- Confessionalism and Pietism: Religious Reform in Early Modern Europe
This first volume of three collections of essays presents the results of the editor's project "Cultural History of Pietism and Revivalism, c. 1650–c.1850: An American, Dutch, and Nordic Connection." Readers unfamiliar with recent scholarship on the Pietist renewal movement in early modern Protestantism can sample both the important emphasis on the international dimensions of Pietism as well as its complicated relationship to the political and social transformations both within and beyond Europe. This first volume that specifically attempts to analyze Pietism's connection to the major Protestant confessional [End Page 378] churches (Evangelical-Lutheran and Reformed) and the free church movements will be followed by subsequent collections that investigate Pietist revivalism and notions of "modernity," and finally, the movement's impact on creating patterns and notions of religious dissent and social community in the Atlantic world of the eighteenth century.
Most Anglophone readers will not have followed the dispute conducted largely in the journal Pietismus und Neuzeit that raged over whether Pietism is best understood as a "movement" primarily identified with European Protestantism from roughly 1675 to the late eighteenth century, or part of a much deeper "tendency" toward revivals and renewals that transcend confessional boundaries of western Christianity continuing to the present day and far beyond the bounds of Europe itself. That debate was in part triggered by the appearance of the multi-volume Geschichte des Pietismus that has now replaced older standard reference works on the history of "Pietism."
The essays in this volume sensibly address the issue of whether one should juxtapose "pietism" and "confessionalism" at least in the early stages of the renewal movement, and seek to invite reflection on what long-term implications the "movement"or "tendency"bequeathed to the broader history of western Christianity. The introductory piece by van Lieburg, and Hartmut Lehmann's summary essay provide contexts for the arguments of the contributors. The first set of essays addresses the relationship of Pietism to the oldest "confession," namely late medieval Catholicism, specifically the mystical, monastic, and devotional veins that early Protestantism mined and perpetuated. The second group of contributors turns to the specific manifestation of religious reform and renewal that took on local or regional coloration in particular European territories, ranging from Ireland and Scandinavia to the Low Countries and the Holy Roman Empire. The third section of the volume reminds students that the networks of communication played a critical role in keeping Pietists in contact with each other,provoking censorship by offended church and state authorities in the process. The final group of scholars struggle with "Imagination" and the question of the movement's implicit radicalism in the form of "separatists" whose insistence on the primacy of the lived experience of its adherents explicitly or implicitly indicted the imposition of confessional and social norms "from above."
Although the final assessment of the volume's contributions may have to await the appearance of the two final collections in the series, the essays should find their way onto the reading lists for serious students interested in the history of early modern western Christianity, the complex relationship of state-building, confessionalism, and lived religion, and the long tradition of renewal movements, revivals, and social reform in European Protestantism.
If the conceptual scheme behind the international conferences can be faulted at all, a slight deficit might be noted in the fact that it is both northern Europe and continental North America that (quite reasonably) form the basis [End Page 379] for the investigations. Since, however, southeastern India, the Caribbean, and sporadic incursions into Africa also formed part of Pietism's history of engagement with both sociopolitical and transconfessional attempts at "renewal," that broader, global focus will have to figure in the final assessments of what to make of this complex and controverted phenomenon—whether "tendency"or "movement." [End Page 380]