From the Archives: Pietism and its Formidable Critics
Pietism has had its severe critics right from its beginnings and continuously through its history.
Sometimes the attacks have been based on caricature and misunderstanding and other times based on substantive theological and doctrinal issues.
In addition to the scorn of the world, Pietism has drawn the ire of church leaders, evangelicals, Catholics and Protestants alike.
The first of the major critics was Valentin Ernst Löscher, a Lutheran theologian and champion of Reformation orthodoxy. Part of the Establishment, Löscher, and his following feared the Pietists as political opponents who could seize power by cultivating the good will of the secular authorities. Löscher, called Pietism a sickness, a stranger denunciation even than designating it a heresy. In his mind, Pietists evidenced an unhealthy individualism, a reckless enthusiasm, and an overly romanticist form of religious experience. While Joachim Lange had coined the word “pietism” as a positive term, Löscher, lumped together as “Pietists” all those whose theology he did not like.
Erberhard Ludwig, Duke of Württemberg from 1693 to l733, issued an edict regarding the Pietist movement of his day. It orders “how to oppose strongly the so called Pietist nuisance (Pietisterey) which ever and again swarms in and around the country, as well as other dangerous errors, and how everyone is to be earnestly held to the diligent hearing of God’s Word and the use of the holy sacraments in public church services, and bow to live according to the wholesomely constituted regulations of court sanctioned church order, as well as the symbolic books of our Evangelical Church, which are carefully observed by teachers and bearers, while obstinate persons are to be regarded as subject ...