Tag Archives: Lutheranism

Religion of the heart – part IV

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

Saints and Mary: What Lutherans and Roman Catholics agree on about them

If you’re wondering what Lutherans AND Roman Catholics can affirm about saints, here’s what the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dia­logue’s joint document, The One Medi­a­tor, the Saints, and Mary, has to say about it. Again, h/t to the folks at “Here I Walk.”

The document states some “church-uniting con­ver­gences” :

“1. We reit­er­ate the basic affir­ma­tion that ‘our entire hope of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and sal­va­tion rests on Christ Jesus and the gospel whereby the good news of God’s mer­ci­ful action in Christ is made known; we do not place our trust in any­thing other than God’s promise and sav­ing work in Christ.’ (§103)

“2. We now fur­ther assert together that Jesus Christ is the sole Medi­a­tor in God’s plan of sal­va­tion (I Tim. 2:5). Christ’s sav­ing work and role in God’s design thus deter­mine not only the con­tent of the gospel and its com­mu­ni­ca­tion but also all Chris­t­ian life, includ­ing our own and that of Mary and the saints who are now in heaven… Continue reading

The “Bartenders’ Church”: Founded in the teeth of the temperance movement

Ever wonder what happened to evangelical Protestant bartenders during the late nineteenth-century heyday of the temperance movement? Because, yes, there were such people.

Turns out that in at least one case, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, they formed their own church.

During the 1870 to 1885 period, when the Prohibition movement was in force, many Lutheran churches considered the use of alcohol a sin, and serving alcohol or preparing drinks for others especially evil because it caused people to stumble in their walk of faith, said the Rev. Andi Wolf, pastor.”

These folks who felt turned away often found a home in Emmanuel Church of Christ. We gave them a voice,” Wolf said.

Read more

Zinzendorf’s lecture #6–That It Is Blessedness and Happiness to Be a Human Soul

Here is a brief summary and commentary on the sixth lecture 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 VI–That It Is Blessedness and Happiness to Be a Human Soul

‘In the sixth it is clearly proved that being a human soul is in and of itself a blessing for which one can never thank his Creator enough.’ (xxxii)

Text:  John 1:11-12 ‘He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.’

[NOTE:  are we here to find that stress on adoption that Packer finds so woefully missing from much of historical theology?  In a non-theologian?  Perhaps this is not so surprising, if it is true.  Certainly, Zinzendorf appears to dwell on the fringes of, if not within, a lively sense of the overmastering wonder of adoption!] Continue reading

How to get to know Johann Christoph Blumhardt: A never-before-translated biography

Now that I have your attention on the Blumhardts, here is the very first English translation of the standard German biography of the elder Blumhardt, Johann Christoph. This is the first in what will become a 10-book series edited by my colleague Christian Collins Winn.

The price-tag is aimed more at libraries than individuals, but it’s well worth looking up.

I hope to give it at least a quick read over the coming months and report back. Meanwhile, you might want to click the link above and then either pick it up or look for it through your local library system.

Rick Warren says: U need to know Christoph Blumhardt. OK. Blum-who?

Well, we should all know about Johann and (his son) Christoph Blumhardt–that’s for sure. And not just because Rick Warren tweeted the other day and said that we should (the tweet read: “Wherever a handful stand together on the Rock, the realities of God’s Kingdom appear” Christoph Blumhardt (U need to know him)).

You’re in luck! My brilliant friend and colleague, the rising theologian Christian Collins Winn, who teaches at Bethel University (my seminary’s sister institution) has written and continues to write on these fascinating Blumhardts. And when I asked, he was only too happy to provide the following brief meditation on their lives and theology(ies):

[UPDATE: Here is a post describing a never-before-translated biography of the elder Blumhardt.]

Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805–1880) and his son Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919) would certainly qualify as  “neglected theologians.”  Both Blumhardts, charismatic pastors from southwestern Germany (Württemberg), managed to be two of the most influential “theologians” of the later half of the nineteenth-century without anyone, at least not anyone in the English speaking world, really knowing about it.  But don’t take my word for it, listen to Emil Brunner speaking about the origins of what has come to be called dialectical theology: “The real origin of the Dialectic Theology is to be traced, however, not to Kierkegaard, but to a more unexpected source, to a place still farther removed from the main theological thoroughfare-to the quiet Boll of the two Blumhardts.”[1] Or consider these words recently published by Jürgen Moltmann: “My ‘Theology of Hope’ has two roots: Christoph Blumhardt and Ernst Bloch.”[2]

Rhetorical hyperbole you say?  Perhaps, but given that not only Brunner and Moltmann, but Karl Barth, Eduard Thurneysen, Friedrich Gogarten, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Cullman, Paul Tillich and Gerhard Sauter all claim to have been influenced, or at the very least,  to have known the thought of the two Blumhardts with some intimacy, a strong case can be made that the “pastors from Boll” had an important role in shaping the theological imagination of one of the most creative generations of Protestant thought in recent memory.  This fact alone warrants the Blumhardts far more attention than they have received. Continue reading