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“Concerns of a Pietist with a Ph.D.”

an address presented at an additional session of the American Academy of Religion
Toronto ON, 23 November 2002

Stanley J. Grenz
Baylor University and Truett Seminary

“I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:3-5 (NRSV)

“It is a sober realism, rather than undue alarm, that prompts the fear that, unless we experience a rebirth of apostolic passion, Fundamentalism in two generations will be reduced either to a tolerated cult status or...become once again a despised and oppressed sect. The only live alternative, it appears to me, is a rediscovery of the revelational classics and the redemptive power of God...”
Carl F. H. Henry

When a Baptist congregation in Vancouver, BC, invited me to fill its pulpit on Pentecost Sunday a couple of years ago, I immediately knew that I would preach on renewal. This once vibrant fellowship had been wracked by several years of internal squabbling, and as a result had dwindled in both membership and worship attendance. In seeking to minister to the need of the church at this point in its history, I delivered a sermon that drew from the experience of the disciples in the upper room in the days prior to the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, recorded in Acts 1. On the basis of this text, I sought to outline what must characterize Christians today, if God were to visit us with an awakening. As I concluded the message, I sensed a compulsion to offer an opportunity for anyone who had been challenged by the Word to respond in a concrete manner. To facilitate this, I invited all who would commit themselves to being catalysts for renewal in the congregation to stand and thereby give public expression to their resolve. I expected that one or perhaps two of those in attendance would heed my call. When the number of people standing swelled to eighteen, I was moved nearly to tears. So overwhelmed was I by this evidence of the Spirit’s presence that I could not offer the promised dedicatory prayer, but had to call on the interim pastor to replace me on the platform and pray in my stead.

           This incident was a vivid reminder to me of how deeply steeped I am in the warm-hearted, relational, pietistic conception of the Christian faith that I saw as a child in my father’s ministry and imbued in the churches he served. The concern for heartfelt piety does not only tie me to my own immediate genealogical history; it also links me to a long trajectory of proponents of an approach to the faith that dates at least to the eighteenth-century Great Awakening. Yet I am also a vocational theologian schooled in the great tradition of systematic theology with its focus on the intellectual aspect of the Christian faith, including the concern for right doctrine. Over two decades as a theological educator, I have remained committed to pursuing the “understanding” dimension of the “faith seeking understanding” dictum, with Scripture functioning as the ultimate touchstone for Christian belief. In short, two strands run through my spiritual psyche: a non-negotiable concern for the work of the Spirit in transforming human hearts and an unabashed commitment to a Bible-focused intellectual rigor. You might say that I’m a “pietist with a Ph.D.”

           I do not think I am unique in this respect. Many other evangelicals sense this double blood-line running through their spiritual veins. And perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that it even mirrors contemporary American evangelicalism itself. My goal in this address is to engage with the two-sided character of the evangelical movement. I begin by sketching the rise of the two aspects of the evangelical ethos. I then summarize what I see as the current tension within evangelicalism that the presence of the two concerns occasions. Finally, I turn my attention to a possible way forward for evangelicals, who sense–as I do–that they are pietists with Ph.D.’s.

The Genesis of Evangelicalism’s Two-Sided Character

           The central concern that has propelled the movement from its inception is evident in the designation “evangelical,” for evangelicals are a people intent on upholding what they see as the one true gospel. For the genesis of their namesake, evangelicals look above all to the Protestant Reformers. One patron saint of evangelicalism, Martin Luther, referred to his coworkers as “those who boldly call themselves Evangelicals,” because of their attempt to return the church to the biblical gospel that they believed had been lost in the Middle Ages. As the continued use of their chosen name suggests, evangelicals view themselves as the true heirs of the Reformers’ gospel, especially the focus on justification by grace through faith alone (sola fide).

           In this commitment, evangelicals are not simply Lutherans, however. Rather, their understanding of justification by grace through faith has been mediated to them by developments that followed on the heels of the Reformation. Evangelicals have generally diverged from the Lutheran script by following the Reformed tendency to view justification as a completed spiritual transaction that inaugurates the process of sanctification. The roots of this hallmark of the evangelical understanding of the gospel lie in the Puritan and Pietist movements, that are often cited as forming the immediate seed-bed for the rise of the evangelical awakening in the eighteenth century.

           As the Puritan movement unfolded, many of the more radical among them came to conclude that the goal of the gospel is to gather out of the world “pure” churches, consisting solely of the elect of God. The truly reformed church, these Puritans concluded, must rid itself not only of popish errors but of the unregenerate within it. The quest for a pure church ignited within the Puritans a apprehension regarding the possibility of gaining assurance of elect status. The result was the development of a descriptive psychology of sin and regeneration. This gave rise, in turn, to the practice of reciting personal testimonies of God’s work of grace in the heart, which, when coupled with evidence of a subsequent Christian walk, could mediate to concerned believers “full assurance” of salvation and of eternal election.

           Like the Puritans, the Pietists were reformers. Their goal was to complete the reformation of the Lutheran church, which in their estimation had degenerated to adherence to outward forms rather than fostering inward transformation. According to the Pietists, the true gospel entails the call to personal conversion, that is, to a transformed heart leading to right living. In the Pietists’ estimation, the experience of the new birth forms the basis for the sanctification process.

           The confluence of Puritanism and Pietism in the lives of a theologically diverse group of Christians in England in the 1730s gave birth to the evangelical movement. Like the Pietists, evangelical leaders such as John Wesley preached a gospel of conversion or regeneration (i.e. the new birth), an event that they believed includes justification. The preaching of the new birth sparked a parade of vivid accounts of conversion, all of which followed a typical form. The paradigm evangelical conversion narrative found its musical expression in the penultimate stanza of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be,” which also encapsulated the evangelical theological assumption, inherited from Pietism, of the primacy of conversion and regeneration to justification. Hence, only after narrating the conversion experience–“My chains fell off, my heart was free”–do the lyrics announce that the regenerated believer is now “clothed in righteousness divine.”

           Like their Puritan forebears, evangelicals such as Wesley were also keenly interested in assurance, which was closely connected with their concern for sanctification. Wesley viewed justification (understood as imputed righteousness) as the basis for the believer’s acceptance with God. Sanctification (which emerges from regeneration), in turn, is the fruit of such acceptance.

           The focus on the new birth and the assurance of salvation that launched the evangelical awakening was abetted by an approach to the Christian faith that arose from the influence of the new empiricist, inductive, experiment-focused scientific method characteristic of Enlightenment thinkers, especially John Locke.  Hence, eighteenth century evangelicals repeatedly referred to their goal as fostering “experimental religion,” that is, a faith that had been tried and proved by experience.

           In short, its roots in Puritanism and Pietism mediated to eighteenth century evangelicalism a concern for, and emphasis on, a conscious experience of the grace of God in personal conversion. Thus, at the heart of the evangelical movement has always been what Donald Dayton calls “convertive piety” or what Roger Olson terms “conversional piety,” the message that “true Christian piety–devotion, discipleship, sanctification–begins with a distinct conversion experience.” Convertive piety, in turn, has given shape to evangelical theology, as issues surrounding the shared conversion experience have provided grist for the evangelical theological mill for two and a half centuries.

           By the mid-twentieth century, descriptions of evangelicalism tended to augment the focus on convertive piety with another, decidedly cognitive aspect, the commitment to biblical doctrine. The introduction of this additional dimension suggests to some partisans that the evangelical ethos consists of a material and a formal principle: the gospel of Christ and the authority of the Bible understood as the source of sound beliefs.

           As with the commitment to the gospel of justification by faith alone, evangelicals look to Martin Luther for the genesis of their elevation of the Bible to center stage, and they see themselves as maintaining Luther’s principle of sola scriptura. Yet, here too evangelicals are not simply Lutherans. Luther elevated the Bible because he saw it as the cradle that holds Christ and as God’s chosen instrument for bringing the gospel to sinful humans, whereas contemporary evangelical theologians tend to honor the Bible as the source book for what may be called its “stateable content,” that is, the doctrines (and moral precepts) it teaches.

           This altered understanding of Luther’s great principle was mediated to evangelicalism by several post-Reformation developments, the first of which was “Protestant scholasticism.” As the conflict with the Roman Catholic Church continued into the seventeenth century, both Lutheran and Reformed theologians sought to undergird the commitment to sola scriptura by setting forth a clearer understanding of biblical authority. In the process, many Protestant theorists elevated the divine origin of Scripture above its human authorship, and they came to treat Scripture as accurate in every detail and as a storehouse of revealed propositions. Theology, in turn, was viewed as the attempt to forge a system of right doctrine through the systematizing of the teachings of Scripture.

