Pietism, A Result of Less not More Law.

Some would have us believe that Pietism is a result of too much Law. I would argue that it is in fact a problem of not enough of Law being taught correctly. Law is a vital part of God’s truth which forces us to be humbled and seeking Christ crucified. Law when taught right will lead to the Gospel. Pietism is an error that usually  occurs due to a false understanding of what justification (The Gospel) is. This is why it does make sense for some to assume it being a problem of Law being taught too much,  but when given some deep thought and reflection we find it being an issue of not enough Law.

When we first encounter the Law it breaks us down and demands what we cannot give. Not only does this point for the need of a savior but it humbles us to need reprive from a perfect obiedence which only could be done by Jesus. It prepares us to to hear the Gospel. We must never shy from the Law especially when it makes us see that in ourselves we are dead and need to revived. That is where the Gospel shows Christ doing that for us. The Law does not do it all by itself and I am not suggesting that. I am suggesting that without clear Law we fail to have a clear Gospel. The issue of pietism is an issue of people having a false hope in themselves. The answer is to that is shock and awe them with Law that our only Hope is in the Lord who saves us and declares us rigthous. While it is form of legalism and legalism does suffer from a distortion of Law. The answer is not a false Gospel. The answer is Law and & Gospel being rightly taught.

C.F.W. Walther warns us about what happens when we fail to give distinction to Law and Gospel. He tells us:

“Christ Himself has described the way to heaven as a narrow path. Just so narrow is the path of the pure doctrine. For the pure doctrine is nothing else than the doctrine regarding the way to heaven. It is easy to lose your way when it is narrow, rarely traveled, and leads through a dense forest. Without intending to do so and without being aware of it, you may make a wrong turn to the right or left. It is equally easy to lose the narrow way of the pure doctrine which likewise is traveled by few people and leads through a dense forest of erroneous teachings. You may land either in the bog of fanaticism or in the abyss of rationalism. This is no jest. False doctrine is poison to the soul……

The Law must be preached in all its severity, but the hearers must get this impression: This sermon will help those still secure in their sins towards salvation. Whenever the Gospel is preached, this is the impression that the hearers are to receive: This sermon applies only to those who have been smitten by the Law and are in need of comfort.

On the words of Christ, John 7, 37: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,” Luther offers this comment: “These are the two subjects on which we preach. The Law produces thirst; it leads the hearer to hell and slays him. The Gospel, however, refreshes him and leads him to heaven.”

Luther speaks of this difference not only when explaining passages in which the terms Law and Gospel occur, but wherever he has an opportunity to preach these “two subjects.” “The Law tells us what we are to do and charges us with not having done it, no matter how holy we are. Thus the Law makes me uncertain; it chases me about and thus makes me thirsty.”

Now, when Christ invites those who thirst, He means such as have been crushed under the hammer-blows of the Law. Directly Christ invites only these to come to Him; indirectly, indeed, He invites all men. A person thus thirsting is not to do anything but drink, that is, receive the consolations of the Gospel.

 C.F.W. Walther 3rd Lecture on Law & Gospel

The answer never will be to lessen the Law but to teach it correctly which includes teaching it in all its three uses. It would require us to not be afraid of people thinking what it would come off as but to trust that when rightly taught Law will do it’s job just as Gospel will.  It would mean clearly giving everything it’s time and rightful place.

Johann Gerhard tells us:


“Law and the Gospel must be accurately defined and strictly adhered to”


Walther also tells us:

“Nor do the Law and the Gospel differ as regards their final aim, as though the Gospel aimed at men’s salvation, the Law at men’s condemnation. No, both have for their final aim man’s salvation; only the Law, ever since the Fall, cannot lead us to salvation; it can only prepare us for the Gospel.”


I know what some will say. “Walther reminds us what Martin Luther says that the Law can be no good for us.” Which is true the Law must always be understood primarily as something that can never save us due to our sin. The Law though is a useful for those already justified by Christ. It helps guides us to the things we know can be useful for our sanctification. It must though be made clear that Law and Gospel are distinctly different but are both God’s Word and useful for all the life we have due to Christ’s death and our Baptism in that. Distinction matters and is vital to being clear how God Works for our benefit. The Law is a benefit because of this, it humbles us and never confuses us on who is the source of our salvation. Pietism is a dangerous error that can lead to a false pretence on what saves us. A healthy dose of Law (with the knowledge that it leads us to the Gospel ) is a good thing to remind us that the Grace given is not cheap. It never mistakes us about what is truth because all of God’s Word is good for correction and guidance, especially Law.

I would agree that Law cannot be the sole focus perhaps for some this would lead to pietism.I do however 100% reject this notion that a weaken Law is any cure for this. I do though believe that Pietism is  a direct result of being given a false Gospel that has been mixed with Law. The issue is not Law but it being confused as or with Gospel.  Distinction of when Law and Gospel are properly taught is the most important factor to curbing unwanted errors that distract us.




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