In the discussion surrounding my previous post, one commenter suggested that the study of Pietism via Loescher's volume The Complete Timotheus Verinus, was way down the list of books that one should study should one be a newcomer to Lutheran theology.
I understand where he is coming from, but beg to disagree. Of course one should begin with the holy scriptures--well and often read--and follow with Luther's Small and Large Catechisms, and then the other symbolical books. Follow that with a thorough study of and familiarity with one's hymnal--Lutheranism's "third dogmatics book" (Stephenson)--and finally with some degree of familiarity with one of the major Lutheran dogmatics studies: one of the Piepers, or Koren, or Mueller (but not Jensen and Braaten). One should begin there. There are another thirty (to just "summon up" a number, heehee) volumes that could easily follow. Why would one start with something as obscure as the history of Pietism and its "evils"?
Here's one really good reason: Because it systematically lays out not only most of the heresies faced in today's churches, but also the correction to those heresies. And in so doing emphasizes and gives an overview of the minutiae of Lutheran teaching that will follow when one assumes the study of the infamous "thirty volumes". New Lutherans, having had a taste of rich Lutheran hymnody and liturgy, and having completed a compulsory catechism, would do well to introduce themselves to those things which threaten the precious gospel and the structure of teaching and practice which ensure its survival in our churches. A study of Pietism would accomplish this. Just consider this, a comment by blogger Mike Baker (quoted in part):
"Here were the reforms he [Spener] initially introduced (Since Pietism is rampant in the modern church, I have added our current equivelants in parenthesis to point out similar modern thinking):
1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings. (Small Groups and Conventicles)
2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church (semi-congregationalism with weakened pastoral authority)
3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement (deeds over creeds, proof of faith, and revivalism)
4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them (less Law & Gospel sermons, more tolerance of theological differences, and unionism)
5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life (charismatic enthusiasm)
6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life. (Christian lifestyle preaching. Be more relevant. Stop being so Roman Catholic.)"
His full comment, along with more discussion of Pietism, can be found here.
Most new adult Lutherans are going to need much of this decoded for them. Yet most of the ills of modern American Christianity are broached here. In a more expanded study of Pietism, the scale of challenges to the gospel are clearly laid out. (Loescher actually classifes things like this: 1. The coarse teachings of the pietists; 2. The subtle teachings of the pietists; 3. The coarse practices of the pietists; 4. The subtle practices of the pietists.)
Along with some of the postings about Pietism I've already posted here and here, I think a newcomer to Lutheranism would have her curiosity well enough stimulated to look deeper into the things of Lutheranism. And, start work on the Thirty Volumes!
But then, I like a global view of things before diving in.
Anyway. Get reading.