While cleaning up my library I found a lecture by George H. Williams, “Friends of God and the Prophets” (Harvard Divinity Bulletin, 1965). Professor Williams tutored me in church history one semester, 1952, in Boston. Some the insights of this Anabaptist historian and Harvard Professor shaped my holistic formulations in “New Call to Holiness” and Exploring Heaven. He uses the word “pietism”, a word that with cognates such as “piety”, has strong historical significance, but, alas, got trashed. In Europe Pietists such as Franke, Spener, and Zinzendorf complemented Quaker and Wesleyan teachings about crucifying the self and experiencing ecstatic joy in Christ’s presence within. So, ponder two citations from Williams and reflect upon God’s call to holiness—a solid and challenging theological term.
. . . the way has been prepared for a new understanding of Spiritual sanctification—that complementary concept which in classical Protestantism was programmatically subordinated to, and made dependent upon a Christo-centic justification. Accordingly, the time is opportune of the rise of a new Protestant pietism in the modern idiom. For some it will be preeminently a pietism of the heart, for others a pietism of the will, for others a pietism of the mind. (p. 16)
Some of our theologians set themselves to the task of drawing out the implications of an eventual discovery of rationality in the denizens of outer space. But the most distinctive reality in the universe is holiness, in which state the primordial alienation of man from both Creator and creation is overcome. As the mind may be swifter than light, comprehending the heavens above and the moral law within, so may holiness transcend both reason and might; for holiness, wherever in the universe it may be manifest, implies both the awareness of an august and transcendent glory and its embodiment in that loving reverence for life which is sanctification. (p. 23)
“The most distinctive reality in the universe is holiness”– I like that! The Psalmist says “worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”(29:2) Paul writes “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2: 20 TNIV).
Heeding these admonitions will bring renewed Christian piety—in a modern idiom.
Peace and Joy!