Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Emerging Church as the New Pietism

In my reading I've been seeing a lot of similarities between the historical movement called Pietism and what's happening in the current renewal of the church (part of which is referred to by the term Emerging Church).

Pietism was a movement within Lutheranism, lasting from the late-17th century to the mid-18th century. It proved to be very influential throughout Protestantism and Anabaptism, inspiring not only Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement, but also Alexander Mack to begin the Brethren movement. The Pietist movement combined the Lutheran emphasis on Biblical doctrine with the Reformed, and especially Puritan, emphasis on individual piety, and a vigorous Christian life.

Pietism seems to have a number of parallels to the emerging movement.
Pietism was a reaction to the rigid formalism of the state (Lutheran) church.
Pietism also focused on orthopraxy (right living) as opposed to merely orthodoxy (right belief).
It focused on an authentic faith, biblically correct but not just dry doctrine.
It often met in small groups in homes for deeper discussion and community.
All of these seem to line up with what is happening today.

In 1675 Philipp Jakob Spener (the founder of Pietism - and yes his first name is spelled that way) published his Pia desideria or Earnest Desires for a Reform of the True Evangelical Church, the title giving rise to the term "Pietists". In this publication he made six proposals as the best means of restoring the life of the Church:
1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia (" churches within the church")
2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church (all are called to ministry - marketplace anointing)
3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement (orthopraxy - faith must be lived out)
4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them (this is where the Emerging movement could improve - as well as those criticizing them)
5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life (a new way of training in seminaries that focuses on developing character and holiness)
6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life (discipleship focus in preaching - very similar to the focus of new style churches) - (adapted from Wikipedia's article on Pietism).

One focus that is not always present in the Emerging movement that was a core element of Pietism is "piety" - a commitment to outward and inward holiness. The key element in the Emerging movement seems to be cultural relevance - sometimes at the expense of what we have traditionally considered holiness. But with their commitment to orthopraxy - right living - there is a real hope that this new movement of the Spirit will breathe life into the entire church.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!