A Flight from Reality, Impotent “Upper Story” Pietism, a Hellenistic Dreamworld             by Jack Kettler


In this study, the author borrows from Francis A. Schaeffer’s use of the expressions “upper story” and “lower story.” The phrases will not be used in the same way Schaeffer used them. Schaeffer used them as a divide between the rational as opposed to rationalism. In this study, the terms will use the terminology of Greek Platonic dualism with its ideas/forms invisible/visible motif.


Greek dualism can manifest itself in Christianity as false piety, seeking to escape the material world. The “upper story,” in contrast to the “lower story,” is where the pietist seeks to find a spiritual flight or withdrawal from the world or from what is called dead orthodoxy. There are many manifestations of Pietism, making it sometimes difficult to identify. Some religious groups have elements of Pietism, whereas others are fully committed.


As explained below in the entertaining article “The Nine Spiritual Laws of White-Wine Pietism,” Pietism can be fashionable and worldly. The Pietism explained in this article is a flight from doctrinal confessional Christianity. White-Wine Pietism is an open game for satire like that used in the long-running show South Park. Other expressions of Pietism can be seen in groups that embrace escapist eschatology, like Dispensationalism, where phrases such as “why polish the brass on a sinking ship?” are commonly heard. Regardless of its form, Pietism ultimately results in a withdrawal from society and can be seen as a way to escape from reality.


Brief definitions, a contrast:


·         Pietism stresses personal prayers and meditations over religious formality, doctrinal orthodoxy, and Christian political activism.


·         Piety, conversely, is the quality of being sanctified and reverent, strived for by all believers.


For those wanting a hilarious and accurate look at Pietism, the film Babette's Feast is excellent! It is a thoroughly enjoyable film and won an Oscar. There are many manifestations of Pietism in the film. The present study will focus on the extreme dichotomy between the spiritual and material, as seen in some groups influenced by Pietism. The use of false Pietism terminology is an essential qualification of this study. True Piety is something to be practiced and sought after by all Christians.


In Pietism, Christians strive to escape to the pure spiritual “upper story” world and not be contaminated by the “lower story” or sinful material world. In Pietism, there is a spiritual/material or upper story/lower story divide. In Pietism, the material world is sinful and hopeless, “why polish brass on a sinking ship.” Because of this pessimism, the pietist must escape. Sometimes, this dualism comes in the form of the “Higher Life movement,” where the experiential takes precedence over doctrinal confessions. Historically, one aspect of this dualism manifested itself in the monkish life, for all practical purposes, navel-gazing. Today, many have heard the phrase that a person can be so spiritually minded that they are no earthly good. The “cultural mandate,” developed by Abraham Kuyper, is missing in many pietistic circles.




Hebraic thinking posited a unified view of man and God’s world. The spiritual and material were not in conflict. There was one world, and it was God’s world. God was concerned with how humanity lived in the world. Hence, God’s law is a guidepost or instruction manual on how to live in the real world. God instructed Israel on how to worship Him. It involved the real world. For example, tithes were brought to worship with material things such as grain, oil, and animals. Inheritance laws and instruction for education are important. The correct doctrine is important; false prophets were condemned. 


The Western world and its legal tradition are built upon this Hebraic thinking. Considering the birth of Christianity, Christ did not repudiate this viewpoint. He encouraged it. Jesus did not repudiate God’s law. See Matthew 5:17. God’s law was not a manual to escape this world but to provide Godly order in society. Today, this worldview is called the Judeo/Christian worldview.


Pietism is often manifested as a detachment from the material world and its concerns. In some cases of Pietism, the dichotomy between the spiritual and material reveals itself as some things are spiritual and others are not. For example, prayer meetings are on a superior level than engaging in Christian political activity. Biblically, these two activities should not be juxtaposed.        


The Roots of False Pietism:


In Greek philosophy, the spiritual/material dualism is seen in the writings of Plotinus, the third great master of Hellenistic thought.


Plotinus argues that the material world is evil, and the goal is to escape to a higher level.


