An interesting thing happened recently...I heard the Pentecostalism/Evangelicalism's view of pietism at an unexpected place by an unexpected person.
Now, this blog post is not about the person who espoused and taught it, but rather about what was espoused and how easily it was received by others without question...well, except me and a few other ladies that I know of. Of course, I had to say something, so I raised my hand and asked some probing questions so as to clarify what the speaker was saying.
For those new to my blog a little history.
I grew up in the Holiness Pentecostal movement where we were constantly checking to ensure we were working hard on our sanctification. Although, it was called "Absolute Surrender" (see the book by Andrew Murray, but ONLY if reading it to refute it as it has a boat load of error in it) but it was still working on our sanctification. Our good works kept us saved (aka Synergism, a heresy that teaches we cooperate with God in our salvation.) See, it was faith PLUS good works that gets you to heaven. Wrong. X
Then, when I became Dutch Reformed, while they are far from synergists, assurance becomes something you look for within your self. We would call it navel-gazing. Check your fruit to make sure you are truly one of the elect of God.
Too many nights to remember I would awake in sheer panic wondering if I was going to heaven or not. You see, if we inspect our own fruit, well, it's just that: OUR fruit. So, trying to be honest, we would all have to admit that our fruit is dinged, dented, bruised, worm-eaten, rotten to the core.
Stuck between Pentecostalism's surrendering all me-ology which looks to our own fruit OR Calvinism's fruit check for assurance, another me-ology view left me swinging on the pendulum of pride and despair (thanks Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller for this visual).
When I became a Lutheran I was taught that justification is by faith and that the fruits I'm supposed to grow are the Fruits of the SPIRIT. They're not mine. Let's read that:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Look at that! It's NOT my fruit anyway. It is the Spirit's fruits being worked in us. Okay, that's just one verse. So, let's look at another:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:9-11)
So, not works I create. The works and fruits are by the hand of God. The Lutheran Study Bible says this: "We cannot even lay claim to these (those works and fruits), for God created them for us to do in Christ." (pg. 2019)
So, what does Lutheranism (aka Biblical theology) say about Sanctification?
Sanctification is the Holy Spirit's work of making us holy. When the Holy Spirit creates faith in us, he renews in us the image of God so that through his power we produce good works. These good works are not meritorious but show the faith in our hearts (Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:18). Sanctification flows from justification. It is an on-going process which will not be complete or reach perfection in this life.
God works sanctification only through the means of grace.
I challenged this teaching that I was hearing from a Lutheran minister only because he neglected to remind us that God works sanctification through the Word and Sacrament, those Means of Grace God designed to grow, strengthen and renew our faith.
What was being taught was Pietism NOT Piety.
What's the difference? Pietism is all about your inside, or as Martin Luther put it "Intro Nos".
Piety is all about God working through the Means of Grace OUTSIDE of you to effect you inwardly.
Is that such a big difference? It is when your assurance gets involved. If you have to look inwardly to see if somehow you are measuring up, or as the speaker called it "a sanctification checklist" you have begun your personal review of your own faith in the wrong place. You're putting it on you instead of looking to Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit.
My question to the speaker regarding some checklist? Shouldn't we recognize and remember that God works through His Means of Grace? He strengthens our faith through the Word and the True Body and Blood of our Lord in the Bread and Wine. If I look at some checklist, well, my heart is desperately wicked so I'll probably just say, "Yup, done that...done that...done that..." etc. That is Pietism NOT biblical piety.
Discussing this "sanctification checklist" with others, just to make sure I'm not going off the rails again, I realized this: I have heard all this before. This becomes a slippery slope into looking at ourselves for assurance first, then we begin to wonder if we're saved at all. I hate this. It angers me because it puts balls and chains back on our feet when the Spirit gives us liberty. (ff. 2 Cor. 3:17).
Let's be clear, I am NOT saying, keep on sinning so grace abounds. THAT would be just as bad and getting your assurance or keeping your salvation based on works. (Rom. 6:1-4) Those who have been baptized have put on Christ, were raised with him and their old man died in those flood waters in the font, tank, ocean, river, etc.
However, making yourself a "sanctification checklist" is too heavy a burden to carry
and will simply crush or slow down your faith.
Sometimes, even with my students, a visual helps. So, here is what is typically on Pietistic spiritual checklist
Notice how on the biblical side I have one thing to "check off" your list: Jesus Christ. That is because the Scriptures teach us that not only is Jesus Christ our Righteousness but all our Sanctification. See, we are all like the Peanut's character Pigpen. We are naturally dirty rotten sinners. We need to be washed clean and new robes over us to cover the fact that we are still dirty rotten sinners, even though we are called Saints.
Do we sin? YES! Are we Saints? YES!!! When God looks at us He is not going through some checklist to make sure we are working on our sanctification. That's because He tells us in His Word:
Sanctification is like stirring a pot. The stuff in the pot is turning and rolling, mixing and blending. However, do we ever focus on that being stirred? OR the One stirring? Of course the person stirring. While the liquid and other stuff in the pot is certainly moving, it's only doing that because someone else is moving it around. God does the stirring. We get stirred.
Pietism makes us the stirrers helping the Holy Spirit hold the spoon. That's wrong. That's error....and that's a huge slippery slope into another Gospel. Eventually pietism, whether pentecostal, charismatic, evangelical, calvinistic, presbyterian or even Lutheran (which makes me both sad and mad) it is just plain wrong.
The ONLY checklist you need to worry about is the One who is also your Sanctification: Jesus Christ. Did He do all that you would need to be saved? YES! Should you now live for Him according to His Word? YES!!! But, we need to remember that He, by His Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace (His Word and Sacraments) is HOW He does that work. This is why we attend the Divine Service. God has determined that through Absolution, the reading and preaching of His Law & Gospel (the Bible) and through the waters of baptism and the True Body and Blood of our Lord in the Bread and Wine, God is working sanctification in you. Never forget that He covers you with His robe of righteousness and that HE is the one stirring YOU to make you more and more like His only Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 12).