Tag Archives: renewal

Signs of the times: What spiritual and social renewal looked like to the Pietists in the early 1700s


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

A pioneer of social ministry in an early evangelical revival: August Francke


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

Wise words on reforming our churches and ourselves: Philipp Jakob Spener’s Pia Desideria, pt. II


This is the second part of an annotated summary of Pietist founder Philipp Jakob Spener’s diagnoses and prescription for church reform, the Pia Desideria. The first part may be found here.

PART II—The possibility of better conditions in the church

“In order for the Jews to be converted, the true church must be in a holier state than now if its holy life is to be a means for that conversion, or at least the impediments to such conversion…are to be removed.” (77)

“it is incumbent on all of us to see to it that as much as possible is done, on the one hand, to convert the Jews and weaken the spiritual power of the papacy and, on the other hand, to reform our church.” (78)

[Quoting Erasmus Sarcerius—more than a hundred years before Spener:]  “Is it not a pity that we blind and callous Germans should with our dissolute and disorderly life have driven out real and true religion?  There is no stopping it.  Nobody thinks of bettering himself.” (79)  “Now, as we are concerned about real and true religion, so we also give thought to ways and means of maintaining it.  I have no counsel to offer.  If I knew what to suggest, nobody would pay any heed.…perhaps…on account of our sins and transgressions our dear religion will be lost through God’s disfavor.…” (79)] Continue reading