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 →
As far as I can tell, evangelicalism right now, here in America, could really use a re-infusion of the spirit of the 17th- and 18th-century German Pietists. And it is up to a school like Bethel University (truth in advertising: my employer), whose founding denomination is a Pietist one, to position itself under the fountain of historical Pietism and get a good, thorough soaking in that movement’s spirit. For though Pietism is our heritage, we don’t know what it was any more. That’s a sad loss.
Specifically, we stand to learn from such Pietist leaders as August Hermann Francke, the subject of this post, how to overhaul education, social action, and the Christian life along Pietist lines. If this sounds intriguing, then read on . . . Continue reading →
The following is a “progress report” on the famous Pietist renewal. It was published an appendix to a 1716 book by Pietist church reformer August Hermann Francke, Pietas Hallensis. It may be interesting and instructive to ask: are these the sorts of signs of spiritual and social renewal that we would get excited about today? How are we doing in these areas?
Part I of the book itself is a brief account of the “rise, occasion, and progress” of the Halle complex. The complex, in Halle, Germany, was dedicated to renewing society through Christian services offered in a hospital, schools, a printing house, and much more–see this post for an account of Francke’s life and the Halle complex. It starts with descriptions of each part of the complex, then relates instances of financial miracles (unexpected gifts) by which these works were sustained once Francke had committed himself in faith to undertaking them.
You may have heard of the orphanage of 19th-century German minister George Muller, which inspired the “faith missions” of many 19th-century missionaries (that is, missionary works with no visible means of financial support, sustained by prayer and the free-will gifts of “friends”). Halle was Muller’s pattern and inspiration.
Part II of Pietas Hallensis includes many more accounts of individual gifts, in the years 1707 and 1708, including the texts of many touching letters enclosed. The report on the Pietist renewal reproduced below comes from an appendix to part II, titled “Signs of the times since 1688.” The book was printed in 1716, so the period reported on stretches across roughly 28 years.
Here is the report (with a few comments interjected by me); I read the book and made these notes in a 1994 seminar on the Pietists given by Richard Lovelace at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachussets: Continue reading →
I’m posting a few things related to that proto-evangelical movement of church reform and revival, German Pietism (17th & 18th c.). A couple of these posts (here and here) relate to one of Pietism’s most intriguing and influential figures, August Hermann Francke. So here is a biographical sketch of Francke:
THE LIFE AND WORK OF AUGUST HERMANN FRANCKE (1663-1727)
I want you to note two things: First, his learnedness and commitment to education (though he asserted paradoxically that a learned man is the hardest to get into the kingdom), and second, his pursuit of social ministry (the orphanage and many related enterprises). These facts seem to contradict the common stereotype of Pietism as a movement both brainless and inward-turned.
August Francke was born in 1663 and grew up in an area of Germany that was a stronghold of the teaching of Johann Arndt [on whom, another post for another time! He was a pre-Pietist spiritual teacher whose book True Christianity inspired Pietist leaders]. Something of a child prodigy, Francke had studied, by the age of 16, philology, philosophy, Greek, logic, metaphysics, geography, history, and Hebrew. He was a linguistic genius—by his death he knew some 35 languages. Continue reading →
The following is a brief summary and some reflections on the second of August Hermann Francke’s (1663 – 1727) Three Practical Discourses. I did this while in Dr. Richard Lovelace’s class on the Pietist renewal, in 1994 at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The edition I was looking at was (a copy of?) an edition printed in 1716; translated into English from the High-Dutch:
[If you want to jump right to “doing something about it,” then you might be interested in Tyler Blanski’s music project for the homeless]
2. OF CHARITY TO THE POOR
Twenty Four Motives to a faithful Discharge of the Duty of Bounty to the Poor
‘In those days, the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his Disciples unto him, and says unto them: I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat, etc.’
1. The unspeakable and incomprehensible love and mercy of God towards mankind.
‘There is no doubt, but whosoever does duly ponder this love with himself, and revolve it again and again in his mind, but his heart will be excited thereby to bestow a like love on his poor and indigent neighbour.’ (26) Continue reading →