Protestant Scholasticism, Higher Criticism, and Pietism

The period of Protestant Scholasticism

During the period of the Protestant Scholasticism, the Bible alone was authoritative, an impressive amount of work was done, there was faithfulness to the scriptures, there was an effort to define truth ever more distinctly, there was faithfulness to the confessions of the reformers, and there was a well established vocabulary.

The two extreme reactions to Protestant Scholasticism?

One reaction was rationalism. In rationalism, reason superseded revelation. You did not need the scriptures because the natural world provided a sufficient window into the truth of God. Like a man who winds up a clock, God set the world in motion and left it to its own internal mechanisms. The reason is all-sufficient.

Realism produced a weakness of orthodoxy. It led to the downfall of Christianity as the dominant cultural and philosophical system. It made an attempt to synthesize philosophy and philosophical categories with biblical theology.

There were two thrusts within protestant orthodoxy. There was a rising movement of biblical theology that focussed on covenants and the development of special revelation within the scriptures. There was also a return to the scholastic way of doing theology by adopting Aristotelian categories as the conceptual apparatus.

Is higher criticism a legitimate endeavor for evangelical Christians?

No, higher criticism is not a legitimate endeavor for evangelical Christians because it says that the Scriptures were a human product. It says that men uninspired by the Holy Spirit and full of errors wrote the Word of God. If the Bible is not God’s Word, then Christians have no legs to stand on.

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” Elie Wiesel

The key emphasis in Pietism

  1. Pietism was a reaction to Protestant orthodoxy and rationalism. It emphasized that the Bible was the Word of God, but it also emphasized personal religious experience. Pietism embraced small group meetings. It focussed on prayer and Bible study. Christianity was more than knowledge. It was knowledge, put into practice.
  2. In Pietism, they trained ministers not only to have knowledge but to live life as well. Ministers were to be ones who experienced growth and grace and knew how to cultivate that growth in the lives of their parishioners. There was a demand for clarity in preaching. They emphasized regeneration while focussing on personal standing before God and personal transformation.
  3. Pietism had a few negative points as well. They read the scripture with the wrong intent. They asked the question “What does this passage mean to me?” when they should have asked “What does this passage mean, and how does it apply to me?” Pietists would skip what the scriptures meant originally.