Plotinus, in his first Ennead, puts it this way:


“Since Evil is here, “haunting this world by necessary law,” and it is the Soul's design to escape Evil, we must escape hence. But what is this escape? “In attaining Likeness to God,” we read. And this is explained as becoming just and holy, living by wisdom, the entire nature grounded in Virtue.... And elsewhere he [Plato] declares all the virtues without exception to be purifications.... The solution is in understanding the virtues and what each has to give: thus the man will learn to work with this or that as every several need demands. And as he reaches to loftier principles and other standards these in turn will define his conduct: for example, Restraint in its earlier form will no longer satisfy him, he will work for the final disengagement; he will live no longer, the life of the good man such as Civic Virtue commends but, leaving this beneath him, will take up instead another life, that of the Gods....What art is there, what method, what discipline to bring us there where we must go?” (1)


The final goal for Plotinus is as follows in the second Ennead:


“There is another life emancipated, whose quality is progression towards the higher realm, towards the good and divine, towards that Principle which no one possesses except by deliberate usage but so may appropriate, becoming each personally, the higher, the beautiful, the Godlike.” (2)


According to Plotinus, one must seek disengagement and leave things beneath us. The “higher realm” or the “upper story” is essential.


In general, in Pietism, the goal is similar to Plotinus that is to escape to the higher spiritual realm:


The goal of the pietistic Christian is to escape worldliness. To accomplish this, Pietism turns inward in order to flee this world. Pietism can be described as quietism and retreatism; in other words, an escape. Pietism is quiet and has nothing to say as society degenerates other than escape or retreat. The problem is, eventually, there is nowhere to hide. Another danger of a pietistic higher life movement, as it is sometimes known, can include a downplaying of the importance of doctrine. For example, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals find common ground in the “upper story” tongue-speaking movement.


Observations on Pietism:


“Nietzsche may have been accurately describing the feeble pietism that surrounded him, the saccharine portraits of Jesus from childhood, but he could not have been more incorrect in his analysis that as a religion of the “sick soul,” the preaching of Christ was simply a message of resignation to the powers and principalities. On the contrary, it was the most radical renunciation of the herd mentality that keeps us addicted to the power brokers of this age.” - Michael S. Horton has been the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California.


“Prayer and action ... can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation.” - Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer, and theologian.


“The doctrine of vocation or calling gained currency as men began to take time and history seriously. If the goal of the Christian life is a Neoplatonic flight from this world, then pietism has effectively undermined the doctrine of non-ecclesiastical callings. To speak of having a calling is usually to speak of the clergy and clerical office.” - R. J. Rushdoony was an Armenian-American Calvinist philosopher, historian, and theologian.


“The purely emotional form of Pietism is, as Ritschl has pointed out, a religious dilettantism for the leisure class.” - Max Weber was a German sociologist, historian, jurist, and political economist, who is regarded as among the most influential theorists of the development of modern Western society.


Karl Barth describes Pietism as a phenomenon that promotes individualism rather than social-mindedness. If this is true, on the surface, Pietism may appear to be God-centered, when in reality, it may be man-centered under cover of religiosity.


Barth referring to a pietist named Gerhard Tersteegen, whom he had sympathy:


“For him, the world was only a deafening noise from which one must escape!” (3)


Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian. Barth is best known for his commentary on The Epistle to the Romans. Also noteworthy was his involvement in the Confessing Church, including his authorship of the Barmen Declaration.


The Nine Spiritual Laws of White-Wine Pietism by Craig Parton:


1. Doctrine divides.


“As one white-wine pietist told me recently: “Who cares how many natures Christ has? It's enough to just love Jesus.” The point regularly made by white-wine pietists is that the quest for theological depth, clarity, and maturity lead one away from Jesus Christ and the Scriptures and frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit.”


2. Subjectivity is spiritual.


“White-wine pietists encourage people to look inside themselves to their very core. Here one finds purity of motive, willingness to follow God, good thoughts, marital fidelity, and truth-telling. To the extent these qualities do not exist in one's heart, the more one must strive to obtain them through various well-tested ladders of ascent (for example, fasting, accountability groups, a “discipleship” relationship, prayer, and displaying “integrity” in one's profession). While the Reformation identifies the heart as the problem, white-wine pietists see it as the answer.”


