Today Mark, Sam, and I return from our spring break with the first of six proposals for how a revival of the Pietist ethos can benefit Christianity early in the 21st century. Continuing to parallel the structure of Pia Desideria (1675), we joined Philipp Jakob Spener in urging greater attentiveness to Scripture:
Thought should be given to a more extensive use of the Word of God among us. We know that by nature we have no good in us. If there is to be any good in us, it must be brought about by God. To this end the Word of God is the powerful means, since faith must be enkindled through the gospel, and the law provides the rules for good works and many wonderful impulses to attain them. The more at home the Word of God is among us, the more we shall bring about faith and its fruits…. If we succeed in getting the people to seek eagerly and diligently in the book of life for their joy, their spiritual life will be wonderfully strengthened and they will become altogether different people.
What does “greater attentiveness to Scripture” mean in a time when the Bible has never been more available? Sam talked about striving to encounter Scripture as if for the first time; Mark shared his practice of spiritual disciplines like lectio divina; and I asked what it would mean to “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (Jas 1:22). Above all, we considered Bible study as a communal act of listening, one in which (in the words of our denominational tradition) we “find [Scripture] an altar where one meets the living God.”
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- The Evangelical Covenant Church, “The Covenant Church and the Bible” (2008 resource paper)
- Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (Eerdmans, 2009)
- Resources on lectio divina from the Order of St. Benedict
- Jared Burkholder, “How Peacemaking Helps Frame the Context of Anabaptism, Sexuality, and Higher Education,” The Pietist Schoolman, Oct. 6, 2015
- Thomas Kidd, “The Bible: Mass Distribution and Massive Ignorance,” The Anxious Bench, March 22, 2016
- Douglas H. Shantz, An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), ch. 8 (“Pietism and the Bible”)
Image Credit: Adolph Tidemand’s 1852 painting of a Norwegian Pietist conventicle studying the Bible — Wikimedia