Pietism (/ˈpaɪ.ɪtɪsm/, from the word piety) was an influential
Lutheranism that combined its emphasis on Biblical
doctrine with the Reformed emphasis on individual piety and living a
vigorous Christian life.
Although the movement was active exclusively within Lutheranism, it
had a tremendous impact on
Protestantism worldwide, particularly in
North America and Europe.
Pietism originated in modern
Germany in the
late 17th century with the work of Philipp Spener, a Lutheran
theologian whose emphasis on personal transformation through spiritual
rebirth and renewal, individual devotion and piety laid the
foundations for the movement. Although Spener did not directly
advocate the quietistic, legalistic and semi-separatist practices of
Pietism, they were more or less involved in the positions he assumed
or the practices which he encouraged.
Pietism spread from
Germany to Switzerland and the rest of
German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltics (where it was
heavily influential, leaving a permament mark on the region's dominant
Lutheranism, with figures like
Hans Nielsen Hauge
Hans Nielsen Hauge in Norway, Peter
Carl Olof Rosenius
Carl Olof Rosenius in Sweden,
Katarina Asplund in Finland,
Barbara von Krüdener
Barbara von Krüdener in the Baltics), and the rest of Europe. It
was further taken to North America, primarily by German and
Scandinavian immigrants. There, it influenced Protestants of other
ethnic backgrounds, taking part in the 18th century foundation of
Evangelicalism, a vibrant movement within
Protestantism that today has
some 300 million followers.
The movement reached its zenith in the mid-18th century, and declined
through the 19th century, and had almost vanished in America by the
end of the 20th century. While declining as an identifiable Lutheran
group, some of its theological tenets influenced Protestantism
generally, inspiring the Anglican priest
John Wesley to begin the
Methodist movement and
Alexander Mack to begin the Brethren movement
among Anabaptists. Though
Pietism shares an emphasis on personal
behavior with the
Puritan movement, and the two are often confused,
there are important differences, particularly in the concept of the
role of religion in government.
3 Early leaders
4 Establishment reaction
5 Later history
6 Influence on the Methodists
7 Impact on party voting in United States and Great Britain
9 International influence
10 See also
12 Further reading
12.1 Older works
13 External links
As the forerunners of the Pietists in the strict sense, certain voices
had been heard bewailing the shortcomings of the Church and advocating
a revival of practical and devout Christianity. Amongst them were the
Jakob Böhme (Behmen); Johann Arndt, whose work, True
Christianity, became widely known and appreciated; Heinrich Müller,
who described the font, the pulpit, the confessional and the altar as
"the four dumb idols of the Lutheran Church"; the theologian Johann
Valentin Andrea, court chaplain of the Landgrave of Hesse; Schuppius,
who sought to restore the
Bible to its place in the pulpit; and
Theophilus Grossgebauer (d. 1661) of Rostock, who from his pulpit and
by his writings raised what he called "the alarm cry of a watchman in
Philipp Spener (1635–1705), the "Father of Pietism", is considered
the founder of the movement.
The direct originator of the movement was Philipp Spener. Born at
Rappoltsweiler in Alsace, now in France, on 13 January 1635, trained
by a devout godmother who used books of devotion like Arndt's True
Christianity, Spener was convinced of the necessity of a moral and
religious reformation within German Lutheranism. He studied theology
at Strasbourg, where the professors at the time (and especially
Sebastian Schmidt) were more inclined to "practical"
to theological disputation. He afterwards spent a year in Geneva, and
was powerfully influenced by the strict moral life and rigid
ecclesiastical discipline prevalent there, and also by the preaching
and the piety of the
Waldensian professor Antoine Leger and the
converted Jesuit preacher Jean de Labadie.
During a stay in Tübingen, Spener read Grossgebauer's Alarm Cry, and
in 1666 he entered upon his first pastoral charge at
Frankfurt with a
profound opinion that the Christian life within Evangelical
Lutheranism was being sacrificed to zeal for rigid Lutheran orthodoxy.
