Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought

Pietism. Enlightenment. Autonomy. Heteronomy. Locke. Deism. Modern Development. Final Remarks.

This is my last lecture today. I will continue in the discussion of the main movements and tides, as I have called it – high and low – from the Reformation period to the present. I emphasized the importance of the Orthodox period and gave you some statements about the necessity for every Protestant theologian to study the classical period of Protestant theology, namely the Orthodox period.

Then I spoke about the protest of the subjective piety, personal, inner piety, against the objectivism of the Orthodox doctrines. And in discussing Pietism, not in a derogatory sense but in a highly appreciative sense, as a breaking through of an element which was in the early Luther but got lost in the Orthodox development, I said that there are especially three problems with which they dealt, and which changed reality: theology, where they emphasized the existential point of view: you must participate in order to be a theologian; the Church, in which they re- emphasized Luther’s principle of the priestly function of everybody, and established the small churches within the large Church.

The third point I want to make now is their influence on the morals in the Protestant world. The situation in the time in which they arose, at the end of the 17th century, was morally disastrous in Continental Europe. Everything was dissolved and in chaotic stages, through the Thirty Years’ War, and the following attacks from outside. It was an extremely rough, brutal, unrefined, uneducated form of life. Against this, against which the Orthodox theologians didn’t do very much, and didn’t even try to do very much, the Pietists tried to collect individual Christians who took upon themselves the burden and the liberation of the Christian life.

The main idea was the idea of common sanctification – ideas which we have again and again in all Christian sectarian movements. This individual sanctification includes, first of all, a negation of the love of the world. And one point was very important in their discussion with the Orthodox theology, the question of the ethical adiaphora. (Adiaphoron means that which makes no difference, that which is not of ethical relevance.) The question was: Are there human actions which are of no ethical relevance, where we can do them or not do them, with equal right? Orthodoxy said they do exist; there is a whole realm of such adiaphora. The Pietists denied it, calling it love of the world. And as things of this kind often used to go, Spener was mild in his condemnation; then Franke and the Hallensian Pietists became very radical. They fought against dancing, the theater, games, beautiful dresses, banquets, too much shallow talk in daily life (which is something which should be taken up), and things like that, which produced an attitude very similar to some Puritan ideas; but in this connection I like to say that according to my very limited knowledge of American Puritanism, it is not so much the Puritans who have produced this system of vital repression, as we have it in most American people, but it was much more the evangelical Pietistic movements of the middle of the 19th century and before that, which are responsible for this condemnation of smoking, drinking» going to the movies, etc.

Now wherever this may be, in Europe it was not Orthodoxy or Puritanism, but Pietism. And I think in this country it was at least half-Pietism which had this influence of repression of vitality.