The Roots and Branches of Pietism

Unlike other major movements in the Christian story, Pietism is difficult to illustrate in a sequential form. Its roots are varied and include the Reformation, Puritanism, Precicianism and Mysticism. Moreover, Pietism was not bound by a single culture, language, or political context as it spread through Europe to North America and beyond. Major Pietist thinkers and writers may be found in the Reformed, Lutheran, Catholic and Radical Reformation groups across a chronological period of a century and a half. Even these distinctions were not discreet altogether, for there were definite relationships between each of the branches of the movement. This chart suggests the chronological and relational dimensions of the major currents and branches of Pietism.

Reformed Pietism

Progenitor
Jean deTaffin (1529–1602)

Theme
“To Renew the Reformed Churches”

Major Characteristics
Stress on preaching
Emphasize pastoral work
Youth catechism Daily Christian walk
Societal reform

Major Writers
Gottfried C. Udemans (1580–1649)
William Brakel (1635–1711)
Jean Labadie (1610–1674)
Joachim Neander William A. Saldems (1627–1694)

American Outgrowths
Michael Schlatter (1718–1790)
Samuel Guldin (1660–1745 )
Philip W. Otterbein (1726–1813)
Theodorus Frelinghuysen (1692–1747) 

Lutheran Pietism

Progenitor
Johann Arndt (1555–1621)

Theme
“To Complete the Lutheran Reformation”

Major Characteristics
Emphasize biblical theology
Importance of the individual before God
Creation of an ethical dimension
Optimistic view of history

Major Writers
John Tarnow (1586–1629)
Auguste H. Francke (1663–1727)
Joachim Lutkemann (1608–1655)
Philip Jacob Spener (1635–1705)
Christian Scriver (1629–1693)

American Outgrowths
Henry M. Muhlenberg (1711–1787)
Daniel Pastorius (1651–1720)
Johann E. Schmidt (1746— 1812)
J.H.C. Helmuth (1745–1825) 

Moravian Pietism

Progenitor
Baroness Gersdorf (1656–1726)
John Amos Comenius (1592–1670)

Theme
“To Unite All True Believers with Christ”

Major Characteristics
Vivid personal experience with Christ
Missionary emphasis
Strong Christology
Ecumenical Christianity

Major Writers
Nicolaus von Zinzendorf (1700–1760)
August G. Spangenburg (1703–1792)
Christian David (1690–1751)
John Wesley (1703–1791)

American Outgrowths
Peter Boehler (1712–1775)
David Nitschmann (1696–1772)
David Zeisberger (1721–1808)
John Ettewein
(1715–1802)
Henry Antes (1701–1755) 

Radical Pietism

Progenitor
Pierre Poiret (1646–1719)

Theme
“To Replace Ecclesiastical Forms with Genuine Personal Experience”

Major Characteristics
Stress thorough conversion
Centrality of love
Separation from the world
Disdain for human sexuality

Major Writers
Gottfried Arnold (1666–1714)
Johann Dippel (1673–1734)
Gerhard Tersteegan (1697–1769)
Heinrich Horch (1652–1729)
Ernst von Hochenam (1670–1721)

American Outgrowths
Johannes Kelpius (1673–1709)
Conrad Beissel (1690–1768)
George Rapp ( 1757–1847)
Joseph Bimeler (1778–1853) 

Mysticism

Like the medieval mystics, Pietists stressed a true union of God through spiritual exercises and the contemplative life. Unlike the earlier mystics, mystical Pietists like Richard Sibbes, Joseph Hall, and Francis Rous spoke of the saving relationship between God and the individual soul as a gracious gift. Because this relationship was an intimate one, these writers often used terms of endearment in references to God.

Puritan Piety

In the continuing reformation of the English Church. numerous Puritan writers developed Pietistic affinities. Men like William Perkins. Jeremy Taylor, Richard Baxter and Robert Bolten spoke of the need to enliven dead orthodoxy by attending to spiritual exercises and daily devotions. Others like John Bunyan wrote about the Christian life as a pilgrimage. The work of holiness and the doctrine of sanctification received new emphasis, especially as related to the ministry.

Precicianism

A pre-Pietist movement in Holland, Precicianism was a stress upon the keeping of God’s law as revealed in Scripture. Exemplary of this group was Gottfried Udemans who wrote that the “soul of faith was good works.” Other Precicianists produced manuals for family devotions and spiritual exercises.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #10 in 1986]

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