Anabaptist Critiques of Pietism: An Overview

In case you missed any or all of it the first time… Last week I completed a six-part series considering some significant critiques of Pietism by leading Mennonite scholars like Harold Bender and Robert Friedmann. We’ll pick up on some of the themes in a new series starting this week, asking whether Pietism provides a “usable past” for Christian colleges and universities, even those founded by churches rooted in that tradition.

Here are the Anabaptist critique posts, with a representative line or two from each:

  1. “The Anabaptist Vision”
    Ultimately, Bender lumped Pietism with Lutheranism as a kind of mysticism that mistook Christianity to be “chiefly enjoyment of the inner experience of the grace of God through faith in Christ,” rather than “the transformation of life through discipleship.”
  2. “The Friedmann Thesis”
    At most, Friedmann expected from Pietists “a mild friendliness and morality” disconnected from any true understanding of the kingdom of God….
  3. “Taking Stock”
    …as a Christian who increasingly identifies with the Pietist tradition, I find the Anabaptist perspective especially worthy of attention, since the two traditions respond to similar impulses…. Reading criticism of my own tradition from an Anabaptist both hurts and convicts, like hearing difficult truths from a brother or sister.
  4. “The Anabaptist Revision”
    Given more nuanced understandings of both Anabaptism and Pietism, it became impossible to accept Friedmann’s rigid dichotomies.
  5. “Anabaptist AND Pietist”
    Dialectic, for Brown = “when a theologian talks out of both sides of her mouth and believes she still makes sense.” [bah-dum-bum] “Or in this context the dialectic proposes that some of the divergences between Anabaptists and Pietists can constitute a creative and healthy tension.”
  6. “What Pietists Can Learn from the Anabaptist Vision”
    …just as Bender’s speech came at a time when even non-Anabaptist historians… were already beginning to reassess long-held negative stereotypes about the Radical Reformation, a hypothetical “Pietist vision” moment would come in the wake of a generational shift in interest in Pietism studies that has made Pietism seem both more complicated and more relevant to present circumstances.

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