Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reclaiming Pietism

Roger Olson has a long, but very much worthwhile, post on reclaiming pietism. Here's a nice little snippet, but do read the whole thing; I doubt you will regret it!

According to Spener and all Pietists, the gospel aims at transformation of the inner man; it is not enough for the outer man to confess doctrines correctly or practice charity or engage rightly in sacraments and liturgy. If the inner man of the person is not transformed by the Word and Spirit, all those activities of the outer man, though performed to perfection, are useless.

And, a bit further down:

Too often pastors and congregational leaders are so frightened of fanaticism and religious weirdness that they back away entirely from the whole idea of experiencing God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. But this is to ignore the natural craving to feel something and be changed that lies deep within the human breast. We are not made to live by doctrines and ceremonies alone; while we are shoving religious experience (except perhaps a quiet Yoga meditation class in the basement) out the door, people are seeking spiritual experience wherever they can find it. Pietism insists that authentic Christianity will always include an appeal to affections and not only intellect or will. Pietist scholar Hansgünter Ludewig’s description of Pietist Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) well expresses the longing of most, if not every, human heart: “His quest was less for a gracious God than for the presence of God. He desired to know by living experience that God is with him.” Many, if not most, people today are, like Tersteegen, less concerned about issues of guilt and justification than about issues of God’s personal presence with and in them. Pietism points the way toward a non-fanatical, experiential Christianity that brings transformation and assurance through a personal relationship with God that is felt and not only promised.

And, near the end:

Pietism aims at the inward transformation of the affections leading to change of the will resulting in acts of compassion.  Too often our churches try to manipulate congregants into giving and working because there is no inner impulse giving rise gratefully and voluntarily to these practices.  A dose of spiritual experience brought about through repentance and faith in response to powerful preaching of the cross just might result in more kingdom building than all the appeals we make in our newsletters and from our pulpits.

<idle musing>
Sounds like a good, biblically based, definition of true Christianity to me, with a healthy dose of Holy Spirit transformation that results in a natural concern for the community around them...We could use a good bit of that, don't you think?
</idle musing>

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