Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

The Perils of Pietism

Glenda Careless sat enthralled as the speaker told of the hundreds who had been delivered from sin and addictions by the blood of Jesus through his ministry.  She drank it all in and realized that she needed that deliverance — she wanted it with all her being.  He said God would do the same thing for anyone who knew they needed deliverance.  When he invited those wishing to be made clean and free in the blood of Jesus to stand during the last hymn, she rose to her feet and felt a thrill in knowing that from now on her life would be different.

On the way home, Glenda bubbled over with enthusiasm for the new life she was going to have.  She told the Christian friends who had brought her that she wasn’t going to go to that dance Saturday night; she was finished with drinking and doing all the other things she knew were wrong.

Saturday came, her friends were going to the dance and it seemed that she would miss out on so much if she didn’t go, too.  So she went, she drank too much, danced with the wrong men, flirted with them.  Sunday morning she couldn’t get out of bed to go to church.

She did go the next Sunday though, and came away with a renewed thrill and determination to live a real Christian life.  It didn’t last this time either.  She went through life like this, leaving her husband for another man who seemed more appealing, then leaving this man for another one.  Her life resembled a roller coaster of thrills and disappointments.  But she always spoke warmly and enthusiastically of her Saviour who had done so much for her.

Cody Golightly had tried for many years to live as he knew a Christian should, but now he knew that he had sinned and he wanted with all his heart to repent and be delivered.  As he poured out his heart in prayer, God was merciful to him and forgave him.

Life went better for a few months, then he fell again.  Again he sought the Lord with bitter tears and found mercy.  He was filled with thankfulness and praise to God, testifying how he could see his need so much more clearly now.

Then he fell again.  His life began to resemble the roller coaster that Glenda was riding, with its highs and lows.  He left his wife, finding other women who seemed much more attractive than the mother of his children.  Still, from time to time he would receive a new enlightenment, which had only a fleeting effect on his life.

What is wrong with these people?  For one thing, they seem to believe that the experience was all that mattered.  Perhaps they expected that after having such wonderful experiences they would be rendered immune to the temptations of the enemy.  Perhaps they even thought that immoral actions weren’t so bad, as long as your heart was filled with the love of God.

This is Pietism.  Having a warm and joyous experience with the Lord is the most important thing in life.  Allowing the Lord to use that experience to transform the way one leads one’s life is secondary.  For many people it doesn’t seem very important at all.

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