This is one in a series of posts highlighting the hallmarks of Pietism noted in a new and excellent book–Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition by Roger E. Olson and Christian T. Collins Winn.
In this installment, I will reflect on the first hallmark: Embracing and Accepting Orthodox Protestant Doctrine
The Pietists did react against a Protestant Orthodoxy that was highly systematic, dogmatic, rigid and cognitive, but that did not mean that good theology was unimportant. The Pietists never abandoned key Christian theology. They did however affirm that good theology leads to life–to an inward transformation. The Pietists were not and are not content with stuffy doctrine that doesn’t bring change. Nor did they allow themselves to hide behind doctrinal disputes and thus avoid the costly and risky task of following Jesus.
Mark Labberton, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, notes that the task of theological education is not just about creating “brains on sticks.” Theological education shapes and forms the whole person–thinking critically and theologically, transforming the heart, and engaging in practices of discipleship. Good theology is not good enough if it only increases knowledge. We are called to be followers of Jesus (together), engaging mind, and heart, and body. Believing, belonging, and behaving are all necessary. This is how Pietists sought to live.
Dorothy Sayers put it this way: “Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as a bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine—dull dogma as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man (sic)—and the dogma is the drama.
Good doctrine never exists by itself. Good doctrine never just sits on a shelf. Good doctrine overwhelms us with a new sense of the greatness and goodness of God, and changes our lives, and draws us to Christ and to each other, and sends us out in mission and witness and service.