views updated May 29 2018


Like the Enlightenment, Pietism has produced an extremely diverse body of historical scholarship, with opinions ranging from a denial of its existence to precise nationally, geographically, or chronologically defined variants, as well as views that see Pietism essentially as identical with the history of modern Protestantism. Such divergent opinion has led to the introduction of categories such as reformed, classical, enthusiastic, and radical Pietism. The picture often becomes more complex when the scope of Pietism is expanded to include other religions such as Judaism, where Hasidism appears at least on the surface as a similar phenomenon. But even within Christianity, apparently similar movements such as French Jansenism or Spanish Quietism emerged almost at the same time.

The term Pietist, created during the seventeenth century, served initially as a derogatory term in reference to people who exhibited excessively spiritual and devout behavior. Most were followers of the German Lutheran reformer Philipp Jakob Spener (16351705), who organized Bible study gatherings, the so-called collegia pietatis (colleges of piety), in addition to the regular church services, which indicates how the term Pietist was often used interchangeably with the term Spenerianer (Spenerian). But in 1689 Joachim Feller (16281691), professor of poetry at the University of Leipzig, used the term in a positive way by including it in a funeral poem to stress the deceased person's interest in the study of the Bible, his saintly life, and his true devoutness.


Most historical treatments of Pietism start with Spener, then pastor and senior of the ministerium in Frankfurt, who is generally regarded as a founding figure of the movement. Spener believed that the state's Lutheran churches had failed to complete the Reformation and had instead descended into theological irrelevance and quarrels. In his work Pia Desideria (1675; Pious desires) Spener proposed six measures that could lead to a revival of the German churches. They included the organization of small conventicles (ecclesiola ) for meditation and the joint study of the Bible, an emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, a stress on practical rather than theological and intellectual Christianity, the abandonment of religious argument with other churches, a reorganization of the training of future ministers at the universities, and an increased emphasis on preaching. Spener's most notable follower was August Hermann Francke (16631727), who in 1691 was appointed professor of Greek and Oriental Languages at the newly established University of Halle. Under Francke's direction, Halle quickly became a leading center of Pietist studies. Although Pietism initially encountered significant resistance, especially from adherents of Lutheran orthodoxy, some rulers, such as the elector Frederick I of Prussia, embraced it. In Prussia, where the nobility was closely tied to the Lutheran Church, the monarchy's support of Pietism helped it secure a new ally against the provincial estates. In other cases, however, Pietists were less fortunate and were forced to move to areas where they would find a benefactor.

In Saxony, Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (17001760), strongly influenced by Pietism, granted refuge to a group of Moravians on his estate in 1722, where they were able to found the community Herrenhut (the Lord watches over). Under Zinzendorf's leadership the community spread quickly throughout Europe and to North America, where it inspired John Wesley (17031791), the founder of Methodism.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a variety of different movements emerged, which are all indebted to Pietism in varying degrees and even crossed the denominational line into Catholicism. Among these are Evangelicalism in England, the Réveil in France and Switzerland, and the Awakenings in Germany and the United States. Paradoxically this "neo-Pietism" was an offspring of the Enlightenment. In contrast to their seventeenth-and eighteenth-century predecessors, this new form of Pietism exhibited an unprecedented degree of optimism and an eagerness to establish societies and organizations such as youth groups.

Significance of Pietism

The diversification of Pietism is also emblematic for the intellectual sources it drew on, digested, and developed. Many concepts and characteristics such as the "universal priesthood of all believers," the formation of conventicles, or mysticism stem from the teachings of Martin Luther (14831546), John Calvin (15091563), and Jakob Böhme (15751624). At the center of Pietism stood the idea of a spiritual rebirth. Although this involved a higher degree of individualism, the concept of communitas remains pivotal. A process of sanctification, which includes a strong emphasis on inward edification, would eventually lead to the formation of a community of the "children of the Lord." This belief, in combination with chiliastic elements under the guidance of the Book of Revelation, led to an increased emphasis on charitable and missionary work, since this would quicken the Second Coming of Christ.

Pietism's greatest contribution was certainly in the field of Protestant theology. Pietism produced a large body of edifying literature and song. Especially noteworthy is its contribution in the area of the spiritual song, which served as a compensation for Pietism's otherwise strict admonition against secular forms of entertainment such as theater or dance. Most famous in this area is probably Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen's (16701739) Geistreiche Gesangbuch (1704; Spiritual hymnal), whose first edition contained 683 hymns and 183 melodies. It possibly served as a source for the composer Johann Sebastian Bach (16851750), whose cantatas and passions may have been influenced by Pietism.

A major point of scholarly debate remains the complex relationship between Pietism and the Enlightenment. Both of these "movements" were brothers in arms (at least initially) against religious orthodoxy and doctrine, and both strongly emphasized charity, compassion, and pedagogical initiatives. Pietism's contributions in education, such as Francke's Pädagogium, founded in Halle in 1696, are as significant as those of the Enlightenment, such as the Philanthropinum, founded in Dessau/Saxony in 1774 by Johann Bernhard Basedow (17231790). Enlightenment figures such as Samuel von Pufendorf (16321694) and Christian Thomasius (16551728) embraced Pietism's focus on the laity and works of charity.

Yet the substance of the program of both the Enlightenment and Pietism with regard to religion could not have been more different. Whereas the rationalism of the Enlightenment sought to demystify religion, Pietism emphasized the inward spirituality of a "religion of the heart" as well as the centrality of Scripture. The historical-critical method of biblical criticism undertaken by proponents of the Enlightenment undermined scriptural authority completely, whereas for Pietists the Bible practically served as the main source of guidance and knowledge. Symbolic for this antagonism is the conflict between the German Enlightenment philosopher Christian von Wolff (16791754) and factions of the theological faculty of the University of Halle under the leadership of Joachim Lange (16701744) and Johann Franz Buddeus (16671729). Both attacked Wolff on the grounds that his rationalism would inevitably lead to atheism and Spinozism. Surprisingly, many early Spinozists and radical thinkers such as Gottfried Arnold (16661714) and Johann Christian Edelmann (16981767) were originally Pietists, who still held on to many original ideas of the Reformation, such as the universal priesthood of all believers and freedom of conscience.

The case of Gottfried Arnold is particularly noteworthy. His Unpartheyische Kirchen-und Ketzer-Historie (2 vols., 16991700; Nonpartisan history of the church and heresy) was a pioneering work in ecclesiastical historiography. Far from being an apologetic work for heretics and still heavily influenced by mysticism, Arnold's work nonetheless rendered heresy a respectable subject of scholarly study. It revealed the historical role of laymen and women in the church, and by describing the interrelation of church and state in history Arnold exposed darker aspects of the Christian Church. Arnold also serves as an example of how Pietism influenced later philosophical and literary movements.

The literary movement of Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) adopted Pietism's emphasis on sensibility and spirituality to counter the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (17491832) wrote in his Dichtung und Wahrheit (18111833; Poetry and truth) that he profited from reading Arnold's work at a very young age. But figures like Johann Georg Hamann (17301788), Johann Gottfried von Herder (17441803), and Friedrich Schleiermacher (17681834) were also indebted to the Pietist concept of devoutness, and more recent scholarship suggests that Immanuel Kant (17241804) as well as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831) were more indebted to Pietism than previous studies assume. Most of these figures were educated or raised under Pietist influence and digested parts of this early encounter in their works. In fact, Schleiermacher's Moravian roots become apparent in his theology, which combined the Pietist idea of religious experience with the Romantic ideal of sensibility as opposed to the rationalism of the Enlightenment.

Pietism is a highly complex and multifaceted phenomenon that goes beyond the denominational limits of Lutheranism. Extending beyond just a spiritual phenomenon and the field of theology, Pietism's impact could be felt in politics and culture as well. The movement's far-reaching impact and diversity often makes it difficult to describe precisely the avenues it took, and so it often seems more fitting to distinguish between different Pietisms rather than lumping these strands together under one single umbrella. This becomes especially important with regards to the different strands of radical and separatist movements that developed the collegia pietatis into independent social communities but which are often overlooked in general surveys of Pietism. The unprecedented, avid participation of women also suggests that these movements transgressed gender and class boundaries.

See also Christianity ; Enlightenment ; Religion .



Erb, Peter C., ed. Pietists: Selected Writings. New York: Paulist Press, 1983.

Francke, August Hermann. Streitschriften. Edited by Erhard Peschke. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1981.

. Werke in Auswahl. Edited by Erhard Peschke. Berlin: Luther-Verlag, 1969.

Spener, Philipp Jakob. Pia Desideria. Translated and edited with an introduction by Theodore G. Tappert. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964.

. Die Werke Philipp Jakob Speners: Studienausgabe. Edited by Kurt Aland. Giessen, Germany: Brunnen, 1996.

Zinzendorf, Nicolaus Ludwig Graf von. Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion, Preached in Fetter Lane Chapel in London in the Year 1746. Translated and edited by George W. Forell. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1973.

. Kleines Brüdergesangbuch: Hirten-Lieder von Bethlehem. Hildesheim, Germany, and New York: Olms Verag, 1978.


Beyreuther, Erich. Geschichte des Pietismus. Stuttgart, Germany: Steinkopf, 1978.

Blaufuß, Dietrich, et al., eds. Gottfried Arnold (16661714): Mit einer Bibliographie der Arnold-Literatur ab 1714. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1995.

Brecht, Martin, Ulrich Gäbler, and Hartmut Lehmann, eds. Geschichte des Pietismus. Vol. 1, Der Pietismus vom siebzehnten bis zum frühen achtzehnten Jahrhundert, edited by Martin Brecht. Vol. 2, Der Pietismus im achzehnten Jahrhundert, edited by Martin Brecht. Vol. 3, Der Pietismus im neunzehnten und zwanzigsten Jahrhundert, edited by Ulrich Gäbler. Vol. 4, Glaubenswelt und Lebenswelten des Pietismus, edited by Hartmut Lehmann. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 20002004.

Fulbrook, Mary. Piety and Politics: Religion and the Rise of Absolutism in England, Württemberg, and Prussia. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Gawthrop, Richard L. Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth-Century Prussia. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Gierl, Martin. Pietismus und Aufklärung: Theologische Polemik und die Kommunikationsreform der Wissenschaft am Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1997.

Hinrichs, Carl. Preußentum und Pietismus: Der Pietismus in Brandenburg-Preußen als religiös-soziale Reformbewegung. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1971.

Hoffmann, Barbara. Radikalpietismus um 1700: Der Streit um das Recht auf eine neue Gesellschaft. Frankfurt, Germany, and New York: Campus Verlag, 1996.

Lehmann, Harmut, Hans-Jürgen Schrader, and Heinz Schilling, eds. Jansenismus, Quietismus, Pietismus. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2002.

Miersemann, Wolfgang, and Gudrun Busch, eds. Pietismus und Liedkultur. Tübingen, Germany: Verlag der Franckeschen Stiftungen Halle im Max Niemeyer Verlag, 2002.

Ritschl, Albrecht Benjamin. Geschichte des Pietismus in der lutherischen Kirche des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. 3 vols. Bonn, Germany: Marcus, 18801886. Reprint, Berlin: de Gruyter, 1966.

Schicketanz, Peter. Der Pietismus von 1675 bis 1800. Leipzig, Germany: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2001.

Stoeffler, F. Ernest. German Pietism during the Eighteenth Century. Leiden: Brill, 1973.

. The Rise of Evangelical Pietism. Leiden: Brill, 1965.

Temme, Willi. Krise der Leiblichkeit: Die Sozietät der Mutter Eva (Buttlarsche Rotte) und der radikale Pietismus um 1700. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1998.

Wallmann, Johannes. Philipp Jakob Spener und die Anfänge des Pietismus. Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr, 1986.

Wallmann, Johannes, and Udo Sträter, eds. Halle und Osteuropa: Zur europäischen Ausstrahlung des halleschen Pietismus. Halle, Germany: Verlag der Franckeschen Stiftungen Halle im Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1998.

Ulrich Groetsch


views updated Jun 27 2018



The transformation of churches into departments of state affected the religious experiences these institutions offered. The standardization of liturgy, the use of worship time for government business, the preoccupation of clergy with the services demanded of them by the state all contributed to emptying devotional activities of most of their enthusiasm and passion. This development was especially pronounced in the state churches of Lutheran Germany. Luther's idea of a church composed of a priesthood of all believers evolved into a collection of churches where the divisions between clergy and lay were almost as rigid as those in Catholicism. Medieval parish clergy had been noteworthy for their low level of education and lack of pastoral formation. To address this problem Luther (as did other Protestant and Catholic reformers) mandated that Lutheran clergy be trained in seminaries. Seminary training improved the educational level of the Lutheran clergy, but pastoral formation remained a problem. Parish clergy saw themselves as officeholders, and their main preoccupation was grabbing a bigger office, which in this case meant larger and more lucrative parishes. Education became identified in this way as the avenue to preferment: clergymen seeking to climb the ladder of success through theological treatises and published sermons. These pieces of writing could go to bizarre lengths in their efforts to show erudition; one sermon from the mid-seventeenth century focused on the biblical injunctions to keep one's hair neat and groomed. For lay parishioners, church life in this world was a weekly formality offering little spiritual reward. Church buildings were closed except for during times of public worship, and there simply was no idea of Christian outreach, that is, spiritual counseling and evangelism. The one outlet for emotional expression was hymn singing, and one measure of the Christian hunger for soul-satisfying religion was the growth in the size of hymnals across the seventeenth century. For example, the Dresden hymnal of 1622 had 276 hymns, while that of 1673 had 1,505; the Lüneberg hymnal of 1635 had 355 hymns, while that of 1695 had 2,055. Hymnals grew so large because their publishing was outside of the control of the clergy, thus hymn singing was free to reflect lay taste and sensibilities. The same dynamics were at work with devotional literature. While clergymen busied themselves writing arid tomes, publishers busied themselves translating and publishing devotional literature from elsewhere, especially Puritan England.


The most influential devotional work, however, was homegrown. Over the period 1605–1609, Johann Arndt, a controversial minister who spent his career moving from church to church, published his four-volume work, True Christianity. In much the same way that Saint-Cyran would call early modern Catholics back to a medieval ideal of the Christian penitent, so Arndt called early-modern Lutherans back to a medieval ideal of the Christian mystic. Arndt put an emphasis on the Christian life lived outside and beyond the parish church. His volumes were uneven collections of excerpts from the great mystics of the past, the excerpts chosen to show contemporary Christians they might recover the warmth and spirituality missing in church life through meditation. Arndt's writings generated much condemnation from Lutheran church officials, yet they were a popular success; between 1605 and 1740 there were 95 German editions of his work, as well as published translations in Bohemian, Dutch, Swedish, and Latin.


Arndt's writings supported the development of an alternate religious experience to that taking place in the parish church. Phillip Jakob Spener (1635–1705) took Arndt's ideas and transformed them into the spiritual foundation for church reform. Spener's most important writing was his Pia Desideria or Pious Desires (1675), an outline for church reform he originally published as a preface to a posthumous edition of some of Arndt's sermons. In the Pia Desideria Spener reinforced Arndt's emphasis on the importance of meditation to devotion, but he indicted government officials and clergymen for their soulless management of the church. In particular, he called attention to the clergy's trend for self-aggrandizement at the expense of their flocks. He enjoined the laity to take the promotion of faith into its own hands. Spener looked back to Luther's original message and identified in it the still unachieved demand of the Reformation for a "priesthood of all believers." Spener understood Luther's idea, in other words, to be a call for Christian evangelism that might emerge from the Lutheran laity and be directed at fellow Lutherans. Even before the publication of the Pia Desideria, Spener was putting his ideas into practice. In 1666, he was awarded a major position in the Lutheran church in the city of Frankfurt, and by 1669 he had begun to exhort Lutherans at Frankfurt to replace their Sunday afternoons of drinking and card playing with Arndt-inspired discussions of devotional ideas. The next year a group of laymen in the city took up his challenge, approaching Spener and asking him to direct their weekly meetings of meditation and Christian fellowship. He agreed and thus was born the collegia pietatis or "schools of piety" that became the signature of Spener's movement for church reform. Conceived of as ecclesiolae in ecclesia, or "little churches inside the church," these meetings, or conventicles as they were labeled in contemporary discourse, were to become the building blocks of Pietism's church life. Participants found in them both the spiritual direction and rewards that they sensed were lacking in official church activities. Participants in the collegia pietatis soon became known as Pietists, and it was from them that the movement took its name. While class meetings were an immediate success among the Lutheran laity, these organizations and Spener soon became the objects of censure from the church establishment. Spener was accused of using class meetings to spread Donatism, an ancient heretical belief that taught that the state of a clergyman's soul determined the purity of the services he performed. In truth, many class meetings did in their enthusiasm come to condemn the laxity and lack of zeal of many of the clergy, a fact from which the charge of Donatism arose. To counter these tendencies, Spener wrote several treatises supporting the clerical establishment. They had little effect, however, and, tired of the debate and controversy, in 1686 Spener accepted a position to serve as court chaplain for the elector of Saxony. The move only brought more conflict and opposition. Spener chastised the elector for public drunkenness publicly from his pulpit, a move to which the elector took exception. More important, Spener's presence in Saxony prompted students at the University of Leipzig, the local university, to revolt against their professors and to go out into the city where they set up class meetings among workers and ordinary citizens. These actions motivated the clerical establishment in Saxony to suppress Spener's movement. By 1691, though, the elector of Brandenburg invited Spener to his new capital city of Berlin. At the time the elector was eager to compete for spiritual leadership of the Lutheran church against Saxony, long home to the religion's most important educational institutions. To cement his claim to leadership, the elector of Brandenburg had recently founded a new university at Halle, and he asked Spener to join the theological faculty. The Pietist spent the rest of his life at Halle, making it the center of the Pietist movement in Germany.


Just as Spener translated Arndt's devotional ideals into a program for church reform, so August Hermann Francke (1663–1727) turned Spener's program for church reform into an institutional reality. Francke had been one of the leaders of the student revolt at the University of Leipzig, the event that had helped to precipitate Spener's leaving Saxony. Leipzig, like other Lutheran universities of the time, focused its theological curriculum on the study of Aristotle, rather than on training in the Bible. In the years in which Spener had been in Leipzig, he encouraged the establishment of a Collegium philobiblicum at Leipzig. The Collegium was essentially a bible study movement in which older students helped younger ones to make up the deficiencies in their knowledge of the Bible. Francke turned this movement into a protest against the university's concentration on Aristotle, convincing 300 students to sell their philosophy texts and turn instead to the study of the apostle Paul. While still a student, Francke visited Spener and during one of these visits he underwent a conversion experience to Pietism. After Spener settled at the University of Halle, he arranged for Francke to join the faculty. Francke's realization of Spener's reform program did not alter the institutional structure of the Lutheran church as much as demonstrate how good works—that is, charity—could be effectively added to Lutheran devotional life. While serving as a faculty member, Francke simultaneously served as a pastor at a nearby church. Based upon his working sense of the real needs of a congregation, he sought to equip future ministers with the pastoral skills needed to bring about spiritual renewal both in themselves and their parishioners. His teaching, while important, paled in significance compared to his charity work. At Halle, Francke developed a host of institutions that revolutionized the Lutheran approach to social services. He erected a three-tiered school system: the first tier being a free school popularly known as the "ragged school" for the children of the poor, the second tier being a day school for the fee-paying children of local bourgeoisie, and the third tier being an exclusive boarding school for the children of the Brandenburg nobility. On top of this, Francke maintained an orphanage. At the time of Francke's death in 1727, there were 2,200 students in the three schools and 134 children in the orphanage. In addition to the schools, Francke established teacher-training courses aimed at providing teachers for the countryside. He also founded a Bible Institute for the production and publication of inexpensive editions of the scriptures. To pay for his many enterprises, Francke developed a network of donors and supporters that stretched across Protestant Europe, and even into the German communities in the New World. And to these charitable donations he added the profits from his pioneering marketing of bottled medicines produced in his institute's dispensary. Francke's efforts at Christian outreach did not stop with German Lutherans. He provided and trained the first Lutheran missionaries to be sent to India, and during the eighteenth century, Halle sent some sixty missionaries to Asia. Francke's enterprises at Halle represented the high water-mark of Pietism as a reform movement within German Lutheranism.


introduction: In his Pia Desideria, or Pious Desires, the German Lutheran theologian Philipp Jakob Spener set out methods through which small groups of his co-religionists might deepen their faith. His prescriptions helped to fashion Pietism, the movement that spread out from Germany in the early eighteenth century and that eventually influenced such British groups as John Wesley's Methodists. In the current passage he describes a pattern of Bible or class study that is similar to that still practiced by many Protestant groups today.

It should therefore be considered whether the church would not be well advised to introduce the people to Scripture in still other ways than through the customary sermons on the appointed lessons.

This might be done, first of all, by diligent reading of the Holy Scriptures, especially of the New Testament. …

Then a second thing would be desirable in order to encourage people to read privately, namely, that where the practice can be introduced the books of the Bible be read one after another, at specified times in the public service, without further comment (unless one wished to add brief summaries). This would be intended for the edification of all, but especially of those who cannot read at all, or cannot read easily or well, or of those who do not own a copy of the Bible.

For a third thing it would perhaps not be inexpedient (and I set this down for further and more mature reflection) to reintroduce the ancient and apostolic kind of church meetings. In addition to our customary services with preaching, other assemblies would also be held in the manner in which Paul describes them in I Corinthians 14:26–40. One person would not rise to preach (although this practice would be continued at other times), but others who have been blessed with gifts and knowledge would also speak and present their pious opinions on the proposed subject to the judgment of the rest, doing all this in such a way as to avoid disorder and strife. This might conveniently be done by having several ministers (in places where a number of them live in a town) meet together or by having several members of a congregation who have a fair knowledge of God or desire to increase their knowledge meet under the leadership of a minister, take up the Holy Scriptures, read aloud from them, and fraternally discuss each verse in order to discover its simple meaning and whatever may be useful for the edification of all. Anybody who is not satisfied with his understanding of a matter should be permitted to express his doubts and seek further explanation.

source: Philipp Jakob Spener, Pia Desideria. Trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964): 88–89.


Francke gave concrete expression to the Lutheran desire for faith to mean more than just church attendance, but at the same time, the movement was notable in that it did not challenge the position or authority of the state church. For all the complaints of the Lutheran establishment, Pietists never sought to create another church or replace the existing one, even though the Lutheran church's structure remained an obstacle to the Pietist celebration of the Christian spirit. In the next stage of its development under the direction of Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf (1700–1760), Pietism broke free of this restraint. Zinzendorf was among the students who studied at the Paedagogium, Francke's school for the offspring of the nobility. The school prepared students for government service, and, like his classmates, Zinzendorf had originally secured government employment following graduation. During his studies at Halle the nobleman had been struck by Pietism's religious message, and when he inherited family estates, he left government service to follow his religious calling. Soon Zinzendorf allowed religious refugees to settle on his lands. The most important of these refugees were members of the Unitas Fratum, or "Brethren of the Unity," a Bohemian religious group that traced its ancestry back to the fifteenth-century religious leader and heretic John Hus (1369–1415), but which also had a significant number of German-speaking adherents. In the wake of the re-catholicization of Bohemia that occurred during the Thirty Years' War, the Unitas Fratum was declared a heretical movement. The group faced intense persecution, barely surviving as an underground movement. Once granted lands on Zinzendorf's estates, however, the Unitas Fratum prospered again, attracting members. Most of these members were German speakers from Moravia, thus the group also became known as the Moravian church or the Moravian Brethren. Zinzendorf found himself progressively drawn into the affairs of the Moravians. At Herrnhut, the center of their German community on Zinzendorf's lands, the Moravians began to push for the establishment of a separate Moravian church. Zinzendorf, however, was determined to keep them within the limits of Lutheran orthodoxy, insisting that structures such as class meetings allowed the Moravians the freedom to seek the emotional experiences they found lacking in Lutheranism. Zinzendorf also sought to channel the energies of the Moravians in the direction of missions, and Moravian evangelists were sent out on missions as far away as the West Indies, Greenland, and Georgia in North America. Zinzendorf's efforts, though, did not placate the Moravians, who continued to petition government authorities for recognition as a separate church. Yet the innovative ways in which Zinzendorf made use of small groups or conventicles to allow for the expression of "heart religion" appealed to many Protestants, who began to flock to Moravian circles. In Germany, Lutheran state churches were now threatened by the Moravians' rapid rise in popularity, and officials complained to their governments. Austria, which controlled the territories from whence most of the Moravians had migrated, likewise complained to the government in Saxony, where Herrnhut was located. In 1736 the Saxon government banished Zinzendorf from his lands, and he began a period of wandering during which he traveled through Europe and North America, preaching and establishing Moravian communities. His banishment was rescinded in 1747, but bankrupt from the costs associated with maintaining the Moravian church, Zinzendorf spent most of his remaining years preaching and writing abroad, primarily in England, where he lived from 1749–1755. Zinzendorf returned to Herrnhut in 1755, and died there five years later. Meanwhile the efforts on the part of the Moravians to have themselves recognized as a separate church bore fruit. In 1742 the government of Prussia granted their Moravian church full autonomy. In 1749, the English Parliament recognized the Moravian church as "an ancient Protestant Episcopal church." But in Saxony, the original German heartland of the movement, the Moravians had to be content to accept the Lutheran Augsburg Confession, in exchange for which they became a separate wing of the state church.

John Wesley.

It took more than a century for the tension between enthusiasm and orthodoxy in German Lutheranism to give rise to a new church. In England a similar tension existed within the Anglican church, and thanks to the spark provided by the Moravians, it took only a few generations for the tensions between Pietism and religious orthodoxy to produce a new kind of church in England. The key figure in the establishment of the Methodist Church in England was John Wesley (1703–1791), who underwent a profound conversion experience in 1738 as a result of his contact with Moravian missionaries. Even before this time, Wesley had been actively preaching the gospel, but it was only after his conversion that he preached a message others seemed eager to follow. Wesley had been born the son of an Anglican priest, and both he and his brother Charles had attended Oxford with the intention of following in their father's footsteps. While at Oxford the Wesleys established a little organization known as the "Holy Club" which, like the Pietist class meetings Wesley would later admire and emulate, provided a vehicle for small groups to share spiritual experiences. Members of the Holy Club were roundly ridiculed by their contemporaries at Oxford, who called them "Methodists," a term of derision. Out of frustration in 1735 the Wesleys left to serve as missionaries in Georgia. Their efforts in Georgia were an embarrassing failure, but their tour was significant in that they made contact with the Moravians. Back in London in 1738, the Wesleys discovered a new direction for their ministry, again through the example and influence of the Moravians. As he recorded in his diary, it was while attending a Moravian meeting that John felt his heart "strangely warmed" and knew that he had found the message he would preach for the rest of his days. The Wesleys were sufficiently moved by their experiences with the Moravians that they contemplated joining the Brethren. A trip to Germany to meet Zinzendorf, however, convinced them of the need to create their own movement. Still, the Wesleys adapted from the Moravians the key Pietist precepts that Christian devotions are best experienced in small groups and that these devotions must produce an emotional transformation within the Christian. Preaching this message in England was not easy. The Anglican establishment was no friendlier to Pietism than the Lutheran state churches had been in Germany. John Wesley went from parish church to parish church, requesting permission to preach before the congregation. Again and again he was turned down. Soon Wesley adopted the expedient of preaching, not in churches, but in open fields and town halls. Here he excelled, sometimes drawing thousands of listeners to his sermons, although the crowds were not always friendly; rocks and stones were sometimes thrown at his head. But most of his audiences were emotionally engaged, and the sense that Christianity could be about feelings, could be about emotions, gradually came to be accepted within English Protestantism. John Wesley cannot be granted sole credit for introducing the idea of the outdoor revival as a forum of Christian devotion in England. Credit for this development has to be shared with his good friend and competitor George Whitefield (1714–1770). Wesley and Whitefield met during their student days, when Whitefield joined the "Holy Club." Theological differences forced the two men to go their separate ways; Whitefield was a Calvinist, while Wesley was an Arminian. Whitefield is generally credited with being the greatest English preacher of his time, though few of his sermons have survived. Still, his open-air preaching, in tandem with that of Wesley, revolutionized Christian worship in England, providing thousands with a spiritually satisfying alternative to the dry formalism of parish devotional life.


John Wesley took the insights of the Pietists and applied them to the development of his movement. In his preaching and ministry Wesley targeted the poor and working classes—groups to his mind ignored by the Church of England. Raised by an Anglican priest to be an Anglican priest, Wesley's intention was to stay within the Church of England. With this ambition in mind, Wesley adapted the institution of the class meeting, which he relabeled the "band," to the tasks associated with evangelizing the poor and working classes within the context of the Anglican church. For Wesley, Christian salvation was the result of an active embrace of the obligations of faith and devotion. The duty of the "band" was to oversee the actions of church members to make sure that they fulfilled those obligations. Wesley issued "tickets" to church members that granted them three months of access to church services and activities. Every three months the actions and behavior of each member was assessed, and the tickets could be revoked for such things as swearing, fighting, drunkenness, and wife beating. Wesley went further and made these conventicles, or small group meetings, into the vehicle for positive development. To discipline church members to what was for many of them the new experience of participation in church upkeep, Wesley divided members into "classes" of twelve under a "class leader." Each member of a class was expected to put a penny each week toward church maintenance, the class leader being in charge of collection. Few members of the Anglican clergy followed Wesley out into the field. Thus in the beginning Wesley's movement suffered from a lack of ordained clergy. Wesley treated this dearth as an opportunity, opening up to lay people many positions reserved in the Anglican church for clerics. Laymen did much of the preaching that took place in the context of the "bands." Laymen were similarly called upon to serve as "stewards" to take care of church property, teachers in Methodists schools, and visitors of the sick. To supervise his growing movement, Wesley initially made the rounds by visiting each group in turn. When the movement grew too large for this, he established annual "Conferences" at which first preachers, and then other lay officials, met to discuss issues of church governance. To address the need for central direction, Wesley divided the local churches into "circuits" over which traveling preachers had jurisdiction. Later, superintendents were placed over the circuits. To educate lay officials to both the duties of their offices and the expectations of them as Christians, Wesley took another page from the German Pietist book, sponsoring the writing and publication of devotional literature developed specifically for his people. As much as possible Wesley sought to use the Anglican liturgy in his church services though, again reflecting the Pietist influence, he left space in his services for spontaneous outpourings of faith. Methodist church services also made extensive use of hymns; over the course of his career as his brother's right-hand man, Charles Wesley wrote almost 8,000 of them. Though the Anglican establishment constantly rebuffed his movement, John Wesley was determined to keep his groups within the confines of the Church of England. Still, when confronted with the reality of Anglican opposition, Wesley affirmed the independence of his movement. In 1784, after the conclusion of the American War of Independence, there was a need for Methodist ministers in North America. Wesley


introduction: Influenced by the powerful example of the Moravians, John Wesley underwent a conversion experience and began to develop small groups of dedicated laymen within the Church of England, the nucleus that eventually formed the Methodist Church. Wesley was indefatigable in his efforts to spread the gospel, as his Journals make clear. His career helped to establish the patterns that modern Christians now associate with the itinerant revival preacher. Much like the twentieth-century evangelists Billy Sunday or Billy Graham, Wesley preached the gospel before thousands, many of whom proved willing to amend their lives and begin to follow the path outlined in Methodism. In the current passage he describes the difficulties that he had in adapting himself to this life, trained as he was to be a priest in the staid and formalistic Church of England. Wesley quickly overcame whatever reticence he felt, and began to preach to thousands.

Saturday, March 10, 1739: During my stay here, I was fully employed between our own society in Fetter Lane, and many others … so that I had no thought of leaving London, when I received, after several others, a letter from Mr. Whitefield, and another from Mr. Stewart, entreating me, in the most pressing manner, to come to Bristol without delay …

Wednesday, March 28, 1739: My journey was proposed to our society in Fetter Lane. But my brother Charles would scarce bear the mention of it. … Our other brethren, however, continuing the dispute, without any probability of their coming to one conclusion, we at length all agree to decide it by lot. And by this it was determined I should go. … In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in the church. …

Wednesday, April 4, 1739: At Baptist Mills (a sort of suburb or village about half a mile from Bristol) I offered the grace of God to about fifteen hundred persons from these words, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely."

In the evening three women agreed to meet together weekly with the same intention as those at London, viz., "to confess their faults one to another, and pray one for another, that they may be healed." At eight four young men agreed to meet, in pursuance of the same design. How dare any man deny this to be a means of grace, ordained by God? Unless he will affirm that St. James's Epistle is an epistle of straw. …

Saturday, April 14, 1739: I preached at the poor-house. Three or four hundred were within, and more than twice that number without; to whom I explained those comfortable words, "When they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both."

Tuesday, April 17, 1739: At five in the afternoon I was at a little society in the Back Lane. The room in which we were was propped beneath, but the weight of people made the floor give way; so that in the beginning of the expounding, the post which propped it fell down with a great noise. But the floor sunk no farther; so that, after a little surprise at first, they quietly attended to the things that were spoken.

source: John Wesley, John Wesley's Journal. Ed. Nehemiah Curnock (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951): 65–67.

asked the bishop of London to ordain them. The bishop refused. Wesley was not a bishop and had no authority to ordain; yet in this instance he presumed the right to ordain the men in question, thus cementing Methodism's increasing independence from Anglicanism. Wesley died in 1791, and only four years later the Methodist movement had broken free of the Church of England and established itself as a separate church.



[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]



Mary Fulbrook, Piety and Politics: Religion and the Rise of Absolutism in England, Württemberg, and Prussia (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

Richard L. Gawthrop, Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth-Century Prussia (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Roy Hattersley, John Wesley: A Brand from the Burning (London: Little Brown, 2002).

James Van Horn Melton, Absolutism and the Origins of Compulsory Schooling in Prussia and Austria (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Johannes Wallmann, Philip Jakob Spener und die Anfänge des Pietismus (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr, 1986).

William Reginald Ward, Christianity under the Ancien Regime, 1648–1789 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1999).


views updated May 21 2018


PIETISM. Historians have had difficulty agreeing about a definition for Pietism. A major reason is that the term has been controversial since its first use in German Lutheran territories in the 1670s. Today historians debate how narrowly or broadly to define the subject. However, there is general agreement that, although in a narrow sense a Lutheran (and in part also a Reformed Protestant) phenomenon of the later seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, Pietism had roots in the concerns of those sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Christians who wanted to realize the ideals of discipline and godliness in their personal and collective lives.

This impulse developed in part out of a dissatisfaction with institutional, hierarchical Protestantism and its emphasis on salvation by faith alone. While pious theologians and laypeople usually agreed that faith was necessary for salvation, they insisted that sanctification was also essential. In other words, merely dogmatic religion was not enough, for on its own it could lead to moral decline and institutional complacency. True faith had to transform believers.

A wide range of Christians shared this kind of conviction before the rise of Pietism in the narrow sense. Among those who held a lasting influence for later Pietists were Catholic mystics, British Puritans, Protestant Nonconformists and spiritualists, and Dutch Reformed and German Lutheran clergymen concerned about moral reform.


By the early 1690s the definition of "Pietism" had become a subject of heated public debate across Lutheran Germany. The Pietism controversies were important because with them godliness was transformed from a subject for a minority of Protestants to an issue that divided believers and resulted in deep and lasting changes in the character of Lutheranism and even Protestantism as a whole.

The roots of the controversy grew from the 1670s, and at their center was the Lutheran pastor Philipp Jakob Spener (16351705). In 1675, while based in Frankfurt am Main, Spener published Pia Desideria (Pious desires). In Pia Desideria Spener outlined a program to improve the quality of the clergy and the moral lives of believers according to a biblical model in the hopes of a better future for Christians. He did not intend his proposals to undermine the established orthodox Lutheran hierarchy; reforms, he felt, should take place within existing institutional structures and be led by ordained clergymen.

A key part of Spener's reform plan involved the collegia pietatis, small devotional sessions held in addition to regular church services, during which participants prayed and read the Bible together to encourage one another to live upright lives. Spener had helped organize such meetings in Frankfurt as early as 1670. With the publication of Pia Desideria and clerical networking, the movement to renew Christendom through moral reform spread throughout Lutheran Germany. Moderates like Spener tried to avoid unwanted conflicts with authorities by limiting and controlling lay participation in the Bible reading sessions.

Nonetheless, the spread of conventicles was ecclesiastically, politically, and socially contentious. Within a few decades conventicles had risen from a phenomenon of limited, localized popularity to the main form of pious sociability. As the conventicles spread, so too did the involvement of laymen and laywomen, as well as ecclesiastical and theological experimentation. Many orthodox clergymen and some secular rulers felt the devotional meetings were an unregulated breeding ground for sectarianism and political subversion. Therefore, numerous territorial rulers published edicts forbidding the private meetings, often to no avail.

The movement entered a new phase with the sudden upsurge in revivalist excitement between 1689 and 1693. Developments in Leipzig were especially important. During a controversy there about conventicles the name "Pietist," which until then had been used only occasionally in Germany, became a widely recognized name for the supporters of reform. Enthusiastic theology students like August Hermann Francke (16631727) were among those forced to leave Leipzig when authorities banned the growing movement in 1690. These activists formed the core of the spreading popular movement. The reform message that had been championed since the 1670s predominantly by moderate clergymen was transformed into the message of a younger, more exuberant generation of Lutherans fired by missionary zeal.

In this new phase, intense conversion experiences, anticlerical tendencies, and apocalyptic expectations also became common among those who participated in conventicles. Particularly noteworthy were waves of lay prophecy that occurred in numerous German towns in the early 1690s; the most publicized cases involved women and caused public scandals. Thereafter, the moderates, including Spener and Francke, distanced themselves from the popular movement and eventually broke their connections with the pious conventicles. Another important post-1689 development was a pamphlet war fought between reformers and their orthodox Lutheran opponents. Between about 1690 and 1720 hundreds of polemical pamphlets were exchanged on a range of issues, among them the definition of "Pietism."


Despite opposition, Pietism flourished throughout the eighteenth century and was influential in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, as well as in England and the North American colonies. There were Calvinist Pietists in the eighteenth century. Perhaps the most significant was Gerrit Tersteegen (16971769). However, when investigating eighteenth-century Pietism, historians commonly focus on several German Lutheran groupings.

One of the most significant institutional forms of Pietism was centered in Halle. Under the influence of Spener, the Prussian government established a new university there in the early 1690s. Several of the theology students who had been expelled from Leipzig in 1690 were on the faculty in Halle. Among them was Francke. In addition to professorial duties, he was instrumental in the foundation of a set of influential institutions. These included an orphanage and orphan schools (established 1695), and several domestic and international missionary organizations. One of the unique characteristics of Pietism based in Halle was the importance placed on repentance for sins and a personal experience of conversion to a godly life. While encouraging education in religion and practical sciences, Francke and other leaders also emphasized discipline among orphans and students. This became the model for educational reform in the Prussian state in the eighteenth century.

The other major officially sanctioned form of eighteenth-century Pietism was based in Württemberg. The church leader Johann Valentin Andreä (15861654) had promoted piety and discipline there. His lasting influence among members of the Lutheran church hierarchy made it easier for secular authorities after the 1690s to accept Pietist reforms. Although conversion experiences were not as central as in Halle, strict godly living became a widely accepted norm in Württemberg's universities, churches, and households. Thus, unlike Pietists in Halle and Prussia, who established close connections with the nobility, Pietism in Württemberg had a much broader social base. Also in contrast to Halle, Württemberg's university elite encouraged not only useful skills and piety, but also academic theology and biblical scholarship.

While leaders in Halle, Prussia, and Württemberg discouraged conventicles as a main form of fellowship, the meetings of the pious were a central feature of Pietism based in Herrnhut. There in the 1720s the Unity of Brethren (also called Moravians), a groupoflayChristianswithpre-Reformation roots, came under the charismatic leadership of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (17001760), a former student at Halle. While he rejected the strict regimentation of life in Halle, Zinzendorf shared an emphasis on conversion. His willingness to ally himself with a nonconformist community is an example of the ecumenical attitude typical of this branch of Pietism. Its missionary communities established themselves throughout central Europe, as well as in North America in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Zinzendorf was influenced not only by Pietism in Halle, but also by a range of nonconformists whose experiences had been shaped by the extraordinary events of the 1690s. Historians sometimes use the label "radical Pietism" to identify this diverse range of individuals and small groups. Radicals distanced themselves from institutionalized Protestantism, often going so far as to separate themselves from the official territorial church. Among the characteristics shared by many (but not all) in these circles were the centrality of conventicles and personal conversion experiences; lay as opposed to clerical leadership, with women often playing key roles; mysticism, apocalyptic expectations, and prophetic tendencies; innovations in sacramental practice; and unconventional attitudes toward sexual norms. Radical Pietism had no single representative, institution, or geographical center.


Pietism's impact on early modern European society is difficult to evaluate because it was so varied. Its adherents came from a wide range of social stations, and their actions and beliefs both supported and undermined established social and political norms. Philosophically Pietists participated in both the Enlightenment and the Romantic movement. Although often vehemently antipapal, they contributed to the weakening of confessional boundaries, especially among Protestant churches. Protestant revivalism and evangelicalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries owe much to Pietist traditions.

The godly impulse so characteristic of Pietism was also shared by other religious groups in the eighteenth century. In Christian Europe these included Catholic Jansenists and Protestant Camisards in France, as well as English Methodists. Scholars could also find similarities (although not direct historical connections) with Jewish Hasidism in eastern Europe.

See also Apocalypticism ; Calvinism ; Leipzig ; Lutheranism ; Moravian Brethren ; Prussia ; Puritanism ; Zinzendorf, Nicolaus Ludwig von .


Primary Sources

Erb, Peter C., ed. Pietists: Selected Writings. New York, 1983. Excerpts from the works of Spener, Francke, Tersteegen, Zinzendorf, and others.

Spener, Philipp Jakob. Pia Desideria. Translated and edited by Theodore G. Tappert. Philadelphia, 1964.

Secondary Sources

Fulbrook, Mary. Piety and Politics: Religion and the Rise of Absolutism in England, Württemberg, and Prussia. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1983.

Gawthrop, Richard L. Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth-Century Prussia. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1993.

Geschichte des Pietismus. Vol. 1: Der Pietismus vom siebzehnten bis zum frühen achtzehnten Jahrhundert. Edited by Martin Brecht. Vol. 2: Der Pietismus im achtzehnten Jahrhundert. Edited by Martin Brecht and Klaus Deppermann. Vol. 3: Der Pietismus im neunzehnten und zwanzigsten Jahrhundert. Edited by Ulrich Gäbler. Göttingen, 1993.

Pietismus und Neuzeit: Ein Jahrbuch zur Geschichte des neueren Protestantismus. Göttingen, 1974. The major journal on the subject. Includes some articles in English.

Stoeffler, F. Ernest. German Pietism during the Eighteenth Century. Leiden, 1973.

Wallmann, Johannes. Der Pietismus. Göttingen, 1990.

Michael D. Driedger


views updated Jun 08 2018


PIETISM . Pietism has been and remains an identifiable religious orientation within the churches of the Reformation. As the name indicates, it emphasizes the life of personal piety according to the model it finds in the primitive Christian community. By doing so it has hoped to complete the Reformation, which, in the judgment of many of its adherents, has never become a movement to reform the religious life of individuals. The roots of Pietism are found, on the one hand, in the mystical spirituality of an earlier day and, on the other, in the writings of Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as other reformers such as Caspar Schwenckfeld and the prominent Anabaptists.

It is difficult to fix precisely the boundaries of Pietism, either in terms of chronology or distribution. While scholars have associated Pietism largely with Lutheranism, it has been customary to date its beginning from the publication of Philipp Jakob Spener's Pia desideria in 1675, two years after which his followers were referred to as "Pietists." The present tendency, growing out of a great deal of recent research, is to expand the term so as to include what is now widely perceived as the same development within other communions, notably the Reformed, as well as Protestants who questioned the need for any kind of church affiliation because they found a lack of religious devotion and ethical urgency within the churches of the day. Under the circumstances, the classical phase of the Pietist movement should now be loosely regarded as a Protestant phenomenon of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It is bounded, on the one hand, by the age of post-Reformation orthodoxy, to which it reacted both negatively and positively, and, on the other, by the Enlightenment, which rejected some of its insights and incorporated others. In the sense of a prominent undercurrent within the religious self-understanding of large segments of Protestantism, Pietism as a historical entity has never ceased to exist.

The basic characteristics of the movement can be most easily isolated with reference to its classical phase. Pietists of the day believed that religiousness within the Christian tradition, if it is to be meaningful, must involve the complete religious renewal of the individual believer. The experience of such a renewal need not follow any prescribed pattern, but it must consist in a conscious change of humanity's relationship to God so as to bring certainty concerning divine forgiveness, acceptance, and continued concern. The fruit of such a renewal must become visible in the form of "piety," that is, a life expressive of love for God and humanity and built on a vivid sense of the reality of God's presence in all situations of life. Pietists believed that those in whom this religious perspective becomes actualized constitute an inclusive fellowship, namely the koinōnia, that was so profoundly cherished by the primitive Christian community. This fellowship was perceived to transcend every barrier of church affiliation, race, class, and nationalityeven that of time. Thus Pietists characteristically addressed one another as "brother" or "sister," terms symbolic of a common experience of profound spiritual unity. This sense of religious solidarity was enhanced by an awareness of the fact that they were called upon to live in a society that chose to adhere to a value system different from their own, though it was widely supported by the major Christian communions. Hence they often assembled in conventicles of like-minded people within local parishes. Furthermore, Pietism during its classical period centered its concept of religious authority in a biblicism set originally against the formidable but lifeless theological systems of Protestant orthodoxy. Later it was opposed to the Enlightenment attempt to reduce Christian commitment to the acceptance of a few propositions held to be rationally demonstrable. In tension between these poles, Pietists strove to restore to Protestantism a theology based on a commonsense, untortured, more-or-less literal, and basically devotional interpretation of the Bible. Lastly, Pietists hoped to reform society through the efforts of renewed individuals, thus stemming the moral decay that, in their judgment, afflicted both the churches and the body politic.

Early Pietism

The rise of Pietism is best discussed with reference to five early groupings.


Pietism's manifestation within the Reformed territories of the Low Countries is sometimes still referred to as "Precisianism," though it may be best to drop that designation because of the difficulty of distinguishing it conceptually from Pietism as it is here understood. Pietism within Dutch Reformed churches had certain natural affinities with Puritanism, which historically comes from the same source. It is attached to such illustrious names as Willem Teellinck (15791629), who may be regarded as its father; William Ames, or Amesius, as he called himself (15761633), who, although born and educated in England, chose to teach at the University of Franeker; and Jodocus van Lodensteyn (16201677). Within German Reformed territories its chief theological spokesman became Friedrich Adolph Lampe (16831729).


The branch of early Pietism that has received the greatest attention is the Spener-Halle type. It was strictly a Lutheran phenomenon, profoundly indebted to Johann Arndt (15551621) and counting among its outstanding representatives Philipp Jakob Spener (16351705) and August Hermann Francke (16631727). Although its concern encompassed men and women in all walks of life, it addressed itself especially to the nobility.


Swabian Pietism, on the other hand, exhibited a somewhat different ecclesiastical, as well as social, profile. Its chief spokesman, Johann Albrecht Bengel (16871752), was a convinced Lutheran and partially indebted to Spener. Yet he and his followers steered the Pietist development so as to make it dominantly a movement of the people. For that reason Württemberg witnessed the eventual rise of various Pietist fellowships, made up of peasants and artisans, that often resonated to the mysticism of Jakob Boehme and hence were only loosely associated with Lutheranism. A typical fellowship was the Hahnische Gemeinschaft, named after its founder, Johann Michael Hahn (17581819).


A fourth branch of early Pietism arose within Lutheranism but followed the theological leadership of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf (17001760). This strain ultimately became the Renewed Moravian Church.


Not to be overlooked is the radical wing of Pietists, which was often very critical of the major communions and their close ties to the state. Especially prominent among these critics were the young Gottfried Arnold (16661714) and Johann Konrad Dippel (16731734), while the saintly Ernst Christoph Hochmann von Hochenau (16701721) and Gerhard Tersteegen (16971769) were among the radical wing's more irenical representatives.

The eighteenth century

During the second part of the eighteenth century the face of Pietism was considerably altered by the spirit of the times. In its reaction against the Enlightenment philosophy of Christian Wolff (16791754), who greatly influenced continental Protestantism, Pietism was forced to align itself theologically with Protestant orthodoxy, its former antagonist, while espousing at the same time the ethical sensitivity of the Enlightenment. Interacting also with the literary movement usually referred to as Sturm und Drang, which tried to legitimize the inner human experience, the freedom of the individual vis-à-vis the accepted norms of the day, and especially the place of feeling, it tended to become sentimentalized and suspicious of rational conclusions.

In one form or another Pietism eventually reached both Switzerland and Scandinavia. By various emissaries, among them Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (17111787), Theodor J. Frelinghuysen (16911748), Michael Schlatter (17181790), Philip W. Otterbein (17261813), Peter Becker (16871758), and Zinzendorf, it was brought to the American colonies. Its Moravian phase strongly influenced the Wesley brothers and hence the Methodist movement in America. Thus Pietism, along with Puritanism, must now be considered one of the major religious traditions that shaped American Protestantism.

Heritage of Pietism in the Protestant Tradition

The influence of Pietism on world Protestantism has been pervasive and far-reaching. With respect to the ministry, it stressed the religious and ethical qualifications of the minister above his ecclesiastical status. In the area of Protestant worship, it greatly expanded Protestant hymnody, deemphasized ritual, and tended to make the sermon central. It helped to make religious commitment the major aim of Protestant worship. Its advocacy of the devotional reading of the Bible made the latter a book of the people and produced a large corpus of edificatory literature. It was instrumental in reorienting theological education by enthroning the concept of biblical theology and by advocating the religious formation of the whole person, which inevitably resulted in the establishment of theological seminaries for prospective clergy. Its deep concern for the plight of the poor and the sick made for a massive effort to establish homes and schools that would meet their needs, and it projected the hope of a better world brought about through the involvement of concerned Christians. Its vision of a humanity in need of the gospel of Christ made for the initiation and rapid expansion of foreign and domestic missionary enterprises. Its contribution to the rise of the ecumenical ideal is clear, as is its impact on the development of modern theology, notably through the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher and his disciples. Not to be forgotten is the fact that the chief representatives of the intellectual movement known as German Idealism grew up in a Pietist environment. Its genius is discernible also in a variety of later religious movements, such as American evangelicalism.

See Also

Devotion; Francke, August Hermann; Schleiermacher, Friedrich; Spener, Philipp Jakob; Wesley Brothers; Zinzendorf, Nikolaus.


The first extensive historical study of Pietism was Albrecht Ritschl's Geschichte des Pietismus, 3 vols. (Bonn, 18801886). Although it was an unfriendly, strongly biased treatment, it brought into focus the whole Pietist movement in both the Lutheran and Reformed communions as well as among radicals. This was followed by Paul Grünberg's thorough and scholarly work, Philipp Jakob Spener, 3 vols. (Göttingen, 18931906). Subsequently there were many local histories, but only sporadic attempts to examine the general phenomenon of Pietism. There was a growing tendency to disregard Ritschl's broad concept and to limit the study to Lutheranism, specifically to Philipp Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke, Spener's well-known successor at Halle.

After decades of neglect, Erich Beyreuther concentrated some of his prodigious energies upon the subject, notably upon Francke and Zinzendorf. His first volume in this effort was August Hermann Francke, 16631727 (Marburg, 1956). A new era of Pietism study commenced when Martin Schmidt, the outstanding Pietism scholar of the day, published the first of a series of works in the field, Das Zeitalter des Pietismus (Bremen, 1965), edited by Wilhelm Jannasch. The present very intense interest in Pietism study was given tremendous impetus when, under the leadership of Martin Schmidt and the Francke scholar Erhard Peschke, the Kommission zur Erforschung des Pietismus was founded in Germany in 1965. On the basis of its findings the concept of Pietism was once again broadened, and under its auspices a series of volumes was published under the title "Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Pietismus" (Bielefeld, 1967), edited by Kurt Aland, Erhard Peschke, and Martin Schmidt. In 1972, it brought out the first volume, Abteilung 3: August Hermann Francke, of Texte zur Geschichte des Pietismus (Berlin, 1972), and later the first yearbook, titled Pietismus und Neuzeit (Bielefeld, 1974).

During the same period I attempted to generate interest in the study of Pietism in the English-speaking world through Rise of Evangelical Pietism (Leiden, 1965), German Pietism during the Eighteenth Century (Leiden, 1973), and Continental Pietism and Early American Christianity (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1976). In the meantime Theodore G. Tappert had translated into English and edited Spener's Piadesideria (Philadelphia, 1964), based on Kurt Aland's treatment of the same work. James Tanis followed with Dutch Calvinistic Pietism in the Middle Colonies (The Hague, 1967); J. Steven O'Malley with Pilgrimage of Faith: The Legacy of the Otterbeins (Metuchen, N. J., 1973); Dale W. Brown with Understanding Pietism (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1978), which is limited largely to an exposition of the views of Spener and Francke; and Gary R. Stattler with God's Glory, Neighbor's Good: A Brief Introduction to the Life and Writings of August Hermann Francke (Chicago, 1982).

F. Ernest Stoeffler (1987)


views updated May 14 2018


Since the seventeenth century "Pietism" has been an important movement within German Protestantism, and it is still influential in some parts of Germany. It began as a reaction against the formal and conventional character that appeared in Protestantism in the aftermath of the Reformation. Pietism opposed on the one hand the intellectualism implicit in the orthodox tendency to equate faith with the giving of assent to correct doctrine, and on the other, the tendency to identify Christianity with conformity to the ecclesiastical establishments that had been set up in various parts of Germany. By stressing experience, feeling, and personal participation as essential to a true Christian faith, Pietists hoped to bring new life into the Lutheran Church. One can point to similar movements in other parts of Christendom, in the English-speaking world the movement most akin to Pietism was Methodism.

The founder of German Pietism was Philipp Jakob Spener (16351705). Influenced by the extreme Protestant sect of Jean de Labadie, he undertook the task of raising the devotional level of his congregation in Frankfurt am Main and eventually, he hoped, of German Protestantism as a whole. Devotional meetings in his home were the beginnings of the famous collegia pietatis. At its meetings his sermons were considered, the New Testament was expounded, and there was conversation on religious topics. Spener gave clear expression to the aims of his movement in Pia Desideria (Frankfurt am Main, 1675), in which he laid down six goals to be realized: (1) greater study of the Bible but with the aim of personal devotion rather than academic competence; (2) a serious commitment to Martin Luther's belief in the priesthood of all Christian believers, so that the laity might really participate in the life of the church instead of merely conforming outwardly; (3) a realization that Christianity is a practical faith rather than an intellectual belief and that this faith expresses itself in love; (4) corresponding to this, a new style in apologetics and controversy that must aim not so much at intellectual conviction as at winning the allegiance of the whole man; (5) following from the last two points, the reorganization of theological education in order to lay stress on standards of life and conduct rather than on academic achievement; (6) the renewal and revitalizing of preaching as an instrument for building up a genuine piety among the people.

Spener continued to advocate his views in many other writings, including Das geistliche Priesterthum (1677), Des thätigen Christenthums Nothwendigkeit (1679), Die allgemeine Gottesgelehrtheit aller gläubigen Christen und Rechtschaffenen Theologen (1680), Klagen über das verdorbene Christenthum (1684), Natur und Gnade (1687), and Evangelische Glaubenslehre (1688), which were all published at Frankfurt. He became engaged in stormy controversies, both attracting supporters and arousing opposition. Through the support of the elector of Brandenburg, the University of Halle became a center for Pietist views. Spener himself seems to have been a reasonable man who avoided the extravagances of some of his followers and performed a genuine service for the Lutheran Church.

Also important in the history of Pietism is August Hermann Francke (16631727). He taught at the University of Halle and is noteworthy for his development of the practical emphasis of Pietism. He founded a school for the poor and an orphanage and also took an interest in the cause of foreign missions. Like Spener, he encountered opposition, especially among some of the theologians, because of his indiscriminate attacks on intellectualism and his depreciation of the academic disciplines in the interests of devotion and philanthropy. Francke, however, had his supporters and was favored by King Frederick William I of Prussia. Mention should also be made of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (17001760), a pupil of Francke, who spread the spirit of Pietism to Holland, England, and North America by founding communities there. He maintained close relations with John Wesley and the Methodists. Like the other Pietists, he stressed feeling and personal devotion in what seems to have been a mixture of mysticism and emotionalism.

The chief characteristics of Pietism can be seen from this sketch of its origins and early history. It made claims for the affective and sometimes also the conative aspects of religion, in devotion and in practical service, at the expense of the cognitive element. While this may have been a healthy corrective to a sterile dogmatic orthodoxy, it tended to lead to dangerous excesses. Its insistence on intense inward experience could easily lead to the emotionalism that is common in evangelical religion and to the contempt for intelligence and common sense that sometimes accompanies it. The moralistic tone encourages utopianism. Some of those who have been caught up in the enthusiasm of Pietism have underrated the complexities of the moral life and the limitations of what is possible for man; as a result they have shared with the Methodists a belief in perfectionism. Apart from these dangerous excesses, Pietism has contended for the breadth of the human spirit and guarded against too narrow a rationalism. That the tenets of Pietism can receive a sober formulation worthy of respectful consideration is shown above all by the work of F. D. E. Schleiermacher, whose analysis of religion in terms of the feeling of absolute dependence is a direct reflection of the Pietist tradition in Germany.

The influence of Pietism on philosophy is largely indirect. The Pietists themselves tended to be antiphilosophical, but their spirit and teaching became part of the German heritage and eventually influenced even philosophy. This influence showed itself above all in the rise of Lebensphilosophie of which the religious variety, as expressed in the work of Rudolf Christoph Eucken, comes nearest to being a philosophical version of Pietism. Yet even the nonreligious varieties of this philosophy probably owe something to the anti-intellectualism that Pietism has encouraged.

See also Eucken, Rudolf Christoph; Luther, Martin; Mysticism, Nature and Assessment of; Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst.


Crowner, David, and Gerald Christianson, eds. and trans. The Spirituality of the German Awakening. New York: Paulist Press, 2003.

Grünberg, Paul. P. J. Spener, 3 vols. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 18931896.

Mahrholz, A. Der deutsche Pietismus. Berlin: Furche-verlag, 1921.

Nagler, Arthur W. Pietism and Methodism. Nashville, TN, 1918.

Petig, William E. Literary Antipietism in Germany During the First Half of the Eighteenth Century. New York: P. Lang, 1984.

Pinson, Koppel S. Pietism as a Factor in the Rise of German Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1934.

Ritschl, A. Geschichte des Pietismus, 3 vols. Bonn: Marcus, 18801886.

Sachsse, E. Ursprung und Wesen des Pietismus. Wiesbaden: Niedner, 1884.

Schmid, H. Die Geschichte des Pietismus. Nördlingen: Beck, 1863.

Stoeffler, Fred E. German Pietism During the Eighteenth Century. Leiden: Brill, 1973.

John Macquarrie (1967)

Bibliography updated by Tamra Frei (2005)


views updated Jun 08 2018


Broadly defined, pietism denotes a distinctive quality of religious life issuing in rigorous morality and personal piety. jansenism, puritanism, precisianism, and methodism share this quality. In a stricter sense, it refers to its expression within German Lutheranism, particularly by P. J. spener, A. H. francke, and N. L. von zinzendorf.

The spirit of Pietism, as set forth by Spener in his Pia Desideria, revealed the influence of Arndt's Von wahren Christentum, the writings of the English Puritans and the Reformed Christianity of Geneva. It called for a return to personal devotion and morality in response to the decay of German life following the Thirty Years' War and in reaction to the arid intellectualism of the Protestant scholasticism then dominating orthodox Lutheranism. It deemed Christianity more a matter of the heart than of the intellect; the mark of a Christian was more properly love of one's neighbor than right doctrines. Spener urged that a greater emphasis be given to devotional than to doctrinal and polemical studies in theological education, with a corresponding reformation of preaching. The errant and heathens were to be won by love and persuasion.

Pietism did not produce the sweeping reforms that Spener desired for the church. However, an improved moral climate was achieved and a greater emphasis given to the study of Scripture, along with a wider use of Scripture in preaching. Perhaps the greatest impact on church life occurred in Lutheran hymnody. Similarly the movement produced no immediate transformation of orthodox Lutheran theology, the two positions, indeed, differing not greatly in doctrines per se but rather in the emphasis given to doctrine. Nevertheless, Pietism revealed the weaknesses of Lutheran scholasticism and helped prepare the way for the theological resurgence of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The failures of Pietism were largely a result of its individualistic emphasis and a lack of organization. Spener never exercised the control over this movement that Wesley did over Methodism. Separatism was a constant threat in Pietism. Spener early founded the collegia pietatis, small devotional gatherings that he envisaged as a spiritual leaven within the church. Nevertheless, this drawing apart of a spiritual elite led to strained relations with the rest of Lutheranism. Some of Spener's more enthusiastic followers finally broke away from the Church but Spener (and Francke agreeing with him in this) being opposed to separatism broke with them and suppressed the collegia. Extremism plagued Pietism and detracted from its influence. Unlike Spener's, Francke's spiritual development had been traumatic and he regarded this as the norm for all true conversion, tending to impose this character upon the movement. Excessive and false religiosity both found frequent expression. In fact, Ritschl questioned Spener's classification as a Pietist because he confessed no such traumatic conversion. Extreme individualism in Biblical interpretation occasionally marred the Pietists' free study of Scripture, and subjective approaches to religion led to bizarre theological expressions, such as those of Zinzendorf. The deemphasis of doctrine inherent in Pietism also tended to weaken its impact. In reaffirming the necessary subjective aspect of faith, it tended to neglect the equally valid objective side. Consequently, the Halle school under Francke produced little scholarly research. In contrast, the less radical form of Pietism at Würtemburg under Bengel pursued scholarly research and continued as a significant force after the more extreme Pietism had disappeared.

