Posts Tagged ‘christianity today’

More on Pietism (a reply to David Ceri Jones)

February 13, 2009

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.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Pietism, Part 2

February 11, 2009

This post follows directly from the last post seen below or by clicking here.

Inevitably when there is a split or a schism both sides look towards their leader for inspiration, counsel and advice on almost everything, and that explains in my opinion how Martyn Lloyd-Jones acquired an almost absolute intellectual influence over the conservative evangelical world. I find it especially interesting to compare Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the other leading evangelical figure in Wales during the Twentieth Century, R. Tudur Jones. Both were Evangelical Calvinists when it came to strict spiritual matters but they differentiate when it came to matters of public theology. On one hand R. Tudur Jones was Vice-President of Plaid Cymru and also the Editor of both their Welsh and English newspaper, he was a keen supporter and advocate of welsh language civil rights groups such as Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) and UMCB (Bangor Welsh Students Union) and he also played a leading role in the pacifist movement in Wales. On the other hand Martyn Lloyd-Jones kept himself to strict spiritual matters only, limiting himself to the four walls of the Church, he was essentially a pietist. And i should note, at this point that I agree with Prof. R.M. Jones when he said that pietism is tantamount to heresy.

But was Lloyd-Jones really a pietist? His faithful followers would argue that he wasn’t a pietist by going on to explain that all he believed was that the clergy should not meddle with politics and social matters. Christians in general should do, Lloyd-Jones’ limitations was only directed towards church leaders. Until fairly recently I was happy and accepted that explanation of Lloyd-Jones’ thought towards the public sphere. But when I delved into his hagiography written by Ian Murray I soon discovered that Lloyd-Jones’ attitude towards public theology was fundamentally more different than that of R. Tudur Jones than what I had originally thought. I was lead to believe that the differences between Lloyd Jones and Tudur Jones’ were only minor differences, different emphasis and nothing more. But after a closer look I discovered that the difference between the two brothers stance on public theology was vast.

It was in 1980, when Lloyd-Jones was nearing the end of his life long ministry, he gave an interview to the magazine Christianity Today. The interviewer asked him “what do you think Christianity ought to say to the economic situation today?”, and he answered as follows:

I think the great message we must preach is God’s judgment on men and on the world… The main function of politics, culture, and all these things is to restrain evil. They can never do an ultimately positive work.

Lloyd-Jones’ emphasis here is clear to us all; he sees the things of the public sphere in a negative and in a sin restraining way – it’s a get our hands dirty and get the job done as fast as possible and then get out even faster type of mentality. Tudur Jones on the other hand enters the public sphere with positive overtones; he sees a Christians ingenuity and activity in the public sphere in positive and creative light and he even sees it as an act of praise to God.

Considering Lloyd-Jones’ almost absolute influence over the conservative evangelical tradition I was bought up in it comes as no surprise that on the whole the tradition that I was bought up in is a pietistic one. My parents, thank God, are not pietists and neither were great men like R.M. Jones, Geraint Gruffydd and the already mentioned R. Tudur Jones. But R.M. Jones’ anti-pietist remarks are heard, even cheered, but hardly have they been acted upon unfortunately. So on the whole the current young generation of evangelical Christians in Wales are still pretty pietistic and this is to the detriment of Welsh public life and also contact points for mission. Much of this, I would argue is down to the influence of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, not the man himself, but the lasting influence of his miss-emphases in relation to the public sphere.