Pietism, as a distinct movement in the German Church, began with
religious meetings at Spener's house (collegia pietatis) where he
repeated his sermons, expounded passages of the New Testament, and
induced those present to join in conversation on religious questions.
In 1675, Spener published his Pia desideria or Earnest Desire for a
Reform of the True Evangelical Church, the title giving rise to the
term "Pietists". This was originally a pejorative term given to the
adherents of the movement by its enemies as a form of ridicule, like
that of "Methodists" somewhat later in England.
In Pia desideria, Spener made six proposals as the best means of
restoring the life of the Church:
The earnest and thorough study of the
Bible in private meetings,
ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("little churches within the church")
The Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in
the spiritual government of the Church
A knowledge of
Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as
its indispensable sign and supplement
Instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox
and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them
A reorganization of the theological training of the universities,
giving more prominence to the devotional life
A different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing
rhetoric, the implanting of
Christianity in the inner or new man, the
soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life
This work produced a great impression throughout Germany. While large
numbers of orthodox Lutheran theologians and pastors were deeply
offended by Spener's book, many other pastors immediately adopted
Haugean Pietist Conventicle. Painting by Adolph Tidemand, 1852
In 1686 Spener accepted an appointment to the court-chaplaincy at
Dresden, which opened to him a wider though more difficult sphere of
labor. In Leipzig, a society of young theologians was formed under his
influence for the learned study and devout application of the Bible.
Three magistrates belonging to that society, one of whom was August
Hermann Francke, subsequently the founder of the famous orphanage at
Halle (1695), commenced courses of expository lectures on the
Scriptures of a practical and devotional character, and in the German
language, which were zealously frequented by both students and
townsmen. The lectures, however, aroused the ill-will of the other
theologians and pastors of Leipzig, and Francke and his friends left
the city, and with the aid of
Christian Thomasius and Spener founded
the new University of Halle. The theological chairs in the new
university were filled in complete conformity with Spener's proposals.
The main difference between the new Pietistic Lutheran school and the
orthodox Lutherans arose from the Pietists' conception of Christianity
as chiefly consisting in a change of heart and consequent holiness of
life. Orthodox Lutherans rejected this viewpoint as a gross
simplification, stressing the need for the church and for sound
Spener died in 1705, but the movement, guided by Francke and
fertilized from Halle, spread through the whole of Middle and North
Germany. Among its greatest achievements, apart from the philanthropic
institutions founded at Halle, were the revival of the Moravian Church
in 1727 by Count von Zinzendorf, Spener's godson and a pupil in the
Halle School for Young Noblemen, and the establishment of Protestant
Part of the series on
Title page of the Calov Bible
Second scholasticism of the Jesuits
Lutheran scholasticism during Lutheran Orthodoxy
Ramism among the Reformed scholastics
Metaphysical poets in the Church of England
Reactions within Christianity
Labadists against the Jesuits
Pietism against orthodox Lutherans
Nadere Reformatie within Dutch Calvinism
Richard Hooker against the Ramists
Reactions within philosophy
Modernists against Roman Catholics
Neologists against Lutherans
Spinozists against Dutch Calvinists
Deists against English Christianity
John Locke against Bishop Stillingfleet
Spener stressed the necessity of a new birth and separation of
Christians from the world, (see Asceticism). Many Pietists maintained
that the new birth always had to be preceded by agonies of repentance,
and that only a regenerated theologian could teach theology. The whole
school shunned all common worldly amusements, such as dancing, the
theatre, and public games. Some believe this led to a new form of
justification by works. Its ecclesiolae in ecclesia also weakened the
power and meaning of church organization. These Pietistic attitudes
caused a counter-movement at the beginning of the 18th century; one
leader was Valentin Ernst Löscher, superintendent at Dresden.
