Print this pageHistorical Text Archive © 1990 - 2016
by Frank Perry, Jr.
ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN LUTHERAN FAITH. After Martin Luther died in 1546 his followers argued about specific beliefs central to Lutheran faith.
1. Good behavior. Is good behavior the cause of spiritual salvation or result of spiritual salvation?
2. Conversion. Is conversion to Christ a human act or a divine act?
3. Law. Should Christians obey Old Testament Laws or are they free from those laws?
4. Sacraments. Which sacraments are essential and why should they be kept?
5. Justification. Is justification from sin a declaration of God or a spiritual power given to Christians?
PROTESTANT ORTHODOXY. Lutheran and Calvinist University scholars and theologians soon developed and published rigid and precise legal statements defining their respective beliefs and requirements of converts.
PROTESTANT PIETISM. Minority pastors and congregations of Lutherans and Calvinists rejected those statements as dry, legalistic and without personal feeling, experience or holiness in behavior.
Johann Arndt (1555-1621) a Lutheran pastor and author of devotional materials wrote and published True Christianity and other spiritually inspiring books describing the pious life. This book was most influential in shaping the belief and behavior of Lutherans in the seventeenth century and was quoted frequently by Pastor Martin Boltzius in his ministry to Georgia Salzburgers.
John Calvin published Institutes of the Christian Religion, directing his followers toward a more Godly and pious lifestyle, which was adopted by Dutch and English Puritans. Other authors published books on pietism, including William Ames and Mennonites, Quakers, and Schwenckfelders.
However, war between 1618 and 1648 dragged on for thirty years and led to moral decay and called attention to corrupt behavior by political and church authorities in addition to the general population throughout Germany.
In 1676 Lutheran professor Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705) at the seminary in Frankfurt am Main, published Pia Desideria: or Heartfelt Desires for a God-pleasing improvement of the true Protestant Church. Arndt's True Christianity and Spener's Pia Desideria were second to the Bible in giving instruction and inspiration for the devout life of Lutherans.
1. Small Bible study groups to encourage Christian growth, the practice of the priesthood of all believers and personal piety. Study should be focused upon conversion of sinners and strengthening the weak believer.
2. He called upon all Christians as priests to offer their bodies free from sin to God in service. Their natures were to be tamed by the Holy Spirit to obey God. The tongue and mind would be dedicated to speak and think in prayer and meditation of scripture.
3. Believers should not argue about God, but share their love of God with each other.
4. Pastors should not only preach the truth, but also practice it devoutly and morally in their daily lives.
5. God's saving grace through the Holy Spirit applied to individual persons who must experience a personal emotional inner spiritual change of pious attitude, assurance of salvation, and sanctification resulting in moral behavior.
6. All ecclesiastical structures, forms, definitions and practices should be continuously adapted to the mission of the church to convert individuals to Christ and sustain their growth in pious living.
SPENER'S PIETISM CONFLICTS WITH ORTHODOXY. Pietism focused upon the individual and insisted upon the church structure and definitions to conform to the person's spiritual experience of salvation and sanctification. Orthodoxy focused upon the church structure and definitions and insisted upon the person's spiritual experience to conform to the organization.
August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) was an enthusiastic and pious student of Spener. His spiritual conversion in 1687 led to implementing Spenerian reforms in several pastorates with great success. Spener was impressed with Francke and recommended his appointment in 1692 as professor at the new University at Halle.
Francke was not a trained theologian, but emphasized (1) the new birth as necessary to move from the control of Satan to the control of God. (2) A personal struggle with deep sorrow for past sins and experience a breakthrough of repentance. Rejecting the old lifestyle, thoughts and desires will experience trial and suffering, which can be overcome by new trust in Christ and joys of the new lifestyle, thoughts and desires.
Halle became a center under Francke for Pietist training of new pastors and missionaries. He built an orphanage, which became self-supporting as a model for educational institutions in foreign missions. He developed a printing organization for Bibles, songbooks, prayer books and devotional guides. He organized a farm to support the orphanage with food and a pharmacy to support the orphanage and foreign mission ministries.
Johann Martin Boltzius and Israel Christian Gronau, Georgia Salzburger pastors, were trained at Halle, as was Henry Melchoir Mhlenberg, who came first to study the Georgia Salzburger orphanage before traveling to Pennsylvania as Lutheran pastor.
Many Protestant pastors and theologians developed their own theories within Pietism. Some denied this world's pleasures and pains, expecting the end of the world in their own day.
MORAVIAN PIETISTS. Count Nicolas Ludwig Zinzendorf (1700-1760) lost his father when he was six weeks old. His mother married, again, when he was age four to a Prussian marshal and left her son in the care of his pietist grandmother. The boy was precocious and studied pietist beliefs at Halle. A guardian was opposed to pietist beliefs and sent him to Wittenberg at age sixteen. After further education in Germany, Holland, and France, he was not permitted to enter the Lutheran ministry, but steered toward a public career. He accepted public duties, but chose to serve as a devout Christian.
In 1722 Zinzendorf learned of the persecution of Protestant Bohemian Brethren or Moravians. He offered them land on his vast estate, which they named Herrnhut (the Lord's Watch). On August 13, 1727 the community experienced a great spiritual revival or awakening. Zinzendorf influenced their beliefs by calling attention to heartfelt feeling of Christ's redemption as opposed to a set of intellectual beliefs. He opposed Francke's emphasis on extreme sorrow over past sins and stressed the joy and assurance of salvation. His focus was upon growing to become more Christ like. He, also, taught the Trinity to be Father, Mother (Holy Spirit of Love) and Son in a model on the human family, exalting love and sexuality as central to marriage.
INFLUENCE UPON JOHN WESLEY. John Wesley met Moravians on a ship sailing to Georgia. During a frightening storm at sea, their calm songs of faith impressed him. The day after his arrival at Savannah, he spoke with Moravian Pastor August Gottlieb Spangenberg (1704-1792).
Spangenberg asked, "Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?"
Wesley was startled. Spangenberg asked, "Do you know Jesus Christ?"
Wesley replied, "I know He is the Saviour of the world."
"True," answered Spangenberg, "but do you know He has saved you?"
Wesley said, "I hope He has died to save me."
Spangenberg, "Do you know yourself?"
Wesley replied, "I do." But, later, he wondered whether this was true.
Later, in England, in 1738, Wesley reported a conversation with Peter Bohler, a Moravian leader.
In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.