3. Liturgy dulls.


“White-wine pietists distrust ordered worship - it shackles the heartfelt response. These pietists in confessional churches incessantly clamor to “update” worship so that the “spirit can lead.” Thus Lutherans, for example, now experience the strange phenomenon of having an Amy Grant song in the middle of a “modified” Divine Service. In response to questions about this dubious practice, a white-wine pietist told me roughly the following: “We've been doing this liturgy-thing for years and nobody knows what they are saying anymore. It's only meaningful and alive to you because it's new to you. Anyway, the liturgy is a sixteenth-century German invention. Frankly, it's all rote and boring to us (and too hard to understand) and to our children. By the way, can you believe how the public schools dummy down to the lowest common denominator? It is scandalous!” The result is that we now have more user-friendly services because the historical (and thus liturgical) service doesn't “work” for white-wine pietists who have specialized needs within varying age groups, as well as soccer games at 12:10 P.M. on Sunday.”


“Pastors of white-wine pietists are encouraged to use their word processors on Thursday night to rearrange the liturgy in order to “surprise” victims on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, evangelicals coming to the Reformation come precisely to get away from “surprises.” (A “surprise” on Sunday morning is usually prefaced with the “worship leader” asking: “Does anyone have something that they would like to share this morning?”) The stability of an historic liturgy and its constant reminder each Sunday that we are in need of the gospel and the forgiveness of sins is what I, for example, found so utterly compelling about the Lutheran Church. Instead, white-wine pietists encourage services that end up being cheesy, mid-1970s praise meetings (but without bell-bottom pants) that eclipse the gospel, promote a theology of glory, and teach the congregation that they don't “participate” unless they're up front with the white-wine Yuppie “leadership team” doing piano bar music.”


4. The Sacraments are scary.


“White-wine pietists neither promote nor defend growth in and by the sacraments. Why? Because the objective forgiveness of sins in the means of grace is gospel through and through. White-wine pietists drink from the chalice of the law and either turn sacraments into ordinances or downplay their centrality in the Christian life (“once a month is more than enough - and why not do it on Sunday night so it is less time-consuming?”).”


5. Catechesis is for teenagers or intellectuals.


“The new white-wine pietists (like their forefathers) disdain the systematic learning of Christian doctrine. Catechesis, it is thought, smells of Rome, and we all know how little good catechism class does them, right? There is the perception among white-wine pietists in confessional churches that confirmation classes are to be endured and that works like Luther's Small Catechism are to be thankfully put on the shelf at the end of the eighth grade. The concept of a thorough theological education from the earliest grades through adulthood is gone. Pietism has killed it. White-wine pietists keep the coffin nailed shut.”


“Vacuous Sunday school curricula that catechizes one in the theology of glory (with no emphasis, of course, on the sacraments) are brought in wholesale and fed to the children. Youth rallies stress the inner spiritual life over objective growth in faith through the means of grace (word and sacrament). Yet no one understands why kids are leaving confessional churches in droves for the evangelical movement as soon as they get to college. Of course, they are! Why stay? Johnny Angel goes to college and soon realizes that the evangelical parachurch organizations and other non-denominational Bible churches do a theology of glory with more enthusiasm and quality. The very churches that bemoan declining membership have set the next generation up for the completely logical next step.”


6. Small groups promote “real” growth and “accountability.”


“I thought I had left the horizontal approach to Bible study back with my white-wine pietist past. Not so. The Relational Bible Study School of Theology is being resuscitated by the new white-wine pietists operating in confessional churches. The result is an erosion of confidence in the value of corporate worship tied in with the worship of all Christians throughout time, in the sacraments and the word as the only sure means of growth in the Christian life, and in the liturgy as both cross-and counter-cultural.”


“Pietism created The Horizontal School of Theology. That school will never support an emphasis on confessional orthodoxy or on sacramental corporate worship. Small groups within churches that do not foster commitment to corporate worship and thus to the means of grace are enemies of the cross of Christ. The premise of such groups is that word and sacrament are not enough to meet individual felt needs. Everyone is different, so everyone must be met on a different level. Some have daily sins to confess and to be absolved from and some don't. All have something different they need or want from the church salad bar on Sunday morning. This is a malignant American individualism, and it smells of Lucifer's droppings.”


7. Doctrinal hymns are elitist, but praise choruses edify.


“As the white-wine-pietist son of a Lutheran minister told me recently, the first priority should be on whether the song can be sung easily and only then should one focus on the text of the song. Since the key is to experience God directly, immediately, and quickly (like an Egg McMuffin), the easiest way is by using the ubiquitous Maranatha praise book dearly cherished at the local McChurch.”


“It is known among trained musicians that within certain groups simply playing certain chords will immediately elicit the response of closed eyes or raised hands (somewhat like Pavlov's dogs salivating at the ringing of a bell). It has nothing to do whatsoever with any content that is being sung - it is simply a matter of musical form eliciting a certain emotional response. Because of their abject ignorance of doctrine, the new white-wine pietists disparage the historic hymnody of the church and encourage a musical style that allows them to put one arm around their girl-friend and the other in the air. While Bach signed his works with “Soli Deo Gloria,” the music of white-wine pietism is signed with the godly reminder that it is “used by permission only, Big Steps 4 U Music, License #47528695, copyright 1986, administered by Integrity Hosanna Music, Incorporated.”


“The hymns of the Reformation are often theologically dense and difficult to sing. They can elicit an emotional response too, such as contrition, falling prostrate in fear of God, or despairing of the merit of one's good works. The impression is given that because there is a language and style to learn, and that it is difficult, it is not worth making the effort. If I had listened to this kind of advice during the first year of law school, I would never have become a lawyer. To those who say you can put any content to any praise chorus and get the appropriate result, I respond: Then why don't we put the content of Luther's catechetical hymn “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee" to the Beach Boys' “Fun, Fun, Fun 'Til Daddy Takes the T' Bird Away?”


8. The Holy Spirit hates apologetics.


“White-wine pietists despise apologetics, because it deals with rational argumentation, and pietists distrust the mind. The heart promotes worship while the mind just gets in the way. The new white-wine pietists are no different from their sixteenth-century predecessors (and Luther's nemeses) the so-called “Zwickau Prophets,” Carlstadt and Muenzer - they put the head and the heart at war with one another. While we would gladly agree that no human effort (intellectual or otherwise) can ever be attributed as the cause of regeneration or saving faith, Scripture calls us to give a defense of the hope that is within. This takes work, study, and contact with the objections of unbelievers. White-wine pietists don't do well in these waters, though to their credit they often socialize well with unbelievers. It is easier to attack apologetics as trying to "argue people into the kingdom" than it is to do serious, time-consuming study. Historically, pietism has ignored and disdained apologetics, placing it in tension with the “testimony from the heart.” Historically, pietism has ignored and disdained apologetics, placing it in tension with the “testimony from the heart.”


“The new white-wine pietists, unlike their fundamentalist forefathers, do go into the marketplace to “win the lost.” But their method of winning the lost is presenting a theology of glory based on their “lifestyle of integrity,” their “model family,” or by showing unbelievers how “tight” their “fellowship group” is. Mormons and all other moralists or anyone else with their lives halfway together, however, should be profoundly unimpressed. A reasoned and vigorous (and thus apostolic) defense of the cross is simply gone. In fact, it is arrogantly mocked as a strictly unspiritual endeavor. The “good news” preached by the new white-wine pietists is never really that good, because the bad news of the law is never fully grasped or preached in its awful severity.”


9. Growth in faith comes through obedience to the law.


“This is the central theological sulfur of all strains of pietism. The Reformation in general, and Luther in particular, were emphatic that the prime function of the law was to slay and kill Adam, the first pietist. Growth in the Christian life is a growth in grace - that is, a growth in the life and salvation given by Christ and springing out of the daily forgiveness of sins. A focus on the forgiveness of sins will always push a person to the means of grace, where a holy God promises and delivers that forgiveness. The new white-wine pietist, true to his origins, has an individualistic and pragmatic interest in the church. Pietists interest themselves in the work of the church to the extent that it fosters relationships, love for God “fellowship,” a growing commitment to small groups, and access to God unencumbered by the means of grace or by liturgy, in favor of more emotional worship.” (4)


Gary North explains the helplessness of Pietism when it comes to real-world issues:


“Christian pietists who self-consciously, religiously, and confidently deny that Christians should ever get involved in any form of public confrontation with humanism, for any reason, have recognized this weakness on the part of antinomian Christian activists. They never tire of telling the activists that they are wasting their time in some “eschatologically futile reform program.” Such activism is a moral affront to the pietists. Those of us who have repeatedly marched in picket lines in front of an abortionist’s office have from time to time been confronted by some outraged Christian pietist who is clearly far more incensed by the sight of Christians in a picket line than the thought of infanticide in the nearby office. ‘Who do you think you are?” we are asked. “Why are you out here making a scene when you could be working in an adoption center or unwed mothers’ home?” (These same two questions seem equally appropriate for the pietist critic. Who does he think he is, and why isn’t he spending his time working in an adoption center or an unwed mothers’ home?) … The pietistic critics of activism also understand that in any direct confrontation, Christians risk getting the stuffings – or their tax exemptions – knocked out of them. They implicitly recognize that a frontal assault on entrenched humanism is futile and dangerous if you have nothing better to offer, since you cannot legitimately expect to beat something with nothing.” (5)


More on the dangers of Pietistic dualism in Churchianity or Christianity Part 6-retreatism pietism Churchianity and the recovery of Christianity:


“All dualism since Ockham, and especially as expressed in pietism, has had the cultural effect of weakening the church and strengthening the state. With its retreat inward, pietism was completely unable to combat the forces of the Enlightenment, just as Lutheranism was found powerless with the rise of the Third Reich. The Enlightenment perspective saw the state, not the church, as the truly universal institution; the church was the area of private faith, whereas the state was the realm of reason. The state would therefore assert itself as the new arbiter of order. Given pietism’s primary concern for ‘spiritual life,’ it did not contest this claim. The same is true of modern evangelical pietism. It has allowed the state to move into and control most of life, and we have given up the majority of that ground uncontested. While on the one hand emphasising the church and spiritual life, pietism actually allows the church to become an essentially peripheral institution, irrelevant to life in the world… An immediate offspring of this dualism and pietism is retreatism.” (6)


In the real world:


When the state asserts its authority over the church, for instance, the pietists are not up for the fight. Because of its withdrawal from society, Pietism creates a power vacuum that the state will gladly rush in to fill. Sadly, in Pietism, political action is viewed with suspicion because of its dependence upon Greek Platonic dualism. Escape to the “upper story” is an escape to nowhere. Additionally, as noted by Plotinus, “There is another life emancipated, whose quality is a progression towards the higher realm.” In other words, the invisible and the world of ideas is superior to the visible and the imperfect world of forms. The problem with this is that it is fiction.  


Jesus did not limit the Christian life to only private worship or gospel preaching.


“Your kingdom comes, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mathew 6:10)


God’s world is a unified whole, not Greek “upper story,” or “lower story” dualism.


Retreating and evacuating is a methodology for losing culturally in history. Andrew Sandlin has noted this when he quotes Winston Churchill:


“Wars are not won by evacuations…. We shall fight on the beaches, and we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” - Winston Churchill


Bio: Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, cultural theologian, and author; the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California; ana a faculty member at Blackstone Legal. - Wikipedia


Thank God that Churchill was not a pietist. Churchill’s call to battle helped save Western Civilization. Thankfully, most Christians during the War for Independence were not Pietists. During the War for Independence, in the English parliament, the conflict was sometimes referred to as the Presbyterian revolt or that the colonies followed the Presbyterian parson, John Witherspoon.  


In conclusion, it can be said that the philosophical positions advanced by the Greeks influenced the areas of epistemology, ontology, ethics, and teleology. The Greek influence is a sufficient explanation for positions that some Western religions and philosophies have adopted. Regrettably, this includes Pietism.


These Greek concepts have influenced present-day Pietism. While admitting that Pietism may not be aware of the source of some of its positions, it nevertheless is dependent upon Greek philosophical ideas, namely, fleeing to the “upper story.”


Mark Rushdoony describes what has been the result of Pietism in our culture:  


“Pietism, in fact, saw Christianity as a retreat from earthly, worldly concerns, which it increasingly abandoned.” (7)


The present reign of the Lord Jesus Christ is not Pietism:


“For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25)


According to Paul in 1 Corinthians, this reign is a present reality and will climax in the Second Coming.


