Further Reading on Pietism

Bethlehem Covenant ChurchIt’s been a long weekend teaching and preaching, but a rewarding, exhilarating one. Thanks again to the people of Bethlehem Covenant Church for making me feel so welcome as the guest speaker for their Winter Seminar! I’m particularly grateful to their senior pastor, Ryan Eikenbary-Barber, for extending the invitation and for being an active participant in the seminar sessions themselves. But it was good to hear excellent questions and diverse perspectives from so many of those who took part. (I even got some good advice from a former teacher who gently pointed out that I was falling into some of the bad PowerPoint habits that I routinely warn my students against!) The sessions were audio- and video-recorded: I’ll let you know if and when they’re made available.

I sometimes produce reading lists for church seminars and adult Sunday School classes, but didn’t this time. (Noble rationale: I’m saving trees from being turned into paper. Ignoble rationale: I forgot to write up the reading list. We may never know the full truth, but it’s probably somewhere in the middle…) Instead, I thought I’d post the suggested readings here on the blog, both for those who participated in the seminar and others who might want to read a bit more about Pietism, Covenant history, and the other things that came up. (This way you can link directly to any book you want to buy, and I can include some online resources.)

Brown, Understanding Pietism• I still think Dale Brown’s Understanding Pietism is the place to start (originally published in the late 1970s, but then revised in the mid-Nineties), though a newer, inexpensive supplement emphasizing Pietist ethics is Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom’s Angels, Worms, and Bogeys. (Pricier, but also relatively concise is Harry Yeide, Jr., Studies in Classical Pietism.) Or if you’re not yet sure you want to actually spend money on this, but want a place to start: the 1986 issue of Christian History magazine on Pietism is (as of yesterday) available as full-text, with articles by scholars like Don Durnbaugh, John Weborg, Gary Sattler, and Ernest Stoeffler and excerpts from Pietist writings and hymns.

• You can find good chapters on German Pietism embedded in larger narratives or collections, which helpfully puts the movement in context. My favorite is “Pietists Seek to Renew Lutheran Theology,” in Roger Olson’s hefty, but brilliantly readable historical theology text, The Story of Christian TheologyFrom the Covenant Church, John Weborg contributed “Pietism: Theology in Service of Living toward God” to The Variety of American Evangelicalism, eds. Donald W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston.

• At risk of engaging in rank self-promotion, I do think that our 2011 collection of essays, The Pietist Impulse in Christianity (eds. Christian Collins Winn, G. William Carlson, Eric Holst, and myself) is a good place to start if you’re not afraid to dig into some scholarly work on a wide variety of aspects of Pietism (broadly defined). If you want a preview… after the book came out I wrote a series of posts summarizing each section of the book. (And if you have lots of money to spend and want to sample the current scholarship on Pietism studies, you couldn’t do much better than Pietism in Germany and North America 1680-1820, eds. Jonathan Strom et al.)

• Three books by F. Ernest Stoeffler did much to introduce Pietism to English-reading audiences in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Rise of Evangelical Pietism and German Pietism during the Eighteenth Century are out of print but available from used bookstores, and the collection he edited on Continental Pietism and Early American Christianity was reissued a few years ago by Wipf & Stock.

The Life of Lady Johanna Elenora Petersen• Biographies and autobiographies include K. James Stein’s on Philipp Jakob Spener and Gary Sattler’s on August Hermann Francke (both published by the Covenant; both out of print, but not too hard to find used), Friedrich Zündel’s of Johann Christoph Blumhardt (a translation edited by my colleague Christian Collins Winn), and Barbara Becker-Cantarino’s translation of The Life of Lady Johanna Eleonora Petersen.

• If you feel ready to dive into the German Pietists themselves… Start with Theodore Tappert’s translation of Philip Jakob Spener’s Pia Desideria. Or browse a more diverse group of Pietist writings: the Paulist Press collection edited by Peter Erb (The Pietists: Selected Writings), which includes Spener alongside A.H. Francke, Nicolaus von Zinzendorf, Gottfried Arnold, Gerhard Tersteegen, J.A. Bengel, and F.C. Oetinger. The collection edited by Carter Lindberg (The Pietist Theologians: An Introduction) is both more expensive (over $40, even in paperback or on Kindle) and extensive, with all of those in the Erb collection plus several others, some well within the German Pietist tradition (Johanna Eleonora Petersen) and others pushing into Anglo-American evangelicalism (Cotton Mather, John Wesley). In Sunday School this morning, I quoted at length from two 1842 pieces by the Swedish revivalist Carl Olof Rosenius: “Pietism” and “A Pietist.”

• Some of my favorite reading advice (from Alan Jacobs) is to read what your favorite writers read. So if you apply that principle to Spener… Start with Johann Arndt’s True Christianity, since Pia was originally a preface to a collection of Arndt sermons, and Martin Luther’s “Preface to Romans” (with its enthusiasm for a living, active faith). Some of the devotional and mystical works recommended in Pia are the anonymously authored Theologia Germanica, Thomas à Kempis’ venerable Imitation of Christ, and the sermons of Johannes Tauler. The Puritan bishop Lewis Bayly was another influence on Spener – his Practice of Piety remains in print.

Olsson, By One Spirit• Because of my own background and the location of the seminar, I dwelt at some length on the role of Pietism in the history of the Covenant Church, which has produced excellent histories by Karl Olsson (By One Spirit; Into One Body… by the Cross) and Philip Anderson (One Body, Many Members; A Precious Heritage), among others. And have some fun exploring Jim Hawkinson’s sampler of Covenant literature, Glad Hearts, which — Jim having been Jim — has lots of Pietists and Pietism in it.

• But I also wanted to introduce Covenanters to some other denominations influenced by Pietism: e.g., the Augustana Lutheran Church (Maria Erling and Mark Granquist, The Augustana Story); the Baptist General Conference (start by perusing back issues of The Baptist Pietist Clarion); the Evangelical Free Church (see David Gustafson’s chapter in The Pietist Impulse in Christianity); the Brethren in Christ (Carlton Wittlinger, Quest for Piety and Obedience — and see the similarly-titled blog published by rising BIC historian Devin Manzullo-Thomas); and the Church of the Brethren (Donald Durnbaugh, Fruit of the Vine; Carl Bowman, Brethren Society).

• Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point people towards the present-day incarnation of Pietisten, a newsletter (for which I’ve written a few times now) that “[draws] heavy inspiration from the collective heritage of Lutheran Pietism, as represented in a congenial flock of historically-related traditions” (including several of those listed above). When I asked people at the Sunday School class where they had first encountered Pietism, several mentioned Pietisten — whose longtime former editor, Phil Johnson, was kind enough to sit in on the session this morning.

UPDATE: Let me now add a new Twitter feed to this list of resources: @pietismstudies is hosted by the Pietism Studies Group.

2 thoughts on “Further Reading on Pietism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.