Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Piety Gone Wild

A quote of Lutheran theologian Dr. Valentin Ernst Loescher, describing pietism in the eighteenth century.  The quote comes from Pastor Brent Kulman's article "Oscar Feucht's Everyone a Minister: Pietismus Redivivus" in the Reformation 1999 issue of Logia.  The pietism that Dr. Loescher describes hasn't gone away. Try substituting the word "vision" or "mission" for the word "piety" and its derivatives - does that substitution reflect where some Lutherans are at today?
It is an evil in the church that arises in the context of the pursuit of piety. That is, it is a searching, striving, and demanding of piety that is ill-conceived and established in a sinful way. It creates an antithesis between (1) piety and its pursuit and (2) revealed truth and its pursuit. Moreover, it causes truth to be dependent on piety. Pietism completely absorbs truth into itself and so it nullifies the truth. By all this the church of Christ is thrown into confusion and a raft of other unholy things find their way into it. The evil of Pietism is among us as long as the pursuit of piety stirs up and sustains a conflict and sets up an antithesis between itself and even one important point of religion. It is among us as long as a person believes and teaches that piety must be pursued more strenuously than orthodoxy and given preferential treatment. Furthermore, it can come to the point that the truth and form of theology (namely the Word of God), the office of preacher, justification, matrimony, the church, and other matters are all put into a dependent relationship to piety, in which case the evil shows itself more forcefully and more clearly. Finally, it can come to the point where people think that wherever piety is not found in the form and to the degree hoped for, then no Word of God, no activity of the Holy Spirit, no light of grace, no office of teaching, no matrimony, no church can exist. Then Pietism has fully matured and come out into the open.
Though Christ's Church is at all times beset by Satan to the point where one might throw up their arms in despair at the false doctrine that always lurks, yet, like Luther, I remain hopeful: "I entertain no sorry picture of our Church, but rather that of the Church flourishing through pure and uncorrupted teaching and one increasing with excellent ministers from day to day."1 May God grant us faithful pastors who will encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

1. The Luther quote comes from Roland H. Bainton's book Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.  Download a copy for free here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oscar Feucht has a lot to answer for.

Joe Strieter