The Pietist Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

By Carer Lindberg, ed.
Oxford : Blackwell (2005). xvi + 282 Pages.

Reviewed by Paul Thorsell
17.1 (Spring 2006) : 123-124

Carter Lindberg’s The Pietist Theologians stands as the next volume in Blackwell’s series surveying the major theologians of the Christian church. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are the focus of the current volume. Sixteen chapters by as many authors introduce the reader to the lives and thoughts of selected “pietist theologians” of those centuries.

But who are these “pietist theologians”? Therein lies the book’s fundamental ambivalence. Are these the significant theologians of Pietism? Some certainly are (Spener, Francke, Arnold, Zinzendorf, Bengel). Is there a concrete historical movement that can be labeled “Pietism”? In the introduction, Lindberg notes the lack of scholarly consensus on this question. Are these representative theologians of an era that can appropriately be labeled “pietist”? If so, the omission of some significant theologians (Amyraut, Grotius, Quenstedt)—even some theologians with notable contributions to individual spirituality (Edwards, Law, Owen)—is inexplicable. The inclusion of others (Gerhardt, Guyon) who can only remotely be called “theologians” is also puzzling.

Despite this ambivalence, the book contains a wealth of information and insight into the variety and connection of theological thought during this era. Wallmann’s chapter delightfully details the significant influence of Johann Arndt’s True Christianity on European and American Lutheranism. Lovelace points out the ongoing correspondence that took place in the early eighteenth century between the American Puritan Cotton Mather and the German Pietist August Francke. Durnbaugh cites the influence of the quixotic Jane Leade on the Anglican William Law, continental Theosophists, and Count Zinzendorf. Jung describes Johanna Petersen as a millenarian advocating a future, Jewish-centered millennium more than a century before John Darby’s nascent dispensationalism. Overall, Lindberg’s The Pietist Theologians fills in significant gaps in understanding the theology of the period.