Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FW: The Influences of Pietism on the Liturgy

A reference to a now-classic article…


Feed: Confessional's Bytes
Posted on: Monday, October 04, 2010 8:59 AM
Author: Jim Pierce
Subject: The Influences of Pietism on the Liturgy


I recently read an excellent paper by John T. Pless titled, Liturgy and Pietism: Then and Now which briefly describes the effects pietism has had on Lutheran liturgy which in turn helps us to understand the issues we face with "alternative" (aka "contemporary worship") worship forms. A copy of the paper can be found here which is a link to Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne documents. The following are tremendously insightful comments by Rev. Pless. I think my readers will find the entire paper interesting and helpful.


"A third theme with liturgical consequences in Pia Desideria is that of preaching. We have already noted that Spener called for a wider use of the Word of God in the congregation, a use that would go beyond the preaching which takes place in the services. He finds the preaching of his contemporaries lacking. After criticizing his colleagues for the making an ostentatious display of their homiletical skills, their quotation of phrases in foreign languages, and the polemical content of their sermons, Spener goes on to describe the goal of the sermon: 'Our whole Christian religion consist of the inner man or the new man, whose soul is faith and whose expressions are the fruits of life, and all sermons should be aimed at this. On the one hand, the precious benefactions of God, which are directed toward the inner man, may ever be strengthened more. On the other hand, works should be set in motion that we may by no means be content merely to have people refrain from outward vices and practice outward virtues and thus be concerned only with the outward man, which the ethics of the heathen can also accomplish, but that we lay a right foundation in the heart, show that what does not proceed from this foundation is mere hypocrisy, and hence accustom the people first to work on what is inward (awaken love of God and neighbor through suitable means) and only then to act accordingly.'

Spener broadens his understanding of the goal of the sermon to also include the sacraments. Worship is internalized. 'One should therefore emphasize that the divine means of Word and sacrament are concerned with the inner man. Hence it is not enough that we hear the Word with our outward ear, but we must let it penetrate to our heart, so that we may hear the Holy Spirit speak there, that is, with vibrant emotion and comfort feel the sealing of the Spirit and the power of the Word. Nor is it enough to be baptized, but the inner man, where we have put on Christ in Baptism, must also keep Christ on and bear witness to him in our outward life. Nor is it enough to have received the Lord's Supper externally, but the inner man must truly be fed with that blessed food. Nor is it enough to pray outwardly with our mouth, but true prayer, and the best prayer, occurs in the inner man, and it either breaks forth in words or remains in the soul, yet God will find and hit upon it. Nor, again, is it enough to worship God in an external temple, but the inner man worships God best in his own temple, whether or not he is in an external temple at the time'. The preached Word, Baptism, and Supper still remain but clearly the focus is no longer on these for they are externals; rather the concern is with that which is internal to man. This is fundamental to the theology of worship in pietism. The objectivity (extra nos) of the means of grace is overcome by the subjectivity of the believer's experience.

This shift can be seen both in the way the classical liturgical forms of Lutheranism were diminished under the influence of pietism as well as in the new hymns and styles of preaching. Frank Senn notes 'Pietism did not have a liturgical program of its own with which to replace that of orthodoxy; but its emphasis did have a profound impact on public worship' (Senn, 498). The impact of pietism on Lutheran liturgy is seen, at least originally, not in the production of new church orders but in the way in which the subjective and personal impulses are given expression in the church service. The spiritual character and effectiveness of the officiant is seen as a necessary condition for the right hearing of the Word. Ex corde prayers are substituted for churchly, liturgical prayers. Exorcisms are omitted from the baptismal rite. Eucharistic vestments are discarded. The Lord's Supper is celebrated less frequently and is given less emphasis in preaching. The church year becomes less influential in shaping the preaching as pericopal preaching declines along with the use of hymns reflective of the themes of the lectionary. Ohl observes '...the objective and sacramental elements came to be underestimated to the same extent that Orthodoxy had overestimated them, and public worship became more and more subjective and sacrificial. Its value and the value of its component parts were gauged altogether according to subjective results; the claim was made that spiritual life could be awakened only by those who were themselves spiritually alive; and edification was sought not so much in the worship of the whole congregation as in the exercise of the small private assemblies. This however, was virtually putting the awakened personality above the Means of Grace, the ecclesiola in ecclesia above the ecclesia' (Ohl, 70).

This subjectivity is given expression both in the hymnody and preaching that issues from pietism. The most significant hymnals to come out of pietism were the two books produced by the son-in-law of August Francke, Johann Freylinghausen in 1704 and 1714. These two hymnals were combined into a single volume in 1741 which was known as the 'Freylinghausen Gesangbuch' or the 'Halle Hymnal.' The theological faculty at Wittenberg rendered a negative evaluation of this hymnal, declaring that it was not suitable for use in church or home not only because it omitted several of the classical Lutheran hymns but because many of the hymns which it did contain were theologically wrong. Among the hymns criticized by the Wittenbergers was Ludwig Andreas Gotter's 'Treuer Vater und Deine Liebe' ('True Father and Thy Love') which contains this stanza:

'Since I thought I was a Christian
And knew how to speak about it,
I needed the church and altar,
I sang and gave to the poor.
I had no terrible vices,
And yet it was only hypocrisy'

The hymns of pietism reflect a 'warm Jesus-mysticism' as Senn calls it. Coupled with this 'Jesus-mysticism' is a stress on sanctification with an accent on the imitatio Christi. The pietist hymnals arranged hymns not according to the church calendar but according to the ordo salutus and selected situations in the Christian life. New tunes were composed which fit with the sentimental character of the pietist texts." ( John T. Pless, Liturgy and Pietism: Then and Now, p. 4-6 source)

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