           Although contemporary evangelical theologians routinely follow the pattern honed by the Protestant scholastics, the characteristically evangelical focus on biblical doctrine is more immediately indebted to the nineteenth century Princeton theologians, who sought to respond to a quite different phenomenon than that of their seventeenth century forebears. Rather than attempting to establish the Protestant cause over against the claims of the Roman Catholic Church, the Princetonians were exercised by the challenge posed initially by the rising influence of the scientific method, subsequently by German higher criticism, and eventually by theological liberalism. In response to these challenges, they set forth an understanding of theology and a theological method that paralleled in several important ways the empirical scientific method, with its elevation of induction, that had arisen in conjunction with the Enlightenment. Believing that theology and science share a common method of inquiry, Charles Hodge, the great systematician and progenitor of the Princeton theology, patterned his work in uncovering the theological facts found within the Bible after the scientist, and he assumed that the theological propositions he drew from the Bible–i.e., the doctrines revealed in Scripture–stated universal facts.

           The line connecting mid-twentieth century evangelical theologians to their nineteenth century forebears and hence to the Protestant scholastics runs through yet another intermediary, however, the fundamentalist movement. In their fight against theological liberalism, the fundamentalists elevated adherence to correct doctrine as a mark–if not the mark–of authentic Christianity. Moreover, to counter what they perceived as the liberal attack on the Bible, they called for an uncompromising loyalty to Scripture arising out of a high view of biblical authority, that they contended was guaranteed by divine inspiration. In this process, the fundamentalists looked to the Princeton theologians for the intellectual framework for their own elevation of the Bible and their commitment to its complete trustworthiness.

           The legacy of fundamentalism introduced into the heart of the evangelical ethos a concern for right doctrine, understood as adherence to a set of basic dogmas that are viewed as encapsulating the essence of the faith. Moreover, the dogmas that the movement bequeathed to evangelicalism as comprising essential Christianity did not focus so much on the nature of salva­tion itself, which topic had stood at the theological center of the Reformers’ controversy with Rome. Rather­, what came to be known as the five fundamentals were more closely related to the supernatural character of the faith, which the fundamentalists saw as under attack by modern natu­ralism in its various forms. Finally, the legacy of the fundamentalist struggle against liberalism, waged on the terms set out by the Princeton theology, oriented evangelical theology toward the quest for propo­sitional truth, in contrast to the interest in the person’s relation­ship to God that had ­shaped and propelled the theological pursuits of the earlier awakening evangelicalism. By adding the grave burden of maintaining biblical orthodoxy, in a context understood as an ever-present battle against both theological heterodoxy and scientific naturalism, to the older commitment to the advancement of the gospel of transformation, the trajectory through fundamentalism altered the ethos and self-understanding of American evangelicalism. To be an evangelical now came to be seen as being concerned for warm-hearted piety and right-headed orthodoxy. In a sense, evangelicalism had taken on the face of a “pietist with a Ph.D.”

Contemporary Evangelicalism: Caught in the Middle

           The historical journey of American evangelicalism from its beginnings in the eighteenth century awakenings through its reorientation in the wake of early twentieth-century fundamentalism has pressed into the psyche of the movement two concerns–the pietistic and the scholastic, the warm-hearted and the right-headed, the convertive and the doctrinaire. This double-sided ethos is embodied in the psyche not only of our immediate neo-evangelical parents, but also of many of evangelicalism’s children. As a result, many evangelicals today may–like I–sense that they are caught in the middle, that they are being pulled in two directions simultaneously.

           Although this conflict has always been present to some extent, at the inception of the movement, the warm-hearted, “experimental” dimension was clearly in the ascendency. Already in the sixteenth century, the Puritans criticized the English church for having become a mixed company that included persons, and even clergy, who showed no evidence of true devotion to Christ. Likewise, the continental Pietists bemoaned the state of the Lutheran church, which in their estimation had grown content with mere outward forms and adherence to creeds. The eighteenth-century evangelicals, in turn, extended this critique to the church of their day. They decried a nominal Christianity in which, to cite George Whitefield’s words, “many are baptized with water which were never, effectually at least, baptized with the Holy Ghost.” Hence, evangelicalism began as a revival of warm-heartedness within a church whose focus on right-headedness had left its adherents spiritually cold and unconverted.

           Since then, many evangelicals have continued to take an uncompromising stance against the presence of what they have feared is a life-sapping creedalism in the church. Pietistic evangelicals have been zealous in warning of the dangers they find inherent in a confessionism in which the focus on orthodox doctrine is purchased at the cost of warm-hearted piety, fervor and devotion to Christ. Even Carl Henry cautioned against this danger. In 1947, he cited approvingly the words of fellow fundamentalist William Ward Ayer who decried what he saw as the “pharisaical spirit of fundamentalism.” Henry then prophesied, “unless there is a resurgence of love, power and breadth of mind and spirit in our midst we shall more effectively deny the faith than the religiously-shallow modernists can ever do.”

           The “experimental” approach is not without its own dangers, of course. As the history of American Christianity amply illustrates, when allowed to become the sole defining characteristic of the Christian faith, warm-heartedness can lead to wrong-headedness, that is, to doctrinal slippage or to a virulent anti-intellectualism. Nevertheless, the commitment to the gospel of heartfelt transformation and the accompanying suspicion of any reduction of saving faith to simple assensus has been the lifeblood of evangelicalism throughout its history and has formed its central contribution to the cause of renewal in the church of Jesus Christ.

           Despite the central role that the commitment to experimental faith has played in defining the evangelical ethos throughout much of its history, in recent years the pietist dimension has increasingly found itself overshadowed in many circles by the other side of the contemporary evangelical psyche, the concern for maintaining orthodox doctrine. A growing number of evangelical theologians now set themselves to the task of shoring up doctrinal standards for the movement, even to the point of claiming that the essence of evangelicalism consists in adherence to right doctrine. Some protagonists go so far as to elevate the doctrinal heritage of a particular ecclesial tradition or a particular theological interpretation of such points of doctrine as the nature of salvation as the norm for all who would claim the designation “evangelical.” This trend has led several commentators to fear that a battle for the “soul” of evangelicalism is brewing, one that could pit the champions of doctrinal fidelity against the defenders of warm-hearted piety.

           Like many others, I find myself caught in the middle of this theological tug-of-war. Because I share both of the concerns that have come to form the evangelical psyche, I not only affirm the perspective that each side is seeking to uphold, I also rue the debilitating problem that each is wanting to rectify.

           My commitment to warm-heartedness is evident in my repeated declarations that the sine qua non of evangelicalism is not primarily doctrinal uniformity, but a particular spirituality. At the same time, I bristle when some pietistic evangelicals use the call to warm-heartedness as a pretense for an anti-intellectual, anti-theological bias that glorifies “simple believing” and vilifies any attempt to grapple with the intellectual dimension of the faith. In such a climate, I link arms with those who call themselves “confessing evangelicals,” for I am deeply concerned that the Christian church maintain its doctrinal integrity in the face of sloppy theology and the inroads of heterodoxy. Like the “confessing evangelicals,” I am aware that a theologically naive “experientalism” can produce a theologically-vacuous “spirituality,” and so I share their fervor in combating this debilitating tendency. Moreover, being convinced that theological conviction is a crucial well-spring of Christian living, I affirm the importance of sound theology for the on-going health and vitality of the church, and I seek to model in my own life and foster in the lives of others a theologically-tuned and theologically in-tune discipleship. For this reason, therefore, I resonate with those who lament the decreasing interest in theology so often evident in the church and the paltry place given to solid theological engagement on the shelves of Christian bookstores and in the day-to-day living of vast numbers of persons who claim to be evangelicals. Hence, when David Wells reports that an “antitheological mood...now grips the evangelical world,” I respond immediately and passionately, eager to join forces with colleagues in the task of promoting sound theology.

           Yet when I set myself to enter the battle, I discover that I am at odds with the direction that some of the evangelical generals would take this “good fight of the faith.” My hesitancy is generally not motivated by irreconcilable differences over fine points of doctrine. In most of the more volatile debates that divide evangelicals today, I usually am in basic agreement with those who are defending what have become the traditional positions. Rather than differences over the doctrines themselves, what triggers my consternation is a gnawing fear that the tendency of some theologians to elevate adherence to a particular set of doctrinal formulations as a necessary condition for claiming the designation “evangelical” too easily overshadows the transformational focus so crucial to true evangelical piety. Moreover, my heart grieves when I observe the unchristlike manner in which many doctrinaire evangelicals vivify those whom they deem to be in error. Whenever such abuses surface in the cause of  “saving” a supposedly decadent and floundering evangelicalism, I worry that the would-be saviors of the movement may in fact be the unwitting agents of its actual demise. In such moments, I discover again the degree to which awakening evangelicalism has been ingrained in my soul. I sport a doctorate in theology, but I remain a pietist, a pietist with a Ph.D.

