Tag Archives: sanctification

The book that started the Pietist renewal: Johann Arndt’s True Christianity


Johann Arndt, True Christianity (Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press)

What follows is a summary and commentary I created while reading this famous pre-Pietist book during the course “The Pietist Renewal” with Dr. Richard Lovelace at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 1994-5. Arndt’s book was a touchstone for the whole Pietist movement. Spener, Francke, and other Pietist leaders were raised on it. It expressed key concerns for holiness and the Christian life that characterized the whole Pietist movement–in reaction to trends within state-church Lutheranism toward “cheap grace” teaching and a hyper-focus on doctrinal dispute. For other posts on Pietism and the Pietists, you can use the “search” box on this blog. I have posted similar summary/commentaries on works by Philip Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke:

This is a reactive work.  It is reacting to a brand of Christianity that majors on doctrine and dispute and minors on Christian practice (prayer, morality, the “works of repentance”).

The first twenty chapters of Book I—Liber Scripturae, although quite broad, tend to stick with the theme of original sin and its effects on man, and thus the need for ongoing, strenuous vigilance for, repentance from, and mortification of the “Adamic nature”—which prevents us from receiving God’s grace and enjoying his fellowship.  These chapters tend to state their main theses negatively, and so seem at times dour and forbidding. Continue reading

The Pietists: Key traits and values


I’ve posted already on Pietist founder Philipp Spener’s famous program for reform, Pia Desideria, and on the Pietists’ inclusion of church history as a key discipline in theological education. Here is a summary, borrowed and reshaped from notes from my teachers David Steinmetz and Duke and Richard Lovelace at Gordon-Conwell, of some key Pietist traits and values:

A few key traits of the Pietists

I’ll put these in terms of movements: from what the Protestant Orthodox folk stressed in their teachings, to what the Pietist folk stressed.

Belief—>Practice

The Protestant Orthodox folks (also known as Protestant “scholastics”–the people working in the mode of Philip Melanchthon to systematize Reformation theology) tended to see the church as having been put on earth to cultivate true belief. The Pietists emphasized the translation of this belief into the ordinary structures of daily life. Not that believing is unimportant. They shared with the Orthodox the notion that if you got the theory wrong you would get the practice wrong. BUT what is important is that your theology becomes immediately embodied in life. Continue reading

Re-rooting spirituality in theology: a book worth reading


Alister McGrath and Timothy George’s book For All the Saints came out a few years ago and didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. As a historian, I am not deterred from lauding something just because it is a few (or a few hundred) years old, so here we go:

You should read this book if you are concerned with the “sanctification gap” in evangelical culture–that is, if you think evangelical thought and evangelical life have become woefully separated, favoring either thought over life or life over thought, to the detriment of both:

Christian History Corner: For All the Saints
A fascinating book reminds us to get our heads and hearts together, in the company of the cloud of witnesses.
By Chris Armstrong

“Evangelicals,” gather round. Fellow-travelers and outsiders, lend an ear. For we are about to talk about evangelicalism’s “dirty little secret.” It’s what historian Richard Lovelace has called “the Sanctification Gap.” And it was the subject of a conference held in October, 2000 at Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama, which has now resulted in a book worth reading.

The book, like the conference, is titled For All the Saints: Evangelical Theology and Christian Spirituality (Westminster John Knox, 2003). Continue reading

Testify! A glimpse inside the world of ‘holiness testimony,’ through the story of Amanda Berry Smith


Back in 2004 I had the privilege of editing an issue of Christian History & Biography on the topic of the holiness movement. That issue triggered an e-newsletter on the life and testimony of Amanda Berry Smith (subject of my upcoming Emergent Cohort talk–see the previous post for details):

Since the holiness movement was the focus of my graduate studies, and since the current issue of Christian History & Biography is on this topic—Issue 82: Phoebe Palmer and the Holiness Movement—I can’t resist introducing you to a woman who, I think you’ll agree, was one of that movement’s most fascinating figures.

This is the self-described “washerwoman evangelist,” the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) preacher, singer, missionary, and orphans’ home founder Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915).

We meet Amanda Smith briefly in this week’s featured online article from Issue 82: “I received my commission from Him, brother,” the story of women holiness leaders, written by my friend and fellow Duke graduate student Jennifer Woodruff Tait. But there’s more to Smith’s story:

Born a slave, Amanda Berry Smith was educated mainly at home and was employed for the early years of her life as a domestic worker. She endured two unhappy marriages but found “the joy of the Lord” in 1868 in a classic Wesleyan sanctification experience. Not content to sit still with her experience, she launched out the following year (her second husband and children had died by this time) as a traveling preacher to black churches in New York and New Jersey. Continue reading

Local (Twin Cities) event: “Holy America, Amanda!”: How the 19th-century holiness movement addressed racism and other social sins in middle-class America


This local event (yes, I know I shamelessly stole the title from one of my own recent blog posts) is the November meeting of the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort, 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 12th at Solomon’s Porch, Minneapolis (corner of 46th and Blaisdell).

Through the life of Amanda Berry Smith, an ex-slave, memoirist, and highly respected evangelist in the holiness movement of her day, we will look at several themes:

1. The holiness movement as an attempt to figure out how to live faithfully to Christ in the 19th-century urban Northeast’s consumerizing, modernizing culture (and what that may or may not tell us about how to do likewise in our own consumerist, modern/postmodern culture).

2. The courage needed to bring an unpopular message of sin (in this case racism) and the need for change to a middle-class Christian audience (Amanda had this in spades, but it didn’t come easily for her).

3. The relationship between social justice and the sanctification of individuals.

The Emergent Cohort is an opportunity for thinking and questioning people to join with others asking similar questions in an accepting, relaxed venue. The Twin Cities Emergent Cohort has been meeting in its current location for almost two years and involves participants sitting on couches, drinking coffee, and talking about a theological or social topic in a respectful and engaging way. The cohort meets the 2nd Tuesday of every month at noon at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis (again, corner of 46th and Blaisdell). The party breaks up about 1:30. Bring coffee or lunch and join us for theological conversation.

Summary of chapter 9: Eternity, temporality, and the art of dying well


The medievalist C. S. Lewis could not shake the idea of purgatory—the place of final sanctification before the judgment. He believed it, though not (he said) in its full Roman Catholic panoply. This came partly from a seriousness about sin: surely none of us thinks we can stand before a holy God after death without some sort of cleansing! But the deeper grounding of the doctrine for Lewis as for the medievals is this: Our life is a breath; a blade of grass; a brief, transitory phase between birth and death; a twinkle in time compared to eternal life with God in heaven, or eternal damnation without God and with Satan in hell. You want to live it as well as you can, and when it comes time to die, you want to be as prepared as possible to meet your eternal destiny. Continue reading