Monday, July 7, 2008

Evil Pietism

Northwestern Publishing House has made available a very important and timely translation. It is The Complete Timotheus Verinus by Valentin Ernst Loescher. This work, originally written in two parts (1718 and 1721), “is the most comprehensive analysis of the pietistic movement in the German Lutheran Church.” With the resurgence of pietism in our own day, it is a work which needs to find its way into the hands of many. The following excerpt comes from pages 49-50.

Pietism in general is an evil; but there are also some specific evils.

First, there is the pious-appearing indifferentism; by that I mean that the revealed doctrines, faith, the supports for serving the preservation of religion (church constitutions, the symbolical books, polemics, an accurate style of teaching, and church ordinances), even religion itself, have been made indifferent and unimportant, even suspicious and objectionable. Some of these pietistic doctrines and practices were inherently connected with indifferentism, others flowed from it.

Second, there is the incipient fanaticism, or Crypto-enthusiasm; the means of grace and the ministry have been depreciated, and even revoked, through pietistic doctrines and practices; in their place, coarse enthusiastic and fanatical things were commended, defended, and excused.

Third, there is the so-called theoretical operatism, or work righteousness; the works of men have been too highly regarded and have been mingled into the basis of salvation, namely into righteousness by faith.

Fourth, there is millenialism; many have sought and hoped for the end of Christ’s kingdom of grace and cross, and the beginning of an absolute kingdom of glory in this life.

Fifth, there is terminism, which cuts short in this life God’s gracious will to save all.

Sixth, there is precisionism; the sharpness of the law has been enlarged and increased and the inquisition was reintroduced.

Seventh, there is mysticism; through pietistic doctrines and practices, false and harmful conceits, if only the appeared to be spiritual and holy, were introduced as divine secrets.

Eighth, there is perfectionism; pietistic doctrines and practices have led men to overstep the mark, and to introduce a home-made fulfilling of the law and an imagined paradisiacal condition in this life.

Ninth, there is reformatism; the present condition of the church has been regarded as completely corrupt, so that a fundamental reformation, or the establishment of a completely different church, is needed. All of these special evils will be treated in more depth below so that they are less often misunderstood. The schisms and doctrinal separations, which were caused intentionally and without sufficient reason, will not be forgotten.

But in all these things, there was something else, very special, which characterizes pietism even more accurately. A conceited striving for piety in doctrines and practices was mixed into all, or at least into most of the theological points of religion; they regarded these points as nothing without their kind of piety. They altogether, or for the most part, approved or excused the movements and harmful exploits which have arisen up to this time. They denied that an evil called pietism was present in the church.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I am guilty of the ninth not because I think historic confessional Lutheranism should be reformed, but because I feel like the pietists have taken over and their version of church needs to be reformed.