Our thanks to Anna Johnson, Reformation church history professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, who is leading an online discussion of The Pietist Option on Tuesday, November 13th at noon (Central time).
Here’s how Garrett introduces our book at its webinars page:
Pietists are Christianity’s historical behind-the-scenes influencers. They were an important inspiration for John Wesley, the Moravians, the Covenant traditions, and the old Evangelical United Brethren, which merged into the UMC in 1968 (and from which Garrett-Evangelical gets the “Evangelical” in its name). [Note: I wrote a bit about the United Brethren in a 2011 series on Pietism and higher education.] In this book, co-authors Gehrz (a history professor) and Pattie (a pastor) show how Pietistic instincts might help renew the church today. Pietism is grounded in scripture, authenticity, education, the priesthood of all believers, and living out Christian love. In these instincts, the authors find a model for engaging Christians today, and hope for the future of the church.
I’m grateful to Dr. Johnson (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) for leading this discussion. (And to Hauna Ondrey of North Park Seminary for reminding me that it was coming up so soon!) This kind of webinar is a wonderful way to realize our hope of extending the book’s conversation to bring together scholars, pastors, and others in the church.
I’m always a bit nervous whenever a fellow historian gets their hands on this book, since I know that they’ll soon realize the ways that our attempt to find a “usable past” flattens the complexity of Pietism’s history. But I strongly resonate with Dr. Johnson’s approach to the Christian past:
The historical study of Christianity offers us the chance to enter into the past as observers of another religious culture. When we see things that we recognize, we begin to understand why things are as they are, and we can better evaluate our own roots. When we see things that are different, we have the opportunity to examine that culture on its own terms. Why do people believe what they believe? Why do they do what they do? Why are their circumstances and mindsets so different from ours? Despite the differences of time, place and mentality, to what aspects of that culture can we relate? In my courses, I want students to appreciate the past as something that is both distant from us and always with us. I want them to experience historical Christianity as a living, breathing, on-the-ground phenomenon. I want them to interpret historical contexts and empathize with historical figures, just as they will interpret the particular contexts of their ministries and empathize with the unique people they serve.