Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705)

As an author, Spener wrote Pia Desideria: or Heartfelt Desires for a God-Pleasing Improvement of the True Protestant Church which by its title alone gives glimpse to the contents found within. He proposes a renewed study of Scriptures, initiation of group meetings (conventicles) for Christian growth, a renewed understanding of priesthood of all believers, restraint in religious controversies, and practice of one’s faith in both affection and action. Spener also supported education of ministers and edifying preaching for the people.

His heart is heard in these words:

The people must have impressed upon them and must accustom themselves to believing that it is by no means enough to have knowledge of the Christian faith, for Christianity consists rather of practice. Our dear Saviour repeatedly enjoined love as the real mark of disciples (John 13: 34-35, 15:12, I John 3:10, 18, 4:7-8, 11-13, 21).  In his old age dear John …was accustomed to say hardly anything more to his disciples than “Children, love one another!”  His disciples and auditors finally became annoyed at this endless repetition that they asked him why he was always saying the same thing to them. He replied: “Because it is the Lord’s command, and it suffices if this be done.” Indeed, love is the whole life of man who has faith and who through his faith is saved, and his fulfillment of the laws of love consists of love.

If we can therefore awaken a fervent love among our Christians, first toward one another and then toward all … (for these two, brotherly affection and general love, must supplement each other according to 2 Peter 1:7), and put this love into practice, practically all that we desire will be accomplished. 

(From Pietists: Selected Readings, Peter C. Erb, editor, 36)

Spener helped to articulate the basic tenets of pietism from which others could develop their thoughts and understandings of renewal within and beyond Luther’s reform. Confronting Scholasticism that was finding a foothold in the German church, Spener and those who would follow with like heart in years to come, produced fertile soil that renewal and revival could grow from in years to come. 

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