W R Ward

The first great Protestant awakenings arose from an interweaving of Pietism, revivalism, and politics. Revivalism was distinct from Pietism but political circumstances ensured that it never had an entirely independent history. Pietism in the narrow sense of the word was a party (there were others) born of the continent-wide movement for piety early in the seventeenth century, but taking its peculiar shape from its creation within an atmosphere of conflict with Lutheran Orthodoxy; the Pietist party was Phillip Jacob Spener's answer to the disappointment of his hopes of achieving a consensus for renewal and reform. It was an answer to the problems of religious establishments in the doldrums. Revival began among the vast number of Protestants in the triangle between Transylvania, Poland and Salzburg, those who had been abandoned and left with little defence by the peace settlements ofWestphalia, and hence those who (outside Hungary) had no church system to renew. The experience of these abandoned Protestants shaped the whole history of revivalism. The original compulsion among the Protestant minorities to get results quickly ensured that there was always an ethos of desperation about revivalism. Because, for these Protestant minorities, the old ways were not normative and mostly not available, they had both freedom and compulsion to experiment. Not that old ideas were of no account, for, like Pietism, revivalism grew out of the Lutheran Orthodox tradition. The revivalist theory that at the bottom of everyone's mind and conscience were fragments of belief which could be revived and made effective reflected the experience of the Protestant minorities in Silesia and the Habsburg lands long before the theory was formulated. Long deprived of the ordinances, these dispossessed minorities preserved a memory of what they were. Their secret worship in farm kitchens generated an intensity of koinonia uncharacteristic of the old establishments. The gatherings of peasants and miners of the Habsburg lands bore the whole weight of Christianizing successive generations.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment