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Reviewed by:
  • The Pietist Impulse in Christianity ed. by Christian T. Collins Winn et al.
  • Carter Lindberg
The Pietist Impulse in Christianity. Edited by Christian T. Collins Winn, G. William Carlson, Christopher Gehrz, and Erich Holst. (Cambridge, UK: James Clark & Co.2012. Pp. xxvi, 340. $40.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-227-68000-1.)

The twenty-five essays in this volume as well as its title originated in a 2009 conference held at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The editors' introduction emphasizes the pietist roots of Bethel University and its parent institution, Bethel Seminary, in the nineteenth-century influx of Swedish Baptist pietists to America further leavened by strains of German Pietism, Anglo-American revivalism, Wesleyanism, and the "Holiness Movement." The editors further note the range of understandings of Pietism from that of a specific historical-theological development arising within late-seventeenth-century German Lutheranism to that of an ongoing "Pietist impulse" for spiritual renewal and regeneration [End Page 582]

that unites historically, geographically and culturally disparate phenomena such as Pietism, Puritanism, Wesleyanism, revivalism and evangelicalism. . . . Pietism began as an effort to "leaven the church" with a heart religion and break the bonds of a culturally captive Christianity—this challenge remains relevant for today's Christian communities.

(p. xxii)

The essays are grouped into eight parts: "Pietism and the Pietist Impulse" (two chapters), "Continental German Pietism" (five chapters), "The Pietist Impulse under the Conditions of Modernity" (three chapters), "Wesley the Pietist" (three chapters), "Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Trans-Atlantic Scandinavian Pietistm" (four chapters), "The Pietist Impulse in North American Christianity" (four chapters), "The Pietist Impulse in Missions and Globalizing Christianity" (three chapters), and "Benediction" (one chapter). In general, the essays share an effort to defend Pietism from charges that the movement's emphasis upon religious experience and regeneration frequently degenerated into individualism and anti-intellectualism (for example, references to Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind [Grand Rapids, MI, 1994]), an egregious charge for authors defending and promoting pietism as the key to evangelical higher education (nine of the contributors are directly affiliated with Bethel University). Roger Olson in his chapter "Pietism: Myths and Realities" phrases this theme most sharply when he concludes that Pietism "does not deserve the vicious calumnies so often hurled against it by its uninformed critics who need to either drink deeply at the wells of knowledge or drink not at all and be silent about that which they are ignorant" (p. 16). Given this refrain through many of the chapters, the volume would have benefited by including a chapter focused on the historiography of Pietism research.

There are too many papers in this collection to comment on any one of them. Some of the contributors are recognized scholars in Pietist studies (e.g., Peter Erb, Douglas Shantz, Jonathon Strom, and Gracia Grindal). The title is misleading since the essays largely focus on an apologetic for a particular stream of pietism in America rather than historical Christianity as a whole. Works of major scholars of Pietism (e.g., Johannes Wallmann and Martin Brecht) are mentioned only in passing, and others such as David Hempton on transatlantic Wesleyanism are not mentioned at all. There is no reflection on American publishing of Pietist works (e.g., Benjamin Franklin was reissuing Johann Arndt whereas Philipp Spener is not translated into English until the mid-twentieth century). Like many collections of conference papers, this volume appears as a disparate collection with little editing either for redundancies or typographical errors. [End Page 583]

Carter Lindberg
Boston University School of Theology


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