Please, talk among yourselves as we at Bethel University engage in a little love-fest.
My colleague in the College of Arts and Sciences, historian Chris Gehrz, always provides lively insights on his Pietist Schoolman blog. Today, triggered by my post here on the divine value of secular vocation, Chris said some nice things about me on that blog. Then he mused a bit on Pietist (lack of?) contribution to thought about vocation, and some of his favorite sources on the same topic, which happen to be Reformed.
I’m skipping the encomiums (but thanks, Chris!) and moving to the latter part of his post:
Where I talk with students about vocation, I have to admit that I’m drawing chiefly on the Reformed tradition: from the section of John Calvin’s Institutes (on being faithful to one’s divine calling) that is my favorite thing to teach to the first-year students in our Christianity and Western Culture course to theFrederick Buechner sermon on calling that I discuss with our department’s seniors at the end of their capstone seminar. It’s no surprise that, when I started talking about vocation in my initial tenure interview, our then-provost (now-president) chuckled, “For a Pietist, you sure sound like a Calvinist.” Continue reading
Darlington Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA), Darlington, PA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An interesting counterpart to Avery Dulles‘s “five models of church” (institution, mystical communion, servant, herald, sacrament) is the triad of church emphases laid out by Tim Keller in his paper “What’s So Great about the PCA?” (For those who don’t know, PCA = Presbyterian Church in America). Lots could be said about this article or this denomination, but I’m most interested in these qualities that Keller borrows from George Marsden and describes as facets of Presbyterianism in America, and indeed facets of the PCA, resulting in significant infradenomenational tensions:
The doctrinalist impulse puts the emphasis on the corporate and the objective. The stress is on ministry done through church courts—Session, Presbytery, and General Assembly‐‐ and on people being brought to Christ through objective ordinances and processes like baptism and catechism. Continue reading
Hat tip to my friend, IV staffer Charlie Clauss, for providing a link to video of two talks given by Dr. Roger Olson on Pietism. Thanks Charlie. You can click on the title, below, to access the videos:
AUS MEMORIAL LECTURE – MARCH 15, 2011
Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, Waco, Texas
- Religion of the heart – part I (gratefultothedead.wordpress.com)
- Religion of the heart – part IV (gratefultothedead.wordpress.com)
Want to know more about Pietism's "religion of the heart"? Check out this book by some friends of mine
This is the final part of a 4-part post:
Now at last we come to Pietism itself. There are all sorts of interpretations of where Pietism came from, when it emerged in the 1600s. Some Lutherans at the time felt it was a kind of crypto-Calvinism. Others felt it had on it the taint of Anabaptism. And so forth. But this much is clear: it was a natural development out of the thought and piety of Martin Luther. And so if we want to talk about how Pietism re-introduced the historical Christian “religion of the heart,” we need to remember that as it did so, it drew on this mystical side of Luther. In fact, Philip Spener, the man usually identified as the “father of Pietism,” was, according to Karl Barth, the greatest Luther scholar since Luther. He wasn’t making things up as he went along, creating some brand new form of Christianity. He was a deeply pious Lutheran, who counseled state-church Lutherans to stay in their churches.
Of course, he didn’t want them to just stay in their churches. For many of their churches were, just like their seminaries, “dead.” That is, they were more interested in orthodoxy than in conversion of life. Spener wanted the Lutherans of his day to read their Bibles at home, to get together in small groups, to get out and live Christianly in the marketplace and the town square—to let their love relationships with God make a difference in their lives. Spener’s protégée, August Hermann Francke, took this principle and turned it into a full-blown institution, founding and running a complex in the city of Halle that included a large orphanage, a school, a printing house, job training facilities, and much more. This was a faith not only with a heart, but with hands and feet. Continue reading
"Beata Beatrix," by the pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti
This is the third part of a four-part post; see links the end for the first two parts.
Dante and the flame of love
One more pre-Reformation example of the religion of the heart. In recent years, I have fallen in love—I don’t know what else to call it—with perhaps the greatest western poem, the three-part Comedy of Dante Alighieri. As Wilken reminds us, at one point in Dante’s poem the pilgrim character, who is Dante himself, asks his beloved Beatrice why God would choose to redeem us by coming to us in the Incarnation. Beatrice, who has already died and gone to heaven and is talking to Dante with the certainty of one who has seen the face of God, responds “that what she is about to explain to him ‘is buried from the eyes of everyone whose intellect has not matured within the flame of love.’” In other words, says Wilken, “Unless we invest ourselves in the object of our love, [the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ] we remain voyeurs and spectators, curiosity seekers, incapable of receiving because we are unwilling to give. . . . Only when we turn our deepest self to God can we enter the mystery of God’s life and penetrate the truth of things. If love is absent, our minds remain childish and immature, trying out one thing then another, unable to hold fast to the truth.” Continue reading
Augustine and his symbol of a heart, in a Victorian stained glass window
What is “the religion of the heart”? Where did it come from among Christians? And why have there been Christians of this sort ever since the earliest days of the church?
I had the pleasure this past weekend of talking about this topic with a group of senior saints who are committed to the history of the Swedish Baptist Pietists; this is the denomination of my seminary, Bethel, in St. Paul, Minnesota. If you’re interested in the role of emotion in spirituality or have wondered about this pre-evangelical movement of “Pietists” that began during the period of the Enlightenment, then you may enjoy these remarks. Here’s part I:
Some remarks on Pietism and Heart Religion, in a historical key
The modern critique of heart religion
The first thing to say, perhaps, about heart religion, is that just as it got a bad rap in the 1600s, when Pietism was born, it still does today. Now, decades after the heyday of the charismatic movement brought heart religion to Main Street, the vaguely disreputable aura of an emotionally expressive religion lingers. Emotional commitment to, and expression of, one’s religion still seems, even to many evangelicals, somewhat uneducated and ‘un-necessary.’ Continue reading
Here is a brief summary and commentary on the eighth (actually no comment there) and ninth lectures of Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf, Bishop of the Church of the Moravian Brethren, from Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion, preached in Fetter Lane Chapel in London in the Year 1746. Translated and Edited by George W. Forell, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1973.
Again, this was from early in my graduate experience, 1994-1995, in Dr. Richard Lovelace’s class on the Pietist Renewal at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Lecture VIII—Concerning the Blessed Happiness of Sincere and Upright Hearts
‘The eighth, that it is true in sano sensu that from the human side nothing more is requied for salvation than an upright heart.’ (xxxii)
Text: Psalm 32:2. ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.’
Lecture IX—That which, Properly Speaking, can Secure Us from all Fear, Danger, and Harm
‘The ninth concludes with a frank confession that the object of their faith, although invisible, is nevertheless, in the most real sense, nearer to Christians than the shirt on their backs.’ (xxxii) Continue reading