The Pietist Option

reviewed by Ryan Eikenbary-Barber

The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity
Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III
InterVarsity, 2017

The Pietist Option by Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III has much in common with Philipp Jakob Spener’s Pia Desideria. Both books are slim, readable, