What is Pietism (Piyetism) and What Does It Mean?

What is Pietism (Piyetism) and What Does It Mean?

June 29, 2021 Off By Felso

Pietism is a Protestant religious movement that seeks to renew piety. The importance it attaches to emotion and moral life in the individual plan for the well-being of the soul is the distinctive feature of Pietism.

Pietism arose in the Lutheran German church at the end of the 17th century as a reaction against the dogmatic attitude of the official church. It must be traced back to the war waged by the Puritans and the congregationalists against the established church in England. It developed under the influence of Reformation communities in Germany and English theological works. Spener, a Protestant priest from Alsace, first laid the foundations of the pietism movement with his work “Pia Desideria”, which he published in 1675 while he was stationed in Frankfurt. Spener makes six points in this work:

The revalorization of the concept of the universal priesthood;
Regular and complete reading of the Bible;
reform of theological education;
Indication of the importance given to Jesus;
The necessity of individual prayer;
“collegia pietatis” organizations, which are small groups that gather to read the Bible.

This movement eventually came into conflict with the Lutheran church and led to the establishment of a theological faculty in Halle in 1694 under Francke.

Pietism completely influenced the Moravian priests and methodism, but also played a major role in the orientation of German thought towards individualism and rationalism. Pietist understandings left deep traces in Protestant thought, especially in the 9th century.


Pietism has been and continues to exist as a religious movement that can be identified within the churches created by the reform movements. In general terms, pietism refers to the peculiar quality of a religious life that results in a rigorous and strict moral practice and individual piety that amounts to asceticism. In this context, theological movements such as Jansenism, Puritanism, and Methodism share this quality. In the narrow sense, Pietism is a religious reform movement that found its expression in German Lutheranism, especially with Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) and Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760).

Pietism, as understood from its etymology, (German Pietismus, Latin pietas: means respectful behavior, awareness of duty, piety, taqwa, devotion, patronage, loyalty). emphasized the importance of a religious life that envisages

They emphasize this individual religiosity because they wanted to complete the Reformation, which, in the eyes of most Pietists, failed to reorganize the religious life of individuals. However, they are not as concerned with the salvation of the world as they are trying to save their own souls; Their tendency to leave this work to the second coming of Christ was seen as a weakness of Pietism. Pietism has its roots in the mystical spirituality of the early times, especially in reformers such as the evangelical spiritualist Caspar Schwenckfeld (1490-1561) and the Anabaptists.

So much so that it is possible to find traces of Pietism in the works of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) and John Calvin (1509 – 1564). Like every innovation movement, pietism has its precursors and forerunners. The hymns of Paul Gerhardt (1607 – 1676), Johann Arndt’s (1555 -1621) True Christianity, the electrifying sermons of theologians such as Johann Balthasar Schupp (1610 – 1661) and Theophilus Grossgebauer (1627-1661) ensured that the essential nature of religiosity remained alive. Pietists, fed by this atmosphere, were able to express their desire for a religious revival aloud.

Beginning with the medieval mystics, the line of thought that continued uninterruptedly with the great German mystics Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) and Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) extends to the Protestant Pietists. 7 Although the source of the ideas defended by the pietists, who wanted to revitalize the religious life in Germany, can be found in Eckhart, Tauler and Luther, the most important of the names who announced the birth of pietism is Kaspar Schwenckfeld (1490 – 1561).

Schwenckfeld stated that in an environment where fierce religious conflicts harass people, importance should be given to religious brotherhood and inner religious experience rather than dogmas. Another influential name, Jacob Boehme, argued that one cannot be a perfect Christian without knowing the Holy Spirit who revealed the Bible 8 ; however, he claimed that he learned by divine inspiration, that is, he conveyed a mystical knowledge arising directly from religious experience.

The Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), which lasted from 1618 to 1648, as a result of the revolt of the Bohemian Brothers (Unitas Frartrum), a religious community, against the Austrian King Ferdinand, left deep marks on the religiously fragmented history of Europe. The post-war Peace Treaty of Westphalia signed between Catholics and Protestants on 24 November 1648 brought the Protestants unprecedented religious freedom. In this peaceful environment, Protestants are able to think deeply about religious issues.