I am ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church. In fact, I am a fourth generation Covenanter. My great grandfather was part of a revival movement in Sweden. They called themselves Mission Friends. That group became the Evangelical Covenant Church. My grandfather emigrated to the United States as a young man found community with Covenanters. Both my mom and my dad grew up in Covenant Churches. It is a rich heritage.
The Covenant emerged from the Pietistic revival that swept through Germany and Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. Pietism caught hold as Lutheranism in State Churches became a dead and stale orthodoxy articulating objective propositonal truths, but lacked a faith characterized by vitality and warmth.
Pietists have gotten a bad rap from church historians and even Karl Barth. They have been seen as overly holy and simply heavenly minded, sentimental and romantic, anti-intellectual, focused inwardly and individualistic, and separatist. Some Pietists certainly fit into these categories, but an increasing number of scholars are showing that these characterizations do not apply to most Pietists.
In Renewing the Center, Stan Grenz argued that while the Puritans played a key role in American Evangelicalism, Pietists also played a very important role. Donald Bloesch, Richard Foster, and Jurgen Moltmann were influenced by Pietism.
Roger Olson and Christian T. Collins Winn have just come out with an excellent book called Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition. In this book they list ten hallmarks that “constitute a kind of portrait or list of family resemblances of Pietism” (p. 85). The hallmarks are:
- embracing orthodox Protestant Christian doctrine
- an experiential and transformative Christianity
- conversion/regeneration of the “inner person”
- conversation piety–a strong devotional life and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ
- visible Christianity–holy living and transformed character
- love of the Bible understood as a medium of an intimate relationship with God
- Christian life lived in community
- world transformation toward the kingdom of God
- an ecumenical and irenic Christianity
- the common priesthood of all true believers.
Over the next weeks I will discuss each of these hallmarks. I contend that these hallmarks are vital for a renewed Evangelicalism. These traits need to be seen and lived out in all of our lives and churches.
I am proud to be a Pietist, or as Stan Grenz described himself: a pietist with a PhD. We all have a lot to learn from Pietism!