Jesus did not teach, “Do not waste your time polishing the brass on a sinking ship.” Not only is this contrary to Christ’s present reign, but it is implicitly bad eschatology.


Christ reigns in both the upper and lower stories. In both the invisible and visible. In the world of ideas and forms. Anything less is a truncated Christianity. Christians must engage the culture and transform it.


The cultural mandate:


“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)


“In the total expanse of human life, there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’” Abraham Kuyper


Christians must proclaim the Lordship of Christ over every aspect of life and culture, not flee to the “upper story.”


The reader should consult Messiah the Prince, by William Symington, to learn more about Christ’s present reign and the implications for the present world.


Escaping Cultural Relevance by Gary North:


“Here is a major dilemma for the modern church:”


“Christians confidently affirm that "the Bible has answers for all questions." But one question is this: What relevance should Christianity have in culture? Modern antinomian Christians emphatically deny the judicial foundation of Christianity's cultural relevance in history: biblical law and its biblically mandated sanctions.”


“Most Christians prefer pietism to cultural relevance, since civil responsibility accompanies cultural relevance.”


“They seek holiness through withdrawal from the prevailing general culture.”


“This withdrawal has forced them to create alternative cultures - ghetto cultures - since there can be no existence for man without culture of some kind.”


“Mennonites have achieved a remarkable separation from the general culture, though not so radical as tourists in Amish country like to imagine, by abandoning such modern benefits as electricity in their homes and the automobile.”


“But they travel in their buggies on paved highways, and they use electricity in their barns.”


“They are always dependent on the peace-keeping forces of the nation.”


“Pietistic Christians have longed for a similar separation, but without the degree of commitment shown by the Amish.”


“They send their children into the public schools, and they still watch television.”


“The result has been catastrophic: the widespread erosion of pietism's intellectual standards by the surrounding humanist culture, and the creation of woefully third-rate Christian alternatives.”


“The ultimate form of personal Christian withdrawal from culture is mysticism: placing an emotional and epistemological boundary between the Christian anger the world around him.”


“But there is a major theological risk with all forms of theistic mysticism.”


“The proponents of theistic mysticism again and again in history have defined mysticism as union with God.”


“But their primary motive is to escape social responsibility and social ethics.”


“By defining mysticism as metaphysical rather than ethical, mystics have frequently come to a terribly heretical conclusion: their hoped-for union with God is defined as metaphysical rather than ethical.”


“They seek a union of their being with God.”


“The mystic's quest for unity with God denies the Bible's ultimate definition of holiness: the separation of God from the creation.” (8)


In closing, Bavinck’s Critique of Pietism:


“Like so many other efforts at reforming life in Protestant churches, Pietism and Methodism were right in their opposition to dead orthodoxy. Originally their intention was only to arouse a sleeping Christianity; they wished not to bring about a change in the confession of the Reformation but only to apply it in life. Yet, out of an understandable reaction, they frequently went too far in this endeavor and swung to another extreme. They, too, gradually shifted the center of gravity from the objective to the subjective work of salvation. In this connection it makes essentially no difference whether one makes salvation dependent on faith and obedience or on faith and experience. In both cases humanity itself steps into the foreground. Even though Pietism and Methodism did not deny the acquisition of salvation by Christ, they did not use this doctrine or relate it in any organic way to the application of salvation. It was, so to speak, dead capital. The official activity of the exalted Christ, the Lord from heaven, was overshadowed by the experiences of the subject. In Pietism, instead of being directed toward Christ, people were directed toward themselves. They had to travel a long road, meet all sorts of demands and conditions, and test themselves by numerous marks of genuineness before they might believe, appropriate Christ, and be assured of their salvation. Methodism indeed tried to bring all this—conversion, faith, assurance—together in one indivisible moment, but it systematized this method, in a most abbreviated way, in the same manner as Pietism. In both there is a failure to appreciate the activity of the Holy Spirit, the preparation of grace, and the connection between creation and re-creation. That is also the reason why in neither of them does the conversion experience lead to a truly developed Christian life. Whether in Pietistic fashion it withdraws from the world or in Methodist style acts aggressively in the world, it is always something separate, something that stands dualistically alongside the natural life, and therefore does not have an organic impact on the family, society, and the state, on science and art. With or without the Salvation Army uniform, Christians are a special sort of people who live not in but outside the world. The Reformation antithesis between sin and grace has more or less made way for the Catholic antithesis between the natural and the supernatural. Puritanism has been exchanged for asceticism. The essence of sanctification now consists in abstaining from ordinary things.” (9)


