More on Pietism (a reply to David Ceri Jones)

Today I return to Pietism. In comments left on the post about Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Pietism by Dr. David Ceri Jones, lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s History Department, and also a member at St. Mike’s Church Aberystwyth, he raise questions about my definition and understanding of Pietism. He wrote:

Firstly I think you completely misunderstand pietism (if you’ve got this from Bobi Jones’ highly pejorative language, I can understand why – do you really think that the Moravians, Francke, Zinzendorf etc were heretics?) – there was certainly an element of withdrawal from the world in Lloyd-Jones’ thinking – go back to his Aberavon days and his advice to the Church Secretary, E. T. Rees to leave the Labour Party after his conversion, but that wasn’t pietism – I’d argue that you’ve got the wrong label – fundamentalism might be a better fit.

Pietism, like say nationalism, is a difficult term to define. It means different things in different context at different times in history. I think pietism is like one of those ideologies which is like bad breath. The thing with bad breath is that you can never smell it on your self but others can smell it on you; therefore i would argue that pietism is a spirit or mind-set or attitude. It is sometimes hard to recognize because it is often a matter of degree of emphasis of a particular doctrine or overemphasis or misemphasis.

The definition give by R. M. Jones in his volume Mawl a Gelynion ei Elynion (translated: ‘Praise and the Enemies of it’s Enemies’), originally in Welsh but loosely translated (loosely so to make the meaning clearer) into English here, is as follows:

Pietism is the untimely withdrawal by some religious people from the practical turmoil and the harsh reality of this world… and also the failure to see the cosmic relevance of religion to every aspect of life; a tendency to limit Christianity to the Sunday, to see the church as an exclusively respectable institution (with a conservative style), and to give all attention to the doctrine of salvation to the detriment of others. Pietism tends to make the Christian faith and the Church very alien to our contemporary culture.

Pietism I believe imposes limits on the power and scope of Christ, his Gospel and his Kingdom to some spheres only. If we believe that Christ is King of history then I must agree with R. M. Jones that pietism as understood in the definition give here is wrong and deprives Christ of the glory he deserves.

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One Response to “More on Pietism (a reply to David Ceri Jones)”

  1. Dr David Ceri Jones Says:

    Therefore what R. M. Jones is really criticising is a pietistic attitude, rather than Pietism (which has to refer to the theological movement which arose in the later 17th century does it not?). Do you really think that Lloyd Jones fits this description? Read his sermons on the Christian and the State in the Romans series and then see what you think?

    There is of course a divergence within evangelicalism about the relationship of the Christian to the state, Bobi Jones being influenced by Abraham Kuyper of course. But there is considerable legitimate divergence among evangelicals, that I don’t think deserves to be reduced to kind of pejorative labelling you engage in! A more balanced and nuanced understanding is called for!

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