Truth Versus Pietism Part 3

I’ve been writing about Truth Versus Pietism which are two paradigms for understanding reality. A Pietism paradigm splits reality into secular and sacred areas, whereas a Truth paradigm sees all reality as sacred, since it was created by the Lord of reality, God. The consequences that flow from these two views of reality are felt in a Christian’s life. The Christian with a Pietism take on reality has difficulty engaging life fully. There is a subtle ambivalence towards the physical world that often makes him narrow minded, irrational, and frankly, less human. When reality is seen, however, as all of God’s, and therefore sacred, the effect is a Christian who is curious, reasonable and compassionate.

These contrasting views of reality make themselves apparent in all kinds of ways. Not the least is how the gospel is understood. Pietism sees the gospel through an individualistic lens. The focus is on securing one’s personal salvation and happiness. Truth, on the other hand, sees the gospel as the comprehensive plan of God to restore mankind to a community of love, justice and kindness. The gospel is understood as primarily relational.

This theme is carried through as we consider what Christian maturity is for these two views of reality. Pietism, being individually focused and feelings oriented, makes Christian maturity a “moralistic quest for spiritual experience.” Introspection is the name of the game, and the Christian caught in this mentality puts a great deal of value on correct motivation and spiritual feelings. He aims to maintain an interior experience of peace, free from disturbance. The complex, the difficult, the uncomfortable are all resisted in the name of seeking spiritual maturity. This aversion to the hard and raw aspects of life leads him to dishonesty and hiddenness about his own problems, dullness toward others and a lack of integrity towards life. The mature pietistic Christian is an odd, self-righteous and earthly irrelevant person posing as a witness of God (who is supremely relational and unafraid of the reality He made).

Maturity, for a Christian embracing a “Truth” paradigm, is a journey toward greater faithfulness to reality. He constantly seeks to discover truth and align his life with it. Consequently, this kind of Christian is eager to learn and is a “lover of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10b). His goal is to be a “doer of the word” (James 1:23). He recognizes that life is full of difficult and perplexing questions as well as real people with real problems, all which will require him to lay down his life for others (Phil. 2:3-8; Mark 10:45). Not concerned about looking spiritual, he is able to confess his own lacks since he realizes that admission of ignorance is the first step toward education. While not seeking conflict, he understands that it is often a necessary step to clarify things between people. The mature, truth-oriented Christian is a fully human person in love with God and committed to others.

Next, we’ll consider how these two ways of thinking influence how Christians engage the world around them.