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Pietism, or in Anglo-Saxon parlance, evangelicalism, was a mixture of attitudes not primarily revivalist, few of which were shared by all evangelicals, or which were exclusive to them, and which changed steadily in time. The roots of Pietism lay in the presumption common to both Catholic and Protestant in the early seventeenth century that the way to enliven a Christian practice dulled by habit, or shrivelled by polemic, was by encouraging individual meditation. Much of the new literature was generated by the Counter-Reformation in Italy and Spain, but there were strenuous Protestant efforts to get the devotional literature of the cloister into the home. The first three books of the Lutheran theologian Johann Arndt's True Christianity (1606) correspond to the classical stages of the mystical way, the viapurgativa, the via illuminativa, and the via unitiva. Indeed, in one of the most successful publishing enterprises of the modern period, Arndt subjected the medieval literature to a Lutheran editing. In 1650, the English Presbyterian Richard Baxter, echoing the Puritan bestsellers of the previous generation, complained that meditation 'is confessed to be a duty by all, but practically denied by most'. Spener's programme, the Pia Desideria, was written as a preface to Arndt's lectionary sermons, and Spener's class-meeting, the collegium pietatis, was envisaged as an intermediate stage between public preaching and private meditation, which would be to the advantage of both. Spener's hopes for the class-meeting, to be sure, were not entirely fulfilled; but henceforth evangelicalism would be characterized by emphasis upon the general priesthood fostered in the fellowship of small groups.

Spener also distinguished himself from the general movement for piety by his eschatology. The Lutheran Orthodox had become convinced that the end of the world was at hand and they drew from this two main inferences: first that this knowledge of the imminent end gave them a leverage upon the consciences of their hearers (who must repent while there was yet time); and second that the missionary task of the church was virtually finished. For Spener, however, his belief that church renewal would come through the leaven of a spiritual elite meant that he also believed that the Last Days would be deferred into the middle distance, that is, until all God's promises to the church had been fulfilled. Spener called for a dramatic revolution in pastoral strategy; instead of demanding that men be converted in time for the apocalypse (and one that was being continually postponed), the pastor should invite Christians to lives of service, on the assurance that they could make a genuine improvement in the world, and even contribute to the return of Christ himself. No one, moreover, was being asked to wait forever for the second coming. Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687-1752) whose biblical study of these questions so impressed Wesley, predicted that the millennial age would

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