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What Luther Says

Jakob Spener And A Brief History of Lutheran Pietism

I know that a close study of Pietism may not be high on any Lutheran layman's list of topics they're itchin' to study, but I continue to be amazed by the subject.

If you've been stopping by to visit us in the last week or two, then you've noticed that this has been our primary focus here. Why? Well, because we're seeing the same movement that our church effectively combated hundreds of years ago taking root within our Synod once again thanks to our identity crisis and wanting to be "cool" like our American Evangelical pals who certainly know a thing or two about Pietism themselves.

The spiritual amnesia is maddening to witness up close (Ecclesiastes 1:9)! Worse, is to see how people like me are treated by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ all because we want to raise awareness and ask some legitimate questions about these sorts of things.

Despite Pietism's prominence in the Christian Church today, as a newbie Confessional Lutheran, I'm very late to this Pietism party, and I discovered that there have been many others who have noticed this trend to embrace the failings of un-Biblical false doctrines from the past by dressing them up with new buzz words and catch phrases, and even learned that these same faithful folks were calling out the purveyors of Pietism as long as 10-15 years ago.

I have to keep beating this drum though. I wish I was exposed to what Pietism was long before today, because I see so much of historical Pietism in American Evangelicalism (my infamous past!) and I'm just beginning to realize that now. Sadly, I'm also just beginning to realize that the LCMS has forgotten its past too.

All of that is to say that I still have a few more things I'd like to say about Pietism and want to put it all out there in cyberspace for others who will fill this information as helpful as I have.

In today's piece, we're going to look at the undisputed "Father of Pietism" himself. I wish I would've done this sooner, like at the very beginning of this current series on Piety and Pietism, but I suppose late is better than never.

In Monday's post, we highlighted an Issues, Etc. interview featuring Dr. Daniel van Voorhis. Apparently, he has an entire lecture that goes into much more detail than he was able to share on that broadcast.

This excellent  6-part video series of his comes from the Vimeo Channel of Faith Lutheran Church in Capistrano Beach, CA. It's entitled "A Brief History of Lutheran Pietism" by Dr. Daniel van Voorhis of Concordia University Irvine.

You thought we covered a lot of ground up until this point? You ain't seen nothin' yet!

Dr. Voorhis is an incredible historian and he fills in the gaps that we left quite nicely so that you will undoubtedly know all there is to know about the Pietism Movement, it's connection to the history of the Lutheran Church, its relationship to contemporary Christianity, and why we would be wise to guard and protect ourselves from Pietism.

1. "Orthodoxy, Pietism, and the Schism in the Lutheran Soul"

2. "Halle Pietism- August Hermann Francke and the Quest for Assurance"

3. "The Diaspora of Lutheran Pietism-Zinzendorf and the American Colonies"

4. "Pietism in America- Muhlenberg and the Radical Pietists"

5. "The Second Reformation: Lutherans and the Reformed in the 16th Century"

6. "Lutheranism and the Radical Reformed"

Like the painted picture of Jakob Spener above, Pietism creates a caricature of a Christian. It's ironic, isn't it? I mean, for all of Pietism's talk of having knowledge of what makes a "true" Christian, in reality, it actually produces anything but due to what it emphasizes.

Pietism, which has come to characterize so much of contemporary Christianity, has deceived many into believing they are the "real deal" not by the merits of Jesus Christ, but by their own perceived self-righteousness when, in fact, they are actually caricatures, or perhaps "white washed tombs" as Jesus Himself put it (Matthew 23:25-28).

I pray for those brothers and sisters of Christ who are caught up in the clutches of Pietism. I pray that the Lord would keep me in "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

As detailed and thorough as Pastor van Voorhis' lectures are, you can continue to dig deeper to get to "the roots and fruits of Pietism" in a paper by Dr. Ronald R. Feuerhahn that was referenced on Issues, Etc. back in 2010.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, get yourself familiarized with the history of Pietism and the history of the Lutheran Church.

You might not like what you'll discover, but what you'll discover is everything that Christ would like you to know about His Church and those who are a part of it.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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