The Evangelical Ideal: The Integrating Middle

           So what, then, is the way forward? Can evangelicals retain allegiance to both heartfelt piety and orthodox doctrine without succumbing to the debilitating situation of being caught between competing concerns? Or stating the question in personal terms, how can I remain a pietist with a Ph.D.? Perhaps the obvious answer to the dilemma is “integration.” The evangelical ideal would be to integrate warm-heartedness and right-headedness. The pietist with a Ph.D. would be the one who not only remains committed to both the gospel of transformation and the advancement of biblical doctrine, but brings the two concerns into creative engagement.

           Calling for integration is neither a new nor a unique idea, of course. Nearly all contemporary evangelicals would likely claim that the integration of head and heart (as well as “hand”) is exactly what they are seeking. Moreover, even theologians known for their focus on doctrine would want to characterize their program as that of bringing together orthodoxy and “orthopraxy.” My theological teacher at Denver Seminary, Gordon Lewis, to cite one example, recently remarked to me that the goal of his theology has always been to relate revealed theological truths to one another, not as an end in itself, but for the sake of living by them. Similarly, Wayne Grudem declares  “application to life is a necessary part of the proper pursuit of systematic theology.”

           The importance of personal piety was likewise acknowledged by the nineteenth and early twentieth century luminaries who mediated the attention to right doctrine to contemporary evangelicalism. Charles Hodge, for example, displayed a strong pietistic side, for he supposedly warned his students to “beware of a strong head and a cold heart.” Moreover, in the opening section of his Systematic Theology, he declared, “It would be safe for a man to resolve to admit into his theology nothing which is not sustained by the devotional writings of true Christians of every denomination.” In keeping with his sense of the importance of the devotional life, Hodge even tried his hand at this literary genre, composing a book entitled, The Way of Life (1842).

           A similar appraisal ought to be voiced regarding the early fundamentalists. Their goal was never that of elevating doctrine at the expense of piety. Rather, the turn to doctrine occurred because they perceived that orthodoxy, and not piety, was the dimension of the faith that was being put at risk by the rise of liberalism. Roger Olson explains: “Early fundamentalists did not deny that personal experience of repentance and conversion is important. But because of the threat they saw in liberal theology, they tended to emphasize assent to unrevisable doctrinal propositions as the essential and timeless core of Christianity....They distrusted religious experience and affections because liberals could claim to have them.”

           The issue, therefore, is not whether or not commitment to, and integration of, the two central concerns is a worthy goal. Rather, the question that may well divide evangelicals today is: Which concern ought to be given preeminence in the process of determining the character of evangelicalism? Here, I would advise that we move cautiously.

           Several considerations lead me to suspect that elevating the concern for biblical doctrine as the determinative or integrating characteristic of evangelicalism may well undermine the movement itself. First, a doctrine-centered approach all-too-readily loses the distinctive character of evangelicalism as a renewal movement within the church. It can too easily transform what was meant to be a transconfessional coalition into a particular confessional tradition and thereby make the parachurch into the church. Second, viewing right-headedness as evangelicalism’s integrating concern risks the demise of the generous spirit that has characterized evangelicals from the beginning, but is all-too-often the first casualty in the battle for doctrinal uniformity. Above all, however, giving central place to the doctrinal concern can blunt the central insight evangelicalism offers to the church, namely, that genuine Christian faith dare never be equated with externalism in any form, including the externalism entailed in mere adherence to orthodox doctrine. The early evangelicals knew from their own experience that fidelity to doctrinal standards cannot guarantee the presence of true Christianity, which they rightly understood as personal trust in Christ and hence a heart converted to God and to others. As J. I. Packer has noted, “What brings salvation, after all, is not any theory about faith in Christ, justification, and the church, but faith itself in Christ himself.” Looking to the concern for doctrine as the integrative principle, therefore, risks replacing the focus on warm-heartedness that constitutes the central ethos and unique contribution of the evangelical community with the very attitude–the creeping creedalism–that evangelicalism rose up to protest.

           Rather than the quest for right doctrine, the commitment to convertive piety must remain the integrative principle of the evangelical ethos. Whatever value evangelicals may (rightly) place on doctrinal orthodoxy, historically they have always been adamant that doctrine is never an end in itself, but is important insofar as it serves and nurtures something even more significant: the transformation of the heart and true Christian piety. Consequently, concern for biblical doctrine must always remain the handmaiden to commitment to the gospel of heartfelt piety.

           Having said this, I must quickly add that piety dare never ignore doctrine. Orthodoxy is crucial to orthopraxy, right-headedness is important to warm-heartedness, and doctrinal rigor plays a crucial role in the truly transformed life. This conclusion emerges directly out of the nature of the convertive piety that marks the essence of evangelicalism. As I have declared repeatedly, the encounter with God that evangelicals proclaim does not occur in a theological vacuum. Every experience is necessarily tied to an understanding of reality, an interpretive framework, that both facilitates it and emerges from it. So also, the saving encounter with God in Christ through the Spirit, both at conversion as the beginning of the faith journey and in the on-going life of faithful discipleship, must be cradled by the constellation of beliefs, arising from the Bible, that comprise the Christian interpretive framework.

           My commitment to convertive piety, therefore, leads inevitably to a concern for orthodox doctrine. Or stating the point in the opposite way, my strong regard for doctrine arises as a crucial and necessary by-product of my being an evangelical committed to the gospel of heartfelt transformation. But notice the order: I am deeply concerned for right-headedness because I am an evangelical. Furthermore, my adherence to orthodox doctrine does not in-and-of itself constitute me as an evangelical. Indeed, not everyone who is doctrinally orthodox can claim (or would desire to claim) the descriptor “evangelical.”

           This takes us back to the text of Scripture with which I began. In these words to Timothy, Paul voices his grave concern for the maintenance of doctrinal integrity in the church. In anticipation of his own impending death, he charges his younger colleague to contend for sound doctrine against the false teachers that have infiltrated the Ephesian congregation. But notice that for Paul, right belief is not an end in itself. Rather, as he explains, his charge to Timothy has a deeper telos, namely, the kind of love that emerges from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Paul’s ultimate goal, therefore, does not rest with the cognitive dimension but moves to the affective–the transformation of the person–which purpose he intends that the cognitive serve. Placing this text in the context of the preaching vocation of the pastor, the early twentieth-century Princeton professor of practical theology, Charles Erdman, declared, “the supreme end of preaching ever will be so to present the grace of God in Christ as to call forth a responsive love....The love of which he speaks must have its course and its spring ‘in a pure heart’;...it must come from ‘a good conscience’;...above all, it must have its origin in ‘faith unfeigned,’ a faith which is no empty profession, no simple, easy assent to formulas, but a vital principle uniting one to a living Christ, and manifested in a life ‘according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.’” The mid-century Anglican biblical scholar, A. E. Burn, echoed these sentiments when he declared tersely regarding this text, “No teaching is of value that does not help to produce love, or one of the three roots out of which grows.”

Conclusion

           So where does this leave me? I am a person whom God has encountered in Christ, whose heart the Holy Spirit has regenerated, and therefore whose highest desire is to be a faithful disciple of Christ within the community of his disciples and the world. Viewing myself in this manner suggests that I am a pietist. It places me in a long trajectory of people from the Pietists and the Puritans, from Wesley, Edwards and Isaac Backus, to the folks who came forward at the worship service on Pentecost Sunday, all of whom have a burning desire to serve the cause of the gospel in the church and the world by fostering an awakening to heartfelt piety. With these heroes of the faith, I share the concern for a renewal of the kind of warm-hearted fervency that is able to replace dead creedalism with a generous orthodoxy that can facilitate us in the task of being faithful disciples of Christ by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God. Carl Henry articulated this concern well, when he declared, “a baptism of pentecostal fire resulting in a world missionary program and a divinely-empowered Christian community would turn the uneasy conscience of modern evangelicalism into a new reformation–this time with ecumenical significance.”

           At the same time, I am concerned for right-headedness–doctrine. I affirm that intellectual rigor in the exploration and articulation of biblical doctrine is crucial to the life of true piety and to the advancement of the gospel of genuine transformation. This concern led me to seek a doctorate in theology. I am a Ph.D. Putting the two together means that I am imbued with a commitment both to warm-heartedness and right-headedness. I am, in short, a pietist with a Ph.D. And this, I would add, marks me as an evangelical.

           So how can I integrate these two dimensions? How can I bring together heart and head, piety and orthodoxy? For insight, I turn to a long line of faithful servants of God–my own teachers and the nineteenth century exemplars whom they imitated, as well as the seventeenth century Puritans and Pietists and their eighteenth century evangelical followers. In ways uniquely their own and appropriate to their day, these luminaries were also pietists with Ph.D.’s. My concern to honor their legacy, to follow in their footsteps and to advance the renewal that they pioneered is what ultimately led me to affirm The Word Made Fresh.

Note: The above address is an edited and expanded version of an essay published in the Wesleyan Theological Journal 37/2 (Fall 2002): 58-76. For the scholarly documentation that corresponds to the essay, please see the published form or contact the author.


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