First International Congress for
Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg's Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Pietism organized its First International Congress for Pietist Studies in Halle, held in conjunction with the Francke Foundations of Halle from August 28 to September 1, 2001.
The Center, located on the historical site of Pietism in Halle, was founded in 1993 for the purpose of researching Pietism's structures, organizational forms, its social and academic reforms, as well as its global influences and international relations. The center also seeks to promote academic exchange and communication among international scholars of Pietism. In keeping with these goals, the First International Congress aimed to provide such scholars an opportunity to present and discuss their recent work. The Congress covered not only Pietism itself, but also its relationship to similiar theological, religious and social-historical movements, such as Puritanism, Quietism, Jansenism, and the Nadere Reformatie, as well as its effects on Awakenings and Neo-Pietism. Such interdisciplinary cooperation promises to yield many new and fruitful insights and to promote historiographic clarity in the study of Pietism and pietist movements.
The Congress was opened with an introductory lecture held on the evening of arrival. In addition to this and to a number of other public lectures, presentations and discussions were organized into the following seven thematic sections:
The turn of the 17th to the 18th century in Europe was marked by a widespread desire for reform in theology and religious practice. The activities and movements arising from that desire are not always linked to confessional entities and are frequently complex and convoluted. In addition to French Jansenism, Spanish and Italian Quietism, and the Dutch Nadere Reformatie, such movements include a wide variety of territorially and confessionally disparate Lutheran, Reformed and Separatist Pietists in Germany, their precursors and concomitant groups. No less convoluted are the vast array of historical currents emanating outward both in space and time from those volatile beginnings, whether they involve English Puritanism or even contemporary movements. Finally, much remains to be learned about the many and multifaceted attempts by such groups to formulate a distinctively pietist theology and to apply such to religious practice.
Different political, social and ecclesial conditions have yielded differing versions of Pietism. Pietism has aligned itself with different social classes, assumed a variety of societal forms and displayed a full spectrum of political allegiances. Unlike the Quietists, most Pietists exhibit a marked desire to engage in and influence political life. Their political and social interests often begin with views on family life and childrearing, include educational philosophies and their corresponding institutional realization, and extend to the formation of distinct social groups involved in the highest levels of power politics. One thinks, among other things, of Pietist's efforts to influence church and school appointments and hiring practice, or, for example, of the many expressions of Pietist social ministry, such as care for the poor, the sick or for orphans.
To this day, Pietism has a reputation for treating the arts with suspicion, if not outright rejection. Such assessments find fuel in Pietists' well documented distaste for frivolity, entertainment and the sensual. The many treatises that Pietists admittedly wrote in such a vein largely pertain to literary fiction such as novels, romances, or those coupled with music, like operas and oratorios, or even concertante church music. An interesting exception, though, is made for the song, which combines music with poetry. Furthermore, Pietist influences on the visual arts and architecture (e.g. orphanages, schools, Herrnhut settlements) appear to reveal aesthetic sensibilities that call for reassessing Pietism's relation to the arts. To do so in a more rigorous way would seem to pose an interesting challenge to historians of art and architecture.
Under the banner "Changing the world by changing people" (Weltveränderung durch Menschenveränderung), Pietists developed paedagogical, psychological and medical conceptualities early on. They tended to ground these in a specific view of humanity that took up various elements of diverging philosophical and theological anthropologies and quite frequently sparked heated controversy. Central to such views was the notion of a sinful human "heart" requiring renewal. The heart, in this sense, serves as a metaphor for the physical and spiritual totality of the human person. Paedagogues, psychologists and physicians joined arms against this pathogenic evil, not infrequently causing pathologies of their own through their draconian therapies and provoking melancholia, hypochondria or hysteria in their "patients".
Pietism showed a great interest in developing international relations. This was certainly a consequence of its theological outlook, but also involved political and economic motives. In order to implement their religious and social-political programs, Pietists needed to establish a national and international network of communication and information. That network utilized several media, including letters, hand-delivered circular correspondence, as well as variety of literature printed by the Pietists' own publishers and disseminated their own bookstores, all aimed at consolidating a global religious community. In order to maximize the influence of their teaching, Pietists translated key texts and particularly the Bible into countless languages; conversely, they also translated foreign-language texts into German. On a related note, this communication complex also involves Pietist and anti-Pietist polemic.
Pietists travelled voraciously. Their desire to promote their views and to effect improvement on a global scale spured missionary excursions to the Americas, Eurasia and Africa. Once there, they discovered foreign peoples, cultures and languages which comprised, worlds of, at times startling independence and fascinating richness, inspiring them to document their experiences in letters, travel descriptions and diaries. They also assembled considerable ethnographic and natural-history collections which in turn benefited scores of scientists and scholars in various fields. Following in the missionaries' footsteps were ethnologists, linguists and natural scientists, but also merchants and diplomats, all of whom were, thanks to the Pietists' efforts, able to find access to previously unknown lands and cultures. The fact that today there remain countless church communities worldwide who, while culturally distinct, find their roots in Pietism, testifies to the energy and scope of that missionary activity.
Making manuscript and other unpublished source materials available and accessible to scholars is essential to further research on Pietism. New scholarly editions of source material not only benefit those researchers and disciplines traditionally involved in the study of Pietism but also garner involvement of specialists in other disciplines, thereby furthering interdisciplinary exchange and facilitating new perspectives on Pietism as a whole. This thematic section provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of editorial and bibliographical issues and projects, addressing new methodological approaches and ongoing or future research plans.