The Pietist emphasis upon a quality of life rather than orthodoxy of belief tended to produce a softening of religious divisions and an improved relationship between the Lutheran and Reformed churches. Contact with likeminded Roman Catholics, initially inhibited by Spener's strong opposition to the papacy, developed late in the 18th century only to succumb to the ultramontanism prevailing on the Roman side. The movement was, in this respect, a forerunner of religious freedom. Unlike the Puritans, the Pietists never became a political force. Nevertheless, they had considerable social impact, humanizing society and inspiring the growth of philanthropy. The Halle orphanage and schools under Francke were a precursor of the Innere Mission, the home mission, social service movement. Pietism fostered an upsurge of missionary effort. Inspired by Pietism, Frederick IV of Denmark commissioned two men from Halle for service in India. An active campaign was conducted to evangelize the Jews by establishing the Institutum Judaicum at Halle. The Moravians later gave a new impetus to the mission cause with their use of lay personnel. Pietism was influential also in the founding in England of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, with its decidedly missionary purpose.

This movement was destined to be a factor in shaping the theologies of schleiermacher and ritschl, and through the Moravians it promoted the rise of Methodism. Some cite a connection between Pietism and the rise of both rationalism and German nationalism. However, these latter movements in their developed expressions certainly did not reflect the spirit of Pietism.

Bibliography: a. ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus, 3 v. (Bonn 188086). h. heppe, Geschichte des Pietismus und der Mystik in der reformierten Kirche namentlich der Niederlande (Leiden 1879). e. sachsse, Ursprung und Wesen des Pietismus (Wiesbaden 1884). h. schmid, Die Geschichte des Pietismus (Nördlingen 1863). m. stallmann, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegnwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 5:370383. l. cristiani, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350) 12.2:208493. c. mirbt, s. m. jackson, ed. The New Schff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 13 v. (Grand Rapids, Mich. 195154) 9:5367. j. t. mcneill, Modern Christian Movements (Philadelphia 1954).

[j. c. hoffman]


views updated Jun 11 2018



Origins. Just as the American colonies experienced an early eighteenth-century revival, the so-called Great Awakening, European Christians experienced a fervent form of religious experience known as Pietism, which had its origins in the late seventeenth century and continued well into the eighteenth. Characterized less by religious dogma or sacramentalism than by heartfelt devotion, ethical purity, and charitable activity, this movement can be traced back to evangelical Lutherans Philipp Jacob Spener (1635-1705) and August Hermann Francke (1663-1727). Another major proponent of Pietism was Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), a Pious German nobleman. In the early eighteenth century he befriended a group of persecuted religious refugees, the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of Brethren), who had been forced to flee their

native Moravia, and gave them asylum on his lands. Zinzendorf joined their sect and emerged as its bishop in 1737. Though the Moravians embraced central Lutheran doctrines—such as the authority of the Bible, salvation by faith alone, and the priesthood of all believers—the relationship between the Moravians and German Lutherans was never secure, and the Moravians formally broke with the mother church after Zinzendorf’s death. Known as the Moravian Brethren, this pietistic sect never achieved great size, but it exerted a larger influence on Protestantism than its numbers warranted.

Influence on Protestantism. One of the most significant contributions of Pietism to Protestant Christianity was its missionary impulse. Before Pietism, Protestant reformers paid scant attention to the non-Christian world. Under the influence of Zinzendorf and other pietistic leaders, however, Protestants trained and sent Christian missionaries to the Caribbean, Africa, India, South America, and North America. Pietistic groups were involved in many humanitarian endeavors, establishing orphanages, building schools, and organizing centers to care for lepers, the blind, unwed mothers, and the insane. The clerics of state churches often accused the Pietists of being overly emotional, subversive, and even heretical. Given their antitraditionalism, much of this criticism was understandable. Pietism nonetheless exerted a broad influence on European Protestantism. Through John Wesley, the pietistic concern for experiential religion penetrated the Church of England and the new Methodist Church that separated from the Anglicans at the end of the eighteenth century. In Norway the unordained itinerant preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771-1824) traveled more than ten thousand miles in six years, denouncing the orthodoxy of the state church and proclaiming the need for heartfelt religious conversion. Although arrested and imprisoned for ten years for preaching as a layman, Hauge helped to create a lay movement that ultimately brought vitality to the Norwegian church. Pietism also contributed to the development of the Inner Mission Society, which was founded in Germany in 1849 and later spread to Scandinavia, and to the establishment of the Swedish Mission Covenant Church (1878). The movement also was influential in its birthplace, Germany, where it had nationalistic as well as religious consequences, as religious emotions were easily extended from devotion to God the Father to loyalty to the Fatherland. The pietistic movement also indirectly impacted the direction of nineteenth-century philosophical thought, as it influenced three important post-Enlightenment thinkers: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), and Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834).

Beyond Protestantism. The mysticism and warm piety that were central to Protestant forms of Pietism also appeared in other religious traditions. In Roman Catholic France, for instance, a Jansenist movement that advanced the Augustinian emphasis on the need to experience the divine gained a popular following among the French masses. In eighteenth-century Judaism, Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760), called by his followers Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name), founded the Hasidic movement, which sought to move beyond ritual to a sense of union with God. Like Enlightenment thinkers, Pietists attacked ingrained systems of religious orthodoxy and promoted the rights of individuals. Pietism differed from Enlightenment thought, however, in that it prompted respect for biblical scripture and spiritual renewal, while the rationalism of the Enlightenment produced religious skepticism and secularism.


Dale W. Brown, Understanding Pietism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978).

Richard L. Gawthrop, Pietism and the Making of Eighteenth Century Prussia (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

F. Ernest Stoeffler, German Pietism During the Eighteenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 1973).


views updated May 11 2018


PIETISM. The name given to the renewal movement in German Protestantism that flourished in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Pietism aimed to combat growing formalism in the Lutheran Church. The father of the movement was Philipp Jakob Spener, the senior Lutheran minister in Frankfurt am Main, who began collegia pietatis, small lay groups formed to promote bible study and prayer. He stressed the Christian behavior in daily life, urged lay members to play a larger role in church work, and promoted reform of theological education. His younger protégé, August Hermann Francke, established near the University of Halle a massive complex of institutions (including an orphanage, several schools, and bible and mission societies) that became the principal pietistic center.

In the American colonies the influence of churchly Pietism was exerted chiefly through the German Lutherans and the Moravians. Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg was sent to North America in 1742 by the church fathers at Halle to bring the troubled Lutheran congregations into order and to counter the proselytizing efforts of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, leader of the Moravian Church. Mühlenberg succeeded in organizing the Lutheran parishes and is thus referred to as the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America. The American Moravians were the most pietistic of all the colonial religious bodies and were especially adept at creating religious music. In addition, various movements were influenced by Radical Pietism, which advocated separation

from state churches. These included the Brethren (nicknamed Dunkers), who arrived in 1719, and the communitarian Ephrata Society that broke from them, led by Conrad Beissel. Later communal bodies of similar orientation were the Harmonists, the Separatists of Zoar, and the Amana Colonies. Pietism was from the beginning strongly missionary in emphasis and for that reason had large significance in colonial America and later church development.


Pitzer, Donald R., ed. America's Communal Utopias. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Stoeffler, F. Ernest, ed. Continental Pietism and Early American Christianity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1976.

Donald F.Durnbaugh

William W.Sweet

See alsoReligion and Religious Affiliation .

Justice James C. McReynolds, from thePierce opinion:

"The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."


views updated May 21 2018

Pietism. A movement in Protestant Christianity which reacted against too rigid a confessional orthodoxy, and emphasized good works and a holy life. It began soon after the Thirty Years War (1618–48), led by Jakob Spener (1635–1705). Invited to write a preface to a book of sermons, he wrote a short tract, Pia Desideria (1675; tr. T. G. Tappert, 1964), which became a kind of ‘manifesto’, laying down six ‘simple proposals’ (einfältige Vorschläge) for a more godly life: individual study of the Bible; the exercise of the priesthood of all believers (i.e. including the laity); the importance of good works; the control of charity in controversy; the better training of ministers, with training conforming to life; and the reformation of preaching to serve all these purposes. Spener was widely influential (though also opposed, as all reformers are), affecting especially A. H. Francke (1663–1727), who committed himself to the poor of Halle. Among many influenced by Pietism were Count Zinzendorf (who brought together the Moravian Church) and John Wesley.


views updated Jun 11 2018

pi·e·tism / ˈpī-iˌtizəm/ • n. pious sentiment, esp. of an exaggerated or affected nature. ∎  (usu. Pietism) a 17th-century movement for the revival of piety in the Lutheran Church.DERIVATIVES: pi·e·tist n.pi·e·tis·tic / ˌpī-iˈtistik/ adj.pi·e·tis·ti·cal adj.pi·e·tis·ti·cal·ly / -tik(ə)lē/ adv.