Pietism Movement in Christianity: Philipp Jacob Spener

The Pietism movement in Christianity started from the Lutheran church in Germany in the 17th century, while there was spiritual looseness. It was actually a religious movement started by Spener but later called Pietism. This spiritual awakening has brought many implications to many of us as well as still there are some negative things it seems like a piety movement.

Historical Background of Pietism in Christianity

Pietism was started in the 17th century with the work of great leader Philipp Jacob Spener.

When Scholastic Lutheranism rooted in the scriptures, it was unchangeable dogmatic interpretation, firm, exact, and demanding intellectual orthodoxy. They focused on doctrine which was pure, and in the sacraments. The instruction of Luther had been substituted. It was narrower than Roman Catholicism.

The roles of laymen were passive to accept the dogma, to take part in sacraments. Due to this reason, Pietism became a bridge. It played an active role in building the Christian life. Pietism is a strict ascetic movement toward the world. In 1663 Jacob Spener became a free preacher at Strasburg and served in the pastoral ministry. He quickly gathered people’s interest in a prayer meeting. In 1670 he held conventicler Collegial Pieties within the church. He emerged to be one of the great leaders of the Pietistic movement. This movement spread from Germany to Switzerland and the rest of the European countries.

Pietism elements were also present in the early Luther and orthodoxy, grasping only one side of Luther. This movement gave much importance to the subjective side of religion rather than the objective, but orthodoxy was living on the objectivity of theology. In the Lutheran countries, the state of morality and discipline was low. This movement impacted on morals of the Protestant world were greatly. Pietism tried to reform theology, it tried to reform the church and morals. It defined theology as a practical discipline.

Pietism Movement in Christianity

The movement Pietism is the spiritual revival after the reformation period in Christianity. It was the movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries within the church where there was slackness and lack of freshness. Spener proclaimed the necessity of conversion and holy living and stressed private devotion and a small group called ‘Collegoa Pietatis’ meeting for the devotional purpose.

Spener objected to names, as Pietist, Spenerite, and others. Actually, he did not want to found a sect, or that they should become a monkish community. But only that they should come back to the old and universal Christianity since 30 years war of 1648 exhausted. Not only economic and moral degradation but spiritual lawlessness and careless as well.

Pietism Movement in Germany

The pietism movement was started almost simultaneously in Holland, Germany, and Switzerland. Obviously, Jacob Spener was the one who started the movement. After him, August Hermann Franke who was influenced by Spener. They brought the Pietism movement in Germany to its great climax. Franke theology, which has a certain value for him did not bring peace to his soul, his study awakened in him an earnest desire to understand his life. After some years of his anxious seeking, he received all his unrelieved assurance of salvation. And that conversion and godliness bring blessing to many people. But also he becomes enemy of others, he was branded as a Pietist and expelled from Erfurt.

In the context of spiritual slackness, absorbed theology of Lutheranism and low morality on people. Pietism came out to serve as a spiritual leaven. It emphasis upon new birth and its practices. Undermine the position of the Scholastic theology, orthodoxy and revitalized German Lutheranism. In another way, its impact was spread.

Pietism grew up rapidly. It did spread to Wurttemberg, pietism affected Germany widely for good, fostering vital piety and spiritual qualities of ministry and Christian training was improved.

Spread of Pietism

The Pietism movement in Christianity started spreading from Halle. As the eighteenth century wore on, in Germany the situation altered. The number of missions started from the school of Halle. The University of Halle became the main center for this great Pietistic. Halle started sending many missionaries. It supplied Europe with teachers, pastors, foreign missionaries, from Germany. Pietism spread to Scandinavian countries, from Germany to Switzerland, and the rest of the European countries.

Cound Zinzendrof was from a pietistic family. Moravian Brethren was reconstructed under his leadership. The Moravians were widely scattered during thirty years and they often went through persecutions. Zinzendorf invited the Moravians to settle on his estate of Bethelsdorf in Saxony and he united Moravians and Bohemians and organized a little community (colony group). There was a special meeting for daily worship, a love feast, and so on. Because of that, the number of members increased. The group sent their members out to various protestant countries to form the church. They sent them to Holland, Denmark, England, and to the West Indies and Greenland as well.

Strength and Weakness of Pietism

Pietism movement in Christianity has both strength and weakness. Spener said that when preachers carry out their work in the leading of the Holy Spirit, it brings the transformations. The greater part of the hearers will die to the world and they live not only an honest but also a godly life. His thought was also good that the greater part of the professing Christians was not born again and many of the ministers of the Word did not understand as they should the true doctrine on which the steadfastness of the church depends.

At Halle, they provided support to 134 orphans. They taught to 2200 Children and young in different schools mostly without charge through 175 teachers. Hundreds of poor students were fed daily. There were libraries, hospitals, and institutions as well.

Life was good for a short time in their society. Later on, they started having some of the major problems because of the spirit of living in a larger group. It may have some controversies among them. They have never properly organized the group and there have been problems and bad impacts on them. There was a group i.e., a large group among the piety people. While they divided as a small group they had misunderstandings. They created a kind of environment i.e. the difference between converted and unconverted people.

Many people were having problems in the group (piety people) because of more spirituality. They have to know the place and time of conversion, they must have recorded very vividly. If not, they have a question about this thing that may behave whether that person converted or not.

Impact of Pietism in Christianity

We must value the great revival of Pietism. The Pietism movement has had a great impact in Christianity over the centuries. Its deed was making the strong type of Christianity by the gradual fusion of two products one is a reaction against and another is the emphasis on orthodox doctrine.
Pietism aroused the passion for missions. The importance of Bible study for devotion both for personal and corporate edification was brought back to the church. In the eighteenth century, about sixty foreign missionaries went forth from the University of Halle.

Many Pietism leavens penetrated the Lutheran Churches in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. There, Pietism stimulated much religious zeal among people. Many German settlers in America were also deeply impacted by this pietism movement. Another thing that happened because of the pietism movement was Gottfried Arnold interpreting church history. Since the reformation church history had been polemic.

Luther wrote Justification by faith not simply as a doctrine but as spiritual rebirth, this effect was in Pietism. Pietism became the foundation of all modern revivals. New life in Christ was the center of the Christian and the Christian ministry was very important in pietism.

Critical analysis of Pietism

Pietism movement in Christianity has both negative and positive effects. If we analyze the positive things, they did change so many things. They defended the faith and opposed the heresies because they had a strong faith and they had developed the doctrine. The most important thing is their faith, contributions to the church and in society. This was a positive side but while talking about the negative side, there were lots of problems in the Pietism group. Actually, there was good communication between their groups before dividing the group, but after dividing the group there had been conflicting between their views. They had misunderstandings in each other’s views. One of the bad things was that they forced people to believe their doctrines. If they had good communication with each other, they might not have had opposite conflicts between each other.

1 thought on “Pietism Movement in Christianity: Philipp Jacob Spener”

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