THE BRAID OF POST-REFORMATION THEOLOGY

Protestant theology from the end of the Thirty Years War (1648) to the beginning of World War I (1914) was characterized by three major patterns of thought: the Enlightenment, Pietism and Romanticism. Although these movements appear to be moving in very different directions, I think of them as a braid. The three strands of thought twist around each other and interact in a variety of different ways.

Each strand contains a great deal of diversity within it, but in the beginning we must use generalizations, and leave the splitting of the hairs or the threads to a later time. So let’s imagine a “typical” representative of each group. We’ll call the Enlightenment person Edward, the Pietist, Polly, and the Romantic Rose.

Edward, Polly and Rose go to church. When they come home, you ask them, “How was church?” Edward will tell you about the internal logic of the sermon and the moral lesson derived from it. Polly will describe the fervor of the singing and how her heart was strangely warmed during the prayer time. Rose will describe the aesthetics of the architecture and the beauty of the liturgy, (Wow! That was quite a service!) Each strand is looking for something different in religion, consequently each is finding something different.

Now lets look to the windings of the braid: