Johann Arndt and the Pietists redefine “true Christianity”. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 33A – Chapter Twenty-nine “Pietists Seek to Renew Lutheran Theology” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson

1. Prof. Olson argues that historians of Christianity have misunderstood the Pietist movement, one centered among Lutherans in Germany, and have largely viewed it in a negative light. What were the typical misconceptions and stereotypes cited to explain the Pietists? What are the facts Olson offers to correct these misconceptions? What were the emphases discerned in Luther’s approach to a doctrine of salvation, and the developing Lutheran Orthodoxy, that they wished to modify?

2. What role did the belief in baptismal regeneration (which we have heard described in a previous lesson by Prof. Gerstner) play in this renewal movement? What faults were perceived in Luther’s doctrine of baptism?

3. What are “orthopathy” and “orthopraxy” and how did they tie in to the Pietists’ critique of Lutheran orthodoxy? How were these concepts useful to Pietists in their definition of authentic Christianity?

4. Dr. Olson claims the Pietist movement had “no single leader”, but he cites four very important contributors to this tradition. How did the first one discussed, Johann Arndt, define “true Christianity”? Why does Olson believe Arndt had a “profound influence” on Pietism?

5. Philipp Jakob Spener lived in Frankfurt where he began a renewal program that some refer to as the “Frankfurt Conventicles”. What did this program involve? Was it successful? Doctrinal debates, as you have read, ensued. What were the reasons for the controversies surrounding the Conventicles? How did things turn out for Spener?

6. Spener wrote a book, Pia Desideria, Or Heartfelt Desire…, that is still being read three centuries later. Why? What was his central doctrine of Pietism, as Spener saw it? Who was the guiding influence in Spener’s pietistic theology?

7. What were the personal strengths of Auguste Hermann Francke that he brought to the movement? In his theology the concept of busskampf was critical. What does this German word mean and what does it reveal about his understanding of authentic Christian conversion?

8. Count Zinzendorf is known in Protestant history for his generous offering of his estate, Bethelsdorf, as a refuge for persecuted Christians, especially Moravians. What was the Count’s assessment of the classical Christian creeds and Lutheran confessions of faith? How did he view the controversial doctrine of perfectionism and sanctification? What lasting contributions did he make to the development of Pietism?

9. How should we summarize the legacy of Pietism?

Click here for Lesson 33B


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