As noted by Bavinck says pietistic, “Christians are a special sort of people who live not in but outside the world.” Thus, in Pietism, platonic dualism manifests itself, and to use Schaeffer’s terminology, they attempt to live in the “upper story.”


Pietism, like any other movement, has its own set of dangers that can negatively impact escapists. One significant danger is its emphasis on personal piety and individual spiritual growth. While striving for personal holiness is commendable, focusing solely on one’s spiritual journey can lead to a self-centered mindset. Pietistic escapists who become engrossed in their quest for personal perfection may lose sight of the communal aspect of faith, failing to recognize the importance of serving others and engaging in the greater world. As a result, the dangers of Pietistic escapism lie in the potential alienation from society and the neglect of social responsibilities that are essential for a mature and meaningful biblical faith.


In the past, Christians built schools, hospitals, orphanages and participated in society at every level. Today, not so much; instead, one hears about not polishing brass on a sinking ship, an ultimate expression of cultural pietistic escapism. Pietism is widespread, along with rampant prophetic speculation. With ten million and millions more illegal/migrants overrunning the country, arguing about when and if there is a pretribulation rapture almost rises to the definition of insanity. 


And finally, a Role Model:


“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” - Abraham Kuyper


“Abraham Kuyper, 29 October 1837 – 8 November 1920) was the Prime Minister of the Netherlands between 1901 and 1905, an influential Calvinist theologian and a journalist. He established the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, which upon its foundation became the second largest Calvinist denomination in the country behind the state-supported Dutch Reformed Church.”


“In addition, he founded the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Anti-Revolutionary Party, and a newspaper. In religious affairs, he sought to adapt the Dutch Reformed Church to challenges posed by the loss of state financial aid and by increasing religious pluralism in the wake of splits that the church had undergone in the 19th century, rising Dutch nationalism, and the Arminian religious revivals of his day which denied predestination. He vigorously denounced modernism in theology as a fad that would pass away. In politics, he dominated the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) from its founding in 1879 to his death in 1920. He promoted pillarisation, the social expression of the anti-thesis in public life, whereby Protestant, Catholic and secular elements each had their own independent schools, universities and social organisations.” - Wikipedia


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)



1.      Plotinus, The Six Enneads, Vol. 17 of Great Books of the Western World, Trans. by S. Mackenna and P.S. Page, (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), pp. 1.2, 1; p. 6. 1. 2, 3; p. 7. 1. 2, 7; p. 10. 1. 3, 1; p. 10.

2.      Plotinus, 2.3, 9; p. 45.

3.      Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth and the Pietists: The Young Karl Barth's Critique of Pietism & Its Response, (Wipf and Stock (June 15, 2016), p. 19.

4.      Craig Parton, The nine spiritual laws of white wine pietism, Intrepid Lutherans, https:// vdma. wordpress.com /2010/11/18/the-nine-spiritual-laws-of-white-wine-pietism/

5.      Gary North, Tools of Dominion, (Tyler, Texas, Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), p. 15.

6.      Christian Concern, Churchianity or Christianity part 6-retreatism pietism churchianity and the recovery of Christianity, online resource, https: // Christian concern. com/

7.      Dualism, Rev. Mark R. Rushdoony is president of Chalcedon and Ross House Books. He is also editor-in-chief of Faith for All of Life and Chalcedon’s other publications. https:// sites. Google. com/site/world view address/clients/dualism

8.      Gary North, Leviticus: An Economic Commentary; Introduction, (Tyler, TX, Institute for Christian Economics, 1994), p. 2-3.

9.      Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, trans. H. Bolt, Editor J. Vriend, translator, Vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3.567–68.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of 17 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon.