One Of The Great Mistakes Of Pietism

Product Details These are great words from a great book by Louis Berkhof: Assurance of Faith.

“It was one of the great mistakes of the Pietism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that, in seeking the assurance of faith, or of salvation, it divorced itself too much from the Word of God.  The basis of assurance was sought, not in the objective promises of the gospel, but in the subjective experiences of believers.  The knowledge of the experiences that were made the touch-stone of faith, was not not gathered from the Word of God, but was obtained by an inductive study of the subjective states and affections of believers.”

“In many cases these were not even put to the test of Scripture, so that the true was not always distinguished from the counterfeit.  Moreover, there were unwarranted generalizations.  Individual experiences and experiences of a very dubious character were often made normative, were set forth as the necessary marks of true faith.  The result was that they who were concerned about the welfare of their soul turned attention to themselves rather than to the Word of God, and spent their life in morbid introspection.”

“It is no wonder this method did not promote the assurance of faith that fills the heart with heavenly joy, but rather engendered doubt and uncertainty and caused the soul to grope about in a labyrinth of anxious questionings, without and Ariadne-thread (string) to lead it out.  This method of seeking assurance by looking within rather than by looking without, to Jesus Christ as he is presented in Scripture, and by making the experiences of others, especially of those who are regarded as ‘oaks of righteousness’ normative, has not yet been abandoned entirely in our circles.  Yet it [this method] is a most disappointing one.”

“If we would have the assurance of faith, the first great requisite is that we make a diligent study of the Bible, and more particularly of the glorious promises of forgiveness and salvation.  After all it is only in the Word of God and in the living Christ, as he is mirrored in the Word, that we find the objective basis for the assurance of grace and perseverance to the end.  The free promises of God are the foundation of our faith, and it is only on the strength of these that we place our trust in Christ as our Savor.  These promises are absolutely reliable and have their confirmation in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).  These promises are not only sure, but also unconditional, i.e. they are not conditioned by any work of man.”

Well said.  If you don’t have all the feelings, emotions, and spiritual experiences of other Christians, don’t despair.  Feelings, emotions, and spiritual experiences didn’t die on the cross for us; they cannot save us – Jesus did, he can and does.  If you truly trust in him you are saved, even if you don’t always feel it.  In other words, solid assurance has to do with an empty tomb, not an emotional fervor. 

shane lems

7 thoughts on “One Of The Great Mistakes Of Pietism”

  1. The same words could be written about much of the Christian church today. Especially the feel-good, touchy-feely, personality centered (so-called) mega churches.


  2. I concur, Waylen. Every time there was a testimony in the Wesleyan church I attended (wife’s church), it was all subjective. The disciples always gave testimony to what Christ did not what they did.


  3. Well, maybe, but in an awful lot of churches the question of assurance is not even an issue, since it is assumed that God loves everybody and everybody is all right because they have been saved. But I suppose that is not news to anybody who would read this blog!


    1. Their assurance is their allowance of God to save them – their decision. But it is God’s sovereign election and “…more particularly of the glorious promises of forgiveness and salvation that is our assurance.” And that is immeasurably better. And ya, this isn’t new news to anyone here.


  4. The pietists, although wanted something better, trying to solve the problems of dead orthodoxy, fell into the other extreme. By getting away from the word of God, prepared the road for arminianism, liberalism, relativism, charismatic movement and all other man centered movements. They opened largely the gates, were rejoicing about this and had no clue who would come in through this widely opened gate.


    1. The only problem I have with this post. Is it appears to implie that the primary way God communicates is through the mind. Mind and emotions are not dicotumus. The emotional dimensions are just as important as the intellectual elements. The emotions can lead one away from Christ as well as the mind. The emotions can lead one to Christ as well as the mind. God owns all, mind and emotions. Some times the emotions understand a spiritual experience, but the mind has problems expressing it and explaining it , because vocabulary, theology and education is not present in the individual mind.


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