this movement since you’ve asked the question. Even though some of the characteristics of Pietism are similar to the Keswick movement there are some differences too. Actually several different movements grow out of similar concerns and they all share an Arminian view of sactification. They express concern that the orthodox church is too intellectual, too formal, and actually dead. For example the Holiness movement, Quietistic movement, and even Penticostalism all put a lot of emphasis on a higher life, with an overemphasis on experience and feelings.

You may want to read this article on The American Holiness Movement which shows some of these same concerns. These movements put a lot of their emphasis on a misunderstanding of sanctification. Another article I've found that speaks to this is entitled A CRITIQUE OF THE HIGHER LIVE MOVEMENT by Jay Wegter. The concept of the higher Christian life arose in the nineteenth century in connection with the holiness tradition in America. The movement grew in popularity and ultimately spread to England. Keswick, England became the home of the higher life conventions.

R V Pierard writes:

More difficult to characterize is the Keswick movement which originated in Britain in 1875 at a "Convention for the Promotion of Practical Holiness" in the Lake District town of that name. Speakers at the annual Keswick conferences emphasized the "deeper life" instead of holiness, believing that the tendency to sin is not extinguished but is counteracted by victorious living through the Holy Spirit. The predominance of Reformed Anglicans along with like minded Free Church evangelicals in the movement prevented the Wesley - Arminian view of sanctification from establishing a foothold.

In Germany the Holiness concept was institutionalized in the Gemeinschaftsbewegung (Fellowship Movement) which came into existence under the influence of Keswick and Methodist evangelists from Britain and the United States. Several societies were founded, the most important being the German Evangelization Association (1884), Gnadau Association (1888), and Blankenburg Alliance Conference (1905), which cultivated a deeper holiness among members of the territorial churches.

The Holiness movement contributed to a deepening of the spiritual life in a materialistic age, and it was a welcome contrast to the sterile intellectualism and dead orthodoxy that characterized so many churches at the time. However, it has been criticized for suggesting that a "second blessing" can provide some Christians with a higher kind of sanctification than that which flows from one's justifying faith. P T Forsyth said it is "a fatal mistake to think of holiness as a possession which we have distinct from our faith and conferred upon it.

That is a Catholic idea, still saturating Protestant pietism." Other objections include the tendency to identify holiness with quietistic self abasement and even loss of personality, an other worldly asceticism that calls for the rejection of all secular culture as sinful, confining the grace of God to stereotyped forms of religious experience, an overemphasis on feeling, and claiming with overweening confidence the special action of the Holy Spirit in one's life and direct inspiration in the details of thought and action.

Posted By: Reformation Monk Re: Pietism - Sun Aug 01, 2004 12:41 PM
I have found some good reading about the reformation and the Puritan era on A Puritan's

I've really enjoyed learning more about these two time periods. I definitely see a lack of piety among the church today. I had a long talk with a good brother of mine yesterday on the issue of the lack of respect of God's sovereignty. I find myself in bible studies, small groups and Sunday school classes all the time talking about the sovereignty of God, piety, sanctification and the saints and I witness so much confussion and doubt. That's why I advocate bible study and prayer. I believe these are the two main areas where the body is lacking. I have been working really hard in the last year or so and I can see slow progress within the body. I keep on preaching bible reading and an active prayer life and I can see it convicting people but I can see the Lord using it to work in their hearts. I keep praying for a day when the body again will hold dear to pious living.


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