- Pietism began as a movement within German Lutheranism in the 17th century that emphasized a personal faith in God and Christ. Pietists opposed what they saw as a sterile Lutheran Church, content with mere verbal confessions of belief in Lutheran tenets while tolerating a disregard for the Christian life among the general population.one of the first Pietists who tried to breathe life into Lutheranism was pastor Johann Arndt (1555-1621), author of True Christianity (1605). Arndt was influenced by a variety of mystical texts.While orthodox in belief, he came to feel that the Christian life involved right living and the union of the soul with God. Arndt in turn influenced Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705) and August Hermann Francke (1663-1727). From the 1660s, Spener held informal meetings, called Collegia Pietatis, in his home in Frankfurt, Germany, for prayer, Bible study, and discussion of the previous week's sermon. In 1675, he published a new edition of Arndt's book with his own lengthy preface, later published separately as the Pia Desiderata. Pia Desiderata laid out a program for further reform of the church (including changes in the education of ministers) that would help members experience a personal faith and live an upright and moral life.The publication of Pia Desiderata caused such a storm of protest that Spener was forced out of his ministeral post in Frankfurt. He eventually continued a fruitful ministry in Berlin. By this time, he had found a major disciple in Francke, as well as other followers from across German-speaking Europe. In 1694, he founded the university at Halle, where Francke was installed as a professor. it became the center of Pietism in the following century.Spener also influenced Count Nicolaus Ludwig von ZiNZENDORF (1700-60), who studied with Francke at Halle. In the 1720s, Zinzendorf made his estate a haven for Czech Protestant exiles and took an active role in their reorganization as the Moravian Church. Zinzendorf's own Jesus-centered mysticism shaped Moravian life.Halle graduates and Pietists Barthoemew Ziegenbalc (1682-1719) and Heinrich Plütschau (c. 1677-1747) were the first missionaries to Tranquebar, the Danish settlement in India. The Danish-Halle Mission, established in 1706, is considered the pioneering first step in the great expansion of Protestantism through global missionary work. The Moravians undertook a missionary program of their own, initially directed toward Africans in the Caribbean and the British American colonies. Through the Moravians, Pietism was passed to Methodism founder John Wesley and to George Whitefield, who brought it to America in the years of the first Great Awakening (1740s). Whitefield in turn spread Pietism to Presbyterian minister and theologian Jonathan Edwards, among others.In the centuries since the founding of the university at Halle, much of Lutheran history has been played out in the tension between Pietists and confessionalists, with confessionalists questioning the orthodoxy of the Pietists, and Pietists accusing the confessionalists of loosing the essence of faith that church dogma was intended to convey In the 19th century, American confes-sionalism was championed by Charles Porterfield Krauth (1823-83) and embodied in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church. Pietism, by making doctrine second to personal faith, tended to minimalize the difference between Lutheran and Reformed church theologies and prepared the way for the merger of the two churches where they were both influenced by Pietism, notably in Prussia. In Germany, Pietism also inspired new movements such as the Brethren.Spreading to Scandinavia, Pietism led to the creation of the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Free Church. Internationally, Pietism had its greatest expression in Methodism, which spread from England and the united States into most of the world, and gave birth to both the Holiness movement and Pentecostalism, the most vibrant expression of Pietism as the 21st century begins.Further reading:■ Dale Brown, Understanding Pietism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1978)■ Peter C. Erb, ed., Pietists: Selected Writings (New York: Paulist Press, 1983)■ Kenneth Collins, "John Wesley Critical Appropriation of Early German Pietism." Available online. URL: http://wesley.nnu.edu/WesleyanTheol-ogy/theojrnl/26-30/27.3.html■ Gary R. Sattler, God's Glory, Neighbor's Good: A Brief Introduction to the Life and Writings of August Hermann Francke (Chicago: Covenant Press, 1982)■ F Ernest Stieffler, The Rise of Evangelical Pietism (Leiden: Brill, 1965).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.