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(pī`ətĭzəm), a movement in the Lutheran Church (see LutheranismLutheranism,
branch of Protestantism that arose as a result of the Reformation, whose religious faith is based on the principles of Martin Luther, although he opposed such a designation.
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), most influential between the latter part of the 17th cent. and the middle of the 18th. It was an effort to stir the church out of a settled attitude in which dogma and intellectual religion seemed to be supplanting the precepts of the Bible and religion of the heart. Although the movement bore resemblance to aspects of PuritanismPuritanism,
in the 16th and 17th cent., a movement for reform in the Church of England that had a profound influence on the social, political, ethical, and theological ideas of England and America. Origins

Historically Puritanism began early (c.
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, e.g., use of distinctive dress and the renunciation of worldly pleasures, the essential aim of the true Pietist was to place the spirit of Christian living above the letter of doctrine.

The first great leader was Philipp Jakob SpenerSpener, Philipp Jakob
, 1635–1705, German theologian, founder of Pietism. He was pastor of the Lutheran church at Frankfurt in 1670 when, to counteract the barren intellectualism of prevailing orthodoxy, he instituted meetings for fellowship and Bible study.
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, who began (1670) to hold devotional meetings. His Collegia Pietatis were designed to bring Christians into helpful fellowship and increase Bible study. Spener's book, Pia desideria (1675), emphasized the need of earnest Bible study and the belief that the lay members of the church should have part in the spiritual control. Although Spener did not intend separation from the church, his repudiation of the importance of doctrine and his desire to limit church membership to those who had experienced personal regeneration tended to undermine orthodoxy, and Pietism was severely attacked.

After Spener's death the work was carried on by August Hermann FranckeFrancke, August Hermann
, 1663–1727, German Protestant minister and philanthropist. In 1686, encouraged by Philipp Jakob Spener, he helped found the Collegium philobiblicum for the systematic study of the Scriptures. He became a leading exponent of Pietism c.
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, but after his time Pietism declined. Its effect was strongest in N and central Germany, but reached into Switzerland, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe. A number of foreign missions were begun. Through Count ZinzendorfZinzendorf, Nikolaus Ludwig, Graf von
, 1700–1760, German churchman, patron and bishop of the refounded Moravian Church, b. Dresden. Reared under Pietistic influences, he was early in sympathy with the persecuted and almost extinct Moravian Brethren (often called Bohemian
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 the Moravian ChurchMoravian Church,
 Renewed Church of the Brethren,
or Unitas Fratrum
, an evangelical Christian communion whose adherents are sometimes called United Brethren or Herrnhuters.
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 was influenced by it. Pietism earned a lasting place in the European intellectual tradition through its influence on such figures as KantKant, Immanuel
, 1724–1804, German metaphysician, one of the greatest figures in philosophy, b. Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Early Life and Works
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, SchleiermacherSchleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst
, 1768–1834, German Protestant theologian, b. Breslau. He broke away from the Moravian Church and studied at Halle. Ordained in 1794, he accepted a post as a Reformed preacher in Berlin.
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, and KierkegaardKierkegaard, Søren Aabye
, 1813–55, Danish philosopher and religious thinker. Kierkegaard's outwardly uneventful life in Copenhagen contrasted with his intensive inner examination of self and society, which resulted in various profound writings; their dominant theme is
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See D. H. Shantz, An Introduction to German Pietism (2013).



a mystical trend in Protestantism, especially Lutheranism, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, which considered religious feelings more important than religious dogma. Pietism appeared as a reaction against the formalism and dry rationalism of orthodox 17th-century Lutheranism and as a revival of the ideas of primitive Lutheranism. It was also directed against the rationalist philosophy of the Enlightenment.

The founder of Pietism was the Frankfurt theologian P. J. Spener, who began to preach in the 1670’s. The University of Halle, opened in 1694, became the center of Pietism as represented by A. H. Francke. Rejecting church ritualism, the Pietists called for a deepening of faith, attributed special importance to the inner emotional experiences of the believer and to prayer that is conducive to religious feeling, and urged moral self-improvement. Emphasizing the practice of Christian moral principles, the Pietists declared that it was sinful to participate in any entertainment—theater, dances, or games—or to read nonreligious literature.

The reactionary and hypocritical nature of Pietism manifested itself particularly in the 18th century, when the monarchical Junker circles of Prussia embraced it. Pietism was relatively democratic in nature in Württemberg, particularly in the teachings of G. Arnold. It exerted an influence on romanticism. Pietism experienced a resurgence in certain areas in the 19th century. In its broader sense, pietism refers to mystical religious sentiment and conduct.


1. a less common word for piety
2. excessive, exaggerated, or affected piety or saintliness
References in periodicals archive ?
In his pedagogy, he combined classical and pietistic traditions.
As she argues, the Pietistic emphasis on individualism and personal emotion becomes, in Werther's case, a secularized spiritualism.
Whether he fully agreed with the pietistic outlook in late 19th century manses, or whether there were larger issues as a "rebelling preacher's kid" who perhaps saw tensions between the minister and congregation, minister and presbytery, etc.
They think in pietistic, individualistic, and idealistic terms: "You change the world or culture by converting individuals and implanting a new worldview.
For example, in his discussion of Rebecca Gold stein's ground-breaking novel, The Mind-Body Problem (1983), the author evaluates her fiction on pietistic grounds, first deriding it for illustrating the characteristic "of modern fiction that it trades both on the loftiest of philosophical and aesthetic ideas, and at the same time on the most debased sensational and voyeuristic impulses .
In the first chapter we learn about the pietistic nature of the Moravian mission, and how it was organized in Victoria using the same material, spiritual and educational guidelines used by The Brethren all over the world.
Above all, Atheist Delusions is an honest book, which doesn't hide the sometimes repulsive truths related to the political or social aspects of historical Christianity: the Inquisition, the story of sacred missions among the heathen being coupled with selfish projects of economic colonialism, the endemic pietistic reactions against excessive rationalism, some sluggishness in abolishing slavery or serfdom, etc.
Social intimidation, political isolation and character assassination on the pretext of some idealised pietistic model of religious conduct are some of the other manifestations of intolerance.
He challenges our pietistic temptation to abandon the incarnation and replace our earthiness with a disembodied credo.
Of course this had a big influence on Kant's way of thinking and it is interesting to see that Bildung had its origin in the pietistic movement.
These later chapters depict the modern period as a thoroughly American spiritual void, one centered on the anti-intellectual religion of individualistic, pietistic, patriotic consumers.
We cannot hope to understand what happened in 1776 and afterward without a sound grasp of the three great traditions that flowed into the revolutionary stream: the inner-directed, conscience-driven, ordered liberty of the Puritan North; the honorific, other-directed Herrenvolk notion of freedom as power and privilege of the slave South; and the pietistic egalitarianism of the Quaker colonies of the mid-Atlantic.