The Pietist Schoolman Podcast, Episode #14: What’s Pietism?

Memorial plaque in Frankfurt am Main for Philipp Jakob Spender

So what is “Pietism”?

I’m not sure that a fifty-minute episode of this or any podcast can resolve a discussion that’s been dividing scholars for(seemingly)ever. But Mark and I gave it our best shot in this episode, with Sam offering some preliminary responses to our proposal that Pietism is

(a) both a historical movement and a kind of timeless “ethos” leavening Christianity of different types in different times, places, and cultures (our focus)

(b) easiest to understand as a set of four instincts — all of which can be pushed so far that you wind up with the kinds of pathologies that people sometimes mean by “pietism” (e.g., anti-intellectualism, legalism, quietism).

Compare and contrast our definitions with some others:

• Season 1 guests Roger Olson and Christian Collins Winn list conversion, community, and eight other Pietist “hallmarks” in ch. 5 of their Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition (Eerdmans, 2015). We lift the movement/ethos thing from them, but then Roger borrowed it from historian Mary Fulbrook

• If you’ve only got time for a three-sentence nutshell… I tried that approach early in the introduction to The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons (IVP Academic, 2015).

• Later in that book, Kent Gerber’s chapter opens with Ernest Stoeffler’s four-point outline of Pietism, which emphasizes categories like personal experience and religious idealism.

(Image credit: memorial to Pietist founding father Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), erected in the German city of Frankfurt am Main on the 275th anniversary of his death — CC BY-SA 2.5 Flacus)

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