Bethel Lecture

Last Friday Bethel University, under the excellent leadership of Chris Gehrz and Christian Collins Winn, hosted a colloquium on Pietism. This event built on their earlier colloquium that brought in scholars of Pietism. But this session was not just on Pietism but was instead an exploration of some of Pietism’s connections, and I was asked to lecture on Anabaptism and Pietism. [I’m not sure what I will do with this paper, but somehow I will use it for publication, so I won’t do much with it here.]

I spent loads of time this Winter studying Anabaptist’s origins, and focused my attention on the works of Balthasar Hubmaier since he was the first major theologian. So, to keep to the topic, the presentation compared Hubmaier with the Pietist vision of Spener (and Johann Arndt). Evangelicalism could learn much if it would devote itself to developing both of these heritages: the Anabaptist and the Pietist. I’m tempted here to delve into the paper but will avoid that.

Some highlights for me:

* Meeting and getting to chat with Chris Gehrz and Christian Collins Winn. Both of them are fine scholars who made singular contributions to the earlier colloquium published as The Pietist Impulse in Christianity.
* Seeing some former students, including Marie Leafblad and Julie Capon, and I have to reserve special place for Mark Safstrom, a former NPU student who is now a professor of Scandinavian Studies at the Univ of Illinois. He did an excellent paper on PP Waldenström in the above volume (showing Waldenström’s political and social vision, clear elements of Pietism that are often ignored).

* Visiting Bethel University the first time — I was blown away with how attractive a campus it is. And I got to see an old friend from my student days, Mike Holmes, who has had a distinguished career as a professor at Bethel.
* Meeting Jon Sensbach, author of Rebecca’s Revival, an exceptional study of an African Moravian woman evangelist in the Caribbean.

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  • Aaron

    In a time when so many Institutions are being taken over by Calvinists, universities and seminaries like Bethel who’s ethos continues to be true to their arminian/pietistic roots are so important.

  • RJS

    It is a beautiful campus. I think I was 6 or 7 the first time I set foot on the “new” campus (I am not sure there were even any buildings on the new site at the time).

    My daughter is a student there, a history major in fact. But she is studying abroad this term – so missed your lecture.

  • RJS


    Bethel has always, to my knowledge, had a Calvinist lean. But it is not heavily this way. John Piper was on the faculty of the college when I was a student. And my professor (not Piper) in systematic theology certainly leaned that way – his view as he taught did not convince me that Calvinism was the best option. But neither the college nor the conference viewed Calvinism as the only option (again to the best of my knowledge anyway).

  • Thanks, Scot! Hope you made your connection, and that we’ll have another chance to bring you to Bethel before too long.

  • Wish we had held off on our book; we could have included this paper as a chapter!

  • Looking forward to reading the paper. I have an avid interest in whatever connections there are between Anabaptism and Pietism, since we are part of a church that is Pietistic in roots, and my own roots are Anabaptist. And it seems that more appreciation is needed of both nowadays.

  • Ted, since you mentioned interest in this topic, I am going to risk being annoyingly self-promotional and draw attention to the new book I co-edited with Pietist historian, Jared Burkholder, titled The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism. I trust you would find it helpful!