Authorities within state-endorsed religions were suspicious of pietist
doctrine which they often viewed as a social danger, as it "seemed
either to generate an excess of evangelical fervor and so disturb the
public tranquility or to promote a mysticism so nebulous as to obscure
the imperatives of morality. A movement which cultivated religious
feeling almost as an end itself". While some pietists (such as Pastor
Francis Magny) held that "mysticism and the moral law went together",
for others (like his pupil Françoise-Louise de la Tour) "pietist
mysticism did less to reinforce the moral law than to take its
place...the principle of 'guidance by inner light' was often a signal
to follow the most intense of her inner sentiments...the supremacy of
feeling over reason". Religious authorities could bring pressure on
pietists, such as when they brought some of Magny's followers before
the local consistory to answer questions about their unorthodox
views or when they banished Pastor Magny from
Vevey for heterodoxy
in 1713. Likewise, pietism challenged the orthodoxy via new media
and formats: Periodical journals gained importance versus the former
pasquills and single thesis, traditional disputation was replaced by
competitive debating, which tried to gain new knowledge instead of
defending orthodox scholarship.
The Broad and the Narrow Way, a popular German Pietist painting, 1866
As a distinct movement,
Pietism had its greatest strength by the
middle of the 18th century; its very individualism in fact helped to
prepare the way for the Enlightenment (Aufklärung), which took the
church in an altogether different direction. Yet some claim that
Pietism contributed largely to the revival of Biblical studies in
Germany and to making religion once more an affair of the heart and of
life and not merely of the intellect.
It likewise gave a new emphasis to the role of the laity in the
church. Rudolf Sohm claimed that "It was the last great surge of the
waves of the ecclesiastical movement begun by the Reformation; it was
the completion and the final form of the
Protestantism created by the
Reformation. Then came a time when another intellectual power took
possession of the minds of men."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the German
Confessing Church framed the same characterization in less positive
terms when he called
Pietism the last attempt to save
a religion: Given that for him religion was a negative term, more or
less an opposite to revelation, this constitutes a rather scathing
judgment. Bonhoeffer denounced the basic aim of Pietism, to produce a
"desired piety" in a person, as unbiblical.
Pietism is considered the major influence that led to the creation of
the "Evangelical Church of the Union" in
Prussia in 1817. The King of
Prussia ordered the Lutheran and
Reformed churches in
unite; they took the name "Evangelical" as a name both groups had
previously identified with. This union movement spread through many
German lands in the 1800s. Pietism, with its looser attitude toward
confessional theology, had opened the churches to the possibility of
uniting. The unification of the two branches of German Protestantism
sparked the Schism of the Old Lutherans. Many Lutherans, called Old
Lutherans formed free churches or immigrated to the United States and
Australia, where they formed bodies that would later become the
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church of Australia,
respectively. (Many immigrants to America, who agreed with the union
movement, formed German Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed
congregations, later combined into the Evangelical Synod of North
America, which is now a part of the United Church of Christ.)
Influence on the Methodists
Pietism was a major influence on
John Wesley and others who began the
Methodist movement in 18th century Great Britain.
John Wesley was
influenced significantly by Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter
Boehler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism. The
fruit of these Pietist influences can be seen in the modern American
Methodists and members of the Holiness movement.
Impact on party voting in United States and Great Britain
In the United States, Richard L. McCormick says, "In the nineteenth
century voters whose religious heritage was pietistic or evangelical
were to prone to support the Whigs and, later, the Republicans." Paul
Kleppner generalizes, "the more pietistic the groups outlook the more
intensely Republican its partisan affiliation." McCormick notes
that the key link between religious values and politics resulted from
the "urge of evangelicals and Pietists to 'reach out and purge the
world of sin.'" Pietistic denominations in the United States
included Northern Methodists, Northern Baptists, Scandinavian
Lutherans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and
some smaller groups. The great majority were based in the northern
states; some of these groups in the South would rather support the
In England in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Nonconformist
Protestant denominations, such as the Methodists,
Congregationalists, formed the base of the Liberal Party. David
Hempton states, "The Liberal Party was the main beneficiary of
Methodist political loyalties."
Pietism did not die out in the 18th century, but was alive and active
in the Evangelischer Kirchenverein des Westens (later German
Evangelical Church and still later the Evangelical and Reformed
Church.) The church president from 1901 to 1914 was a pietist named
Dr. Jakob Pister. Some vestiges of
Pietism were still present in
1957 at the time of the formation of the United Church of Christ.
However, in the 19th century, there was a revival of confessional
Lutheran doctrine, known as the neo-Lutheran movement. This movement
focused on a reassertion of the identity of Lutherans as a distinct
group within the broader community of Christians, with a renewed focus
on the Lutheran Confessions as a key source of Lutheran doctrine.
Associated with these changes was a renewed focus on traditional
doctrine and liturgy, which paralleled the growth of Anglo-Catholicism
Some writers on the history of
Pietism – e.g. Heppe and Ritschl –
have included under it nearly all religious tendencies amongst
Protestants of the last three centuries in the direction of a more
serious cultivation of personal piety than that prevalent in the
various established churches. Ritschl, too, treats
Pietism as a
retrograde movement of Christian life towards Catholicism. Some
historians also speak of a later or modern Pietism, characterizing
thereby a party in the German Church probably influenced by remains of
Pietism in Westphalia, on the Rhine, in Württemberg, Halle,
The party was chiefly distinguished by its opposition to an
independent scientific study of theology, its principal theological
leader being Hengstenberg, and its chief literary organ the
Pietism also had a strong influence on contemporary artistic culture
in Germany; though unread today, the Pietist
Johann Georg Hamann
Johann Georg Hamann held
a strong influence in his day. Pietist belief in the power of
individual meditation on the divine – a direct, individual approach
to the ultimate spiritual reality of God – was probably partly
responsible for the uniquely metaphysical, idealistic nature of German
Part of a series on
Modernism and liberalism
Pietism had an influence on American religion, as many German
immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, New York and other areas. Its
influence can be traced in Evangelicalism. Balmer says that:
Evangelicalism itself, I believe, is quintessentially North American
phenomenon, deriving as it did from the confluence of Pietism,
Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism.
up the peculiar characteristics from each strain – warmhearted
spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism
from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the
Puritans – even as the North American context itself has profoundly
shaped the various manifestations of evangelicalism: fundamentalism,
neo-evangelicalism, the holiness movement, Pentecostalism, the
charismatic movement, and various forms of African-American and
Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (10 July 1682 – 23 February 1719) was a
member of the Lutheran clergy and the first Pietist missionary to
Merton Thesis is an argument about the nature of early
experimental science proposed by Robert K. Merton. Similar to Max
Weber's famous claim on the link between
Protestant ethic and the
capitalist economy, Merton argued for a similar positive correlation
between the rise of
Pietism and early experimental
Merton Thesis has resulted in continuous debates.
Carl Olof Rosenius
Catholic Charismatic Renewal
Church of the Brethren
Evangelical Covenant Church
Evangelical Free Church of America
Friedrich Christoph Oetinger
Johann Georg Rapp
Hans Adolph Brorson
Hans Nielsen Hauge
Johann Georg Hamann
Johann Albrecht Bengel
Johann Conrad Dippel
Mission Covenant Church of Sweden
Templers (religious believers)
Nicolaus Ludwig, Count von Zinzendorf
^ In places, such as parts of England and America, where
frequently juxtaposed with Roman Catholicism, Catholics also became
naturally influenced by Pietism, helping to foster a stronger
tradition of congregational hymn-singing, including among Pietists who
converted to Catholicism and brought their pietistic inclination with
them, such as Frederick William Faber.
Puritans believed that government was ordained by God to
enforce Christian behavior upon the world; pietists see the government
as a part of the world, and believers were called to voluntarily live
faithful lives independent of government.
^ a b Maurice Cranston (1982). Jean-Jacques: The Early Life and Work
of Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1754. University of Chicago Press.
^ Leo Damrosch (2005). Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius. Mariner
^ Martin Gierl, Pietismus und Aufklärung: theologische Polemik und
die Kommunikationsreform der Wissenschaft am Ende des 17.
Jahrhunderts, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997 (
enlightenment, theological polemic and the reform of science
communication end of the 17. century).
^ Richard L. McCormick (1988). The Party Period and Public Policy.
Oxford UP. pp. 47–48.
^ McCormick, p 48
^ Paul Kleppner, The Third Electoral System 1853-1892: Parties,
Voters, and Political Cultures (University of North Carolina Press,
^ Howard Martin (1996). Britain in the 19th Century. Nelson Thornes.
^ David Hempton. Religion and Political Culture in Britain and
Ireland: From the Glorious Revolution to the Decline of Empire.
Cambridge UP. p. 37.
^ A discussion of some of the earlier pietist influence in the
Evangelical and Reformed church can be found in Dunn et al., "A
History of the Evangelical and Reformed Church" Christian Education
Press, Philadelphia, 1962. Further commentary can be found by Rev. Dr.
Carl Viehe under Pietism, Illinois Trails, Washington County.
^ Scherer, James A. (1993). "The Triumph of Confessionalism in
Nineteenth-Century German Lutheran Missions" (PDF). Missio Apostolica.
2: 71–78. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 12,
2006. This is an extract from Scherer's 1968 Ph.D. thesis,
"Mission and Unity in Lutheranism". Scherer was Professor of World
Mission and Church History at the Lutheran School of Theology at
Chicago until his retirement.
^ Randall Balmer (2002). The Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism.
Westminster John Knox Press. pp. vii–viii.
^ Sztompka, 2003
^ Cohen, 1990
See: "Six Principles of Pietism", based on Philip Jacob Spener's six
Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pietism". Catholic
Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name
needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Brown, Dale: Understanding Pietism, rev. ed. Nappanee, IN: Evangel
Publishing House, 1996.
Brunner, Daniel L. Halle Pietists in England: Anthony William Boehm
and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Arbeiten zur
Geschichte des Pietismus 29. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and
Olson, Roger E., Christian T. Collins Winn. Reclaiming Pietism:
Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition (Eerdmans Publishing Company,
2015). xiii + 190 pp. online review
Shantz, Douglas H. An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant
Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2013.
Stoeffler, F. Ernest. The Rise of Evangelical Pietism. Studies in the
History of Religion 9. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965.
Stoeffler, F. Ernest. German
Pietism During the Eighteenth Century.
Studies in the History of Religion 24. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973.
Stoeffler, F. Ernest. ed.: Continental
Pietism and Early American
Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976.
Winn, Christian T. et al. eds. The Pietist Impulse in Christianity
Joachim Feller, Sonnet. In: Luctuosa desideria Quibus […] Martinum
Bornium prosequebantur Quidam Patroni, Praeceptores atque Amici.
Lipsiae , pp. –. (Facsimile in: Reinhard Breymayer
(Ed.): Luctuosa desideria.
Tübingen 2008, pp. 24–25.) Here for
the first time the newly detected source. – Less exactly cf. Martin
Brecht: Geschichte des Pietismus, vol. I, p. 4.
Johann Georg Walch, Historische und theologische Einleitung in die
Religionsstreitigkeiten der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (1730);
Friedrich August Tholuck, Geschichte des Pietismus und des ersten
Stadiums der Aufklärung (1865);
Heinrich Schmid, Die Geschichte des Pietismus (1863);
Max Goebel, Geschichte des christlichen Lebens in der
Rheinisch-Westfälischen Kirche (3 vols., 1849–1860).
The subject is dealt with at length in
Isaak August Dorner's and W Gass's Histories of
Other works are:
Heinrich Heppe, Geschichte des Pietismus und der Mystik in der
reformierten Kirche (1879), which is sympathetic;
Albrecht Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus (5 vols., 1880–1886),
which is hostile; and
Eugen Sachsse, Ursprung und Wesen des Pietismus (1884).
Friedrich Wilhelm Franz Nippold's article in Theol. Stud. und Kritiken
(1882), pp. 347?392;
Hans von Schubert, Outlines of Church History, ch. xv. (Eng. trans.,
Carl Mirbt's article, "Pietismus," in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklopädie
für prot. Theologie u. Kirche, end of vol. xv.
The most extensive and current edition on
Pietism is the four-volume
edition in German, covering the entire movement in Europe and North
Geschichte des Pietismus (GdP)
Im Auftrag der Historischen Kommission zur Erforschung des Pietismus
herausgegeben von Martin Brecht, Klaus Deppermann, Ulrich Gäbler und
(English: On behalf of the Historical Commission for the Study of
pietism edited by Martin Brecht, Klaus Deppermann, Ulrich Gaebler and
Band 1: Der Pietismus vom siebzehnten bis zum frühen achtzehnten
Jahrhundert. In Zusammenarbeit mit Johannes van den Berg, Klaus
Deppermann, Johannes Friedrich Gerhard Goeters und Hans Schneider hg.
von Martin Brecht. Goettingen 1993. / 584 p.
Band 2: Der Pietismus im achtzehnten Jahrhundert. In Zusammenarbeit
mit Friedhelm Ackva, Johannes van den Berg, Rudolf Dellsperger, Johann
Friedrich Gerhard Goeters, Manfred Jakubowski-Tiessen, Pentii
Laasonen, Dietrich Meyer, Ingun Montgomery, Christian Peters, A. Gregg
Roeber, Hans Schneider, Patrick Streiff und Horst Weigelt hg. von
Martin Brecht und Klaus Deppermann. Goettingen 1995. / 826 p.
Band 3: Der Pietismus im neunzehnten und zwanzigsten Jahrhundert. In
Zusammenarbeit mit Gustav Adolf Benrath, Eberhard Busch, Pavel Filipi,
Arnd Götzelmann, Pentii Laasonen, Hartmut Lehmann, Mark A. Noll,
Jörg Ohlemacher, Karl Rennstich und Horst Weigelt unter Mitwirkung
von Martin Sallmann hg. von Ulrich Gäbler. Goettingen 2000. / 607 p.
Band 4: Glaubenswelt und Lebenswelten des Pietismus. In Zusammenarbeit
mit Ruth Albrecht, Martin Brecht, Christian Bunners, Ulrich Gäbler,
Andreas Gestrich, Horst Gundlach, Jan Harasimovicz, Manfred
Jakubowski-Tiessen, Peter Kriedtke, Martin Kruse, Werner Koch, Markus
Matthias, Thomas Müller Bahlke, Gerhard Schäfer (†), Hans-Jürgen
Schrader, Walter Sparn, Udo Sträter, Rudolf von Thadden, Richard
Trellner, Johannes Wallmann und Hermann Wellenreuther hg. von Hartmut
Lehmann. Goettingen 2004. / 709 p.
New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. IX:
After Three Centuries – The Legacy of
Pietism by E.C. Fredrich
Literary Landmarks of
Pietism by Martin O. Westerhaus
Pietism's World Mission Enterprise by Ernst H. Wendland
The Evangelical Pietist Church of Chatfield
August Hermann Francke
Johan Jakob Rambach
Jean de Labadie
Johann Conrad Dippel
Carl Michael von Strokirch
Jesus in Christianity
Son of God
History of theology
Oriental Orthodox (Miaphysite)
Assyrian Church of the East
Assyrian Church of the East ("Nestorian")
Eastern Catholic Churches
Latter Day Saint movement