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Brethren History- Pietism

by on September 1, 2013

The pietistic movement was a corrective to the Reformation. By the mid 1600s the Reformation religions had become dull to practical devotion to God. Pietistic preachers toured the countryside and preached where ever they found audience. In the small village of Schriesheim, Germany an itinerant pietistic minister preached the gospel. Alexander Mack was in the group who heard the message.

Mack was awakened to the need to commit his life to devotion to God. He searched the Scripture and made his choice to follow the new awakening in his heart. Others also, saw their need and made their commitment to a walk with Jesus Christ. Pietism was the primary impulse that began the Brethren awareness of Spiritual life in Christ.

Pietism gave us the warm devotion to God. We still have that devotion. Pietism also gave us a leaning toward emotional decision making. We lean toward always giving people more mercy and time to correct sins in their lives. That is a very positive attribute among the Brethren. The weakness is that emotion can disregard truth.

Given the choice between truth and emotion, Brethren tend to chose emotion. Emotion resonates with the pietism in our bloodstream. It feels good and we know that our faith should make us feel good.

So, we live with a tension between truth and emotion. Emotion typically wins the day. It is difficult for us to imagine Jesus doing anything that might feel uncomfortable. We want and expect the best from everyone and believe that given enough time they will arrive at the truth. That is a great expectation if not always an indication of integrity.

In that environment we can quickly lose the sinister consequence of sin. Sin can be redefined in human terms and explained as lack of love and mercy.

The obvious problem is that truth can quickly become a casualty. When that happens we are left without the imperative foundation.

So, pietism has been a bane and a blessing. A blessing in its warm devotion. A bane in its tendency to lack insistence on truth. Truth becomes a secondary value. This has continued to lead us in a liberal direction theologically and socially.

It is not time to jettison pietism. We need it but, we need the corrective of the Anabaptist side of our origins. Anabaptism brought truth into the discussion. That is what the Brethren need today. We need the blend of pietistic and Anabaptist thought.

If we can appropriate that blend we will build a workable future. If we cannot appropriate that blend, we will continue the downward spiral of numerical loss and social influence in the world.

Our children are looking for substance for life. At this point we continue to lose them to greener pastures. And the greener pastures are out there.

It is time to face the tough decisions and chose life in the truth of Anabaptism and the warm devotion of pietism.

That is our heritage.

It must be our present.

It will secure our future.

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