“I wish all this religious warmth and comfort would die”

So said Johann Blumhardt, (b. 1805) a German Lutheran Pastor who was on a journey toward discovering the power of the light of Christ over the darkness and true deliverance from the power of sin. Christian History’s “It Happened Today” highlights Blumhardt’s ministry.

He began to detest powerless religion that he saw in his congregation. Through a series of exorcisms he began to emphasize a revived religion of power in the Christian life. “Having awakened to the struggle between light and darkness, Blumhardt could not return to powerless Christianity.”

I remember many years ago being warned of churches’ tendencies to turn Pastors into Chaplains. I took this to mean the phenomenon of turning Gospel ministry into “make me feel better” potions, delivered on as need basis to troubled parishioners who had no real intent to do warfare for Christ and be faithful carriers of the Gospel. The Pastor was a spiritual version of a chiropractor, a massage here and there for people who ache but with no real medicine for the dying.

Blumhardt was a part of a movement labeled Pietism, whose source was in orthodox and dead Lutheranism. At the root of this movement were people like Philipp Jacob Spener and Johann Arndt, the latter’s chief work being True Christianity, which I have read and enjoyed. The Calvinism of the European continent had devolved into a dead thing. It was strangled by Protestant Scholasticism which dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s but the true conversion of the heart was a mystery and tale told, as it were, about a far off land. Concerned Christians in volunteer societies began to gather together to blow on the dying embers of lifeless Christianity to become “coronary Christians.” John Wesley captured this dynamic in his movement. He owed much to the Pietiests, particularly the Moravians. And in his Pietism he rejected the narrow confines of High Calvinism and insisted on a inclusiveness of the truly converted. “If your heart is as my heart, then take my hand.”

I wonder how much of our “lively” Christianity is simply the presence of an animal spirit that arise from being around “our kind.” Actually I do not wonder. These are assemblies smitten not with the living Christ but smitten with themselves – their unique doctrines that set them apart, their building, their friends, their music, their traditions. Visitors find it hard to belong because the very thing that makes that church what it is, is what it is without the visitor being there – a church for them. It’s a tragedy that Christ’s name would be attached to such an earthly thing.

Let us not insist on comfort and warmth but true battle with darkness and the forces that enslave human spirits. Then we shall find Christ to be all.

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