Pietism:Georgia Salzburger Beliefs
by Frank Perry, Jr.
ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN LUTHERAN FAITH. After Martin Luther died in 1546 his followers
argued about specific beliefs central to Lutheran faith.
1. Good behavior. Is good behavior the cause of spiritual salvation or result of
2. Conversion. Is conversion to Christ a human act or a divine act?
3. Law. Should Christians obey Old Testament Laws or are they free from those laws?
4. Sacraments. Which sacraments are essential and why should they be kept?
5. Justification. Is justification from sin a declaration of God or a spiritual power
given to Christians?
PROTESTANT ORTHODOXY. Lutheran and Calvinist University scholars and theologians soon
developed and published rigid and precise legal statements defining their respective
beliefs and requirements of converts.
PROTESTANT PIETISM. Minority pastors and congregations of Lutherans and Calvinists
rejected those statements as dry, legalistic and without personal feeling, experience or
holiness in behavior.
Johann Arndt (1555-1621) a Lutheran pastor and author of devotional materials wrote and
published True Christianity and other spiritually inspiring books describing the pious
life. This book was most influential in shaping the belief and behavior of Lutherans in
the seventeenth century and was quoted frequently by Pastor Martin Boltzius in his
ministry to Georgia Salzburgers.
John Calvin published Institutes of the Christian Religion, directing his followers
toward a more Godly and pious lifestyle, which was adopted by Dutch and English Puritans.
Other authors published books on pietism, including William Ames and Mennonites, Quakers,
However, war between 1618 and 1648 dragged on for thirty years and led to moral decay
and called attention to corrupt behavior by political and church authorities in addition
to the general population throughout Germany.
In 1676 Lutheran professor Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705) at the seminary in
Frankfurt am Main, published Pia Desideria: or Heartfelt Desires for a God-pleasing
improvement of the true Protestant Church. Arndt's True Christianity and Spener's Pia
Desideria were second to the Bible in giving instruction and inspiration for the devout
life of Lutherans.
1. Small Bible study groups to encourage Christian growth, the practice of the
priesthood of all believers and personal piety. Study should be focused upon conversion of
sinners and strengthening the weak believer.
2. He called upon all Christians as priests to offer their bodies free from sin to God
in service. Their natures were to be tamed by the Holy Spirit to obey God. The tongue and
mind would be dedicated to speak and think in prayer and meditation of scripture.
3. Believers should not argue about God, but share their love of God with each other.
4. Pastors should not only preach the truth, but also practice it devoutly and morally
in their daily lives.
5. God's saving grace through the Holy Spirit applied to individual persons who must
experience a personal emotional inner spiritual change of pious attitude, assurance of
salvation, and sanctification resulting in moral behavior.
6. All ecclesiastical structures, forms, definitions and practices should be
continuously adapted to the mission of the church to convert individuals to Christ and
sustain their growth in pious living.
SPENER'S PIETISM CONFLICTS WITH ORTHODOXY. Pietism focused upon the individual and
insisted upon the church structure and definitions to conform to the person's spiritual
experience of salvation and sanctification. Orthodoxy focused upon the church structure
and definitions and insisted upon the person's spiritual experience to conform to the
August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) was an enthusiastic and pious student of Spener. His
spiritual conversion in 1687 led to implementing Spenerian reforms in several pastorates
with great success. Spener was impressed with Francke and recommended his appointment in
1692 as professor at the new University at Halle.
Francke was not a trained theologian, but emphasized (1) the new birth as necessary to
move from the control of Satan to the control of God. (2) A personal struggle with deep
sorrow for past sins and experience a breakthrough of repentance. Rejecting the old
lifestyle, thoughts and desires will experience trial and suffering, which can be overcome
by new trust in Christ and joys of the new lifestyle, thoughts and desires.
Halle became a center under Francke for Pietist training of new pastors and
missionaries. He built an orphanage, which became self-supporting as a model for
educational institutions in foreign missions. He developed a printing organization for
Bibles, songbooks, prayer books and devotional guides. He organized a farm to support the
orphanage with food and a pharmacy to support the orphanage and foreign mission
Johann Martin Boltzius and Israel Christian Gronau, Georgia Salzburger pastors, were
trained at Halle, as was Henry Melchoir Mhlenberg, who came first to study the Georgia
Salzburger orphanage before traveling to Pennsylvania as Lutheran pastor.
Many Protestant pastors and theologians developed their own theories within Pietism.
Some denied this world's pleasures and pains, expecting the end of the world in their own
MORAVIAN PIETISTS. Count Nicolas Ludwig Zinzendorf (1700-1760) lost his father when he
was six weeks old. His mother married, again, when he was age four to a Prussian marshal
and left her son in the care of his pietist grandmother. The boy was precocious and
studied pietist beliefs at Halle. A guardian was opposed to pietist beliefs and sent him
to Wittenberg at age sixteen. After further education in Germany, Holland, and France, he
was not permitted to enter the Lutheran ministry, but steered toward a public career. He
accepted public duties, but chose to serve as a devout Christian.
In 1722 Zinzendorf learned of the persecution of Protestant Bohemian Brethren or
Moravians. He offered them land on his vast estate, which they named Herrnhut (the Lord's
Watch). On August 13, 1727 the community experienced a great spiritual revival or
awakening. Zinzendorf influenced their beliefs by calling attention to heartfelt feeling
of Christ's redemption as opposed to a set of intellectual beliefs. He opposed Francke's
emphasis on extreme sorrow over past sins and stressed the joy and assurance of salvation.
His focus was upon growing to become more Christ like. He, also, taught the Trinity to be
Father, Mother (Holy Spirit of Love) and Son in a model on the human family, exalting love
and sexuality as central to marriage.
INFLUENCE UPON JOHN WESLEY. John Wesley met Moravians on a ship sailing to Georgia.
During a frightening storm at sea, their calm songs of faith impressed him. The day after
his arrival at Savannah, he spoke with Moravian Pastor August Gottlieb Spangenberg
Spangenberg asked, "Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you
are a child of God?"
Wesley was startled. Spangenberg asked, "Do you know Jesus Christ?"
Wesley replied, "I know He is the Saviour of the world."
"True," answered Spangenberg, "but do you know He has saved you?"
Wesley said, "I hope He has died to save me."
Spangenberg, "Do you know yourself?"
Wesley replied, "I do." But, later, he wondered whether this was true.
Later, in England, in 1738, Wesley reported a conversation with Peter Bohler, a
In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one
was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine,
while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I
felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation;
and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from
the law of sin and death.