Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology
(P & R Publishing, 2015) by Joel R. Beeke
Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology shortly introduces us to one of those words that have proven to be controversial in some Reformed-Christian circles. It is the word ’piety’ and the author, a renowned pastor-theologian, underscores its importance in Reformed theology. After briefly explaining its usual contemporary objections and etymology, Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology highlights the way ‘piety’ was defined by the Swiss Reformer John Calvin and the Dutch theologians William Ames and Gisbertus Voetius. Piety is rooted in the knowledge of God. Knowledge and piety as well as theory and practice are wedded together.
Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology differentiates between Pietism (capital ‘P’) and pietism (lower case ‘p’). On the one hand, Pietism is identified with the historical movement of German Pietism which promoted personal piety and communal life leading to reforms in church and society. On the other hand, pietism is identified with a devotional movement after the Reformation that takes place in many countries and within diverse movements and churches. Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology is important because it demonstrates that Reformed Christianity is experiential and not simply ‘brainy’ or merely intellectual. In some cases, Pietism shifted to a more practical and at times man-centered orientation thereby emphasizing the inner-man. In other cases, pietism stressed and rested on right teaching. Objective faith provided the contextual basis for subjective faith. In this case, pietism was Christ-centered because it was solely based in the objective accomplishment of redemption in Jesus Christ.
Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology states that while having much in common, Pietism and pietism are different. Nonetheless, the marks of both (particularly pietism) are still alive in the church today. Folks who love the doctrines of grace (Reformed theology) need not to be averse or ashamed of piety. It is part of the rich Christian tradition. The Reformers and the Post-Reformers advocated piety when they stressed specific means to cultivate it via the Church and private disciplines. This is something that needs to be remembered and retrieved. Reformed Christians searching for a vibrant faith confront the problem of highly-educated and theologically-minded ministers and churches who embody dry Reformed orthodoxy. Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians while protesting against a lifeless Christianity find themselves swimming in a sea of emotionalism that is often at times not solidly rooted in Scripture. There is a critical need for an experiential and educated Christianity. Our Reformers and Post-Reformation brothers would not be ashamed and/or despise it for fear of being called ‘pious’ or ‘pietist’. After all, the historical record clearly shows that their service to God and the church sought to marry theology and piety. This is so because as Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology remind us “so that the heard, heart and hand motivate one another to live for God’s glory and our neighbor’s well-being” (p. 36) and because “we are called to promote it in the Reformation teaching of holy, dependent, loving, and godly living” (p. 36-37).