Given reports of declining religious affiliation and rising social tension, it’s no surprise that 2017 has offered up a catalog of books charting the future of the Western church. How can we not only survive this cultural moment but thrive as well?
In the spring, Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option tackled the question by channeling the wisdom of Saint Benedict, who established monastic life in the wake of Rome’s collapse. Evangelicals’ response was mixed, in part because Dreher’s vision carries high-church and magisterial assumptions that many evangelicals do not share.
Enter The Pietist Option, a new book by Christopher Gehrz (a historian) and Mark Pattie III (a pastor). Like Dreher, Gehrz and Pattie look to the past to figure out how to navigate the present. But unlike The Benedict Option, The Pietist Optionwill feel very familiar to evangelicals, even those who have never heard of Pietism before.
We often use the term pietism as linguistic shorthand for any inward-focused spirituality that is anti-rational or holier-than-thou. Gehrz and Pattie argue that historic Pietism is better understood as a set of instincts about the Christian life: that true knowledge of God cannot come apart from relationship with him; that the church has a divine call to pursue unity; that Christianity is both simpler and more demanding than we realize; and that the Resurrection calls us to hope.
First emerging as a reform movement within the Lutheran Church of the late 1600s, Pietism quickly spread to other churches, eventually influencing the Puritan, Baptist, Methodist, and Brethren traditions. Despite its reach, Pietism doesn’t leave a clear structural trail. “Suspicious of faith becoming too institutional ...1