Paying attention to theology at the expense of piety is characteristic of the historiography
of Christianity in general and Protestantism in particular. The experience
of the doctrine and the resulting moral behaviour always remain underexposed.
With this article I wish to give some counterbalance on a very modest scale.
Throughout the ages there has been the tendency within Christianity to pursue
pious life as a specific aim. Attention to spiritual experiences and mysticism and
the practice of piety went hand in hand. The Protestant form of that tendency
was Pietism. This religious movement arose in various European countries rather
quickly after the political, military, economic and ecclesiastical consolidation of
the Reformation. In reaction to ethical abuses and the degeneration of religious
and ecclesiastical life, it emphasized the necessity of internal and external piety.
Religion should be a matter of the heart, becoming visible in life-style.1
Pietism manifested itself both in Reformed and Lutheran Protestantism. Since
this article deals with the former, whenever I employ the term Pietism I mean
This essay, written by W.J. op ‘t Hof, is found in The North Sea and culture (1550-1800): Proceedings of the International Conference Held at Leiden 21-22 April 1995, eds. Juliette Roding and Lex Heerma van Voss (Hilversum: Verloren, 1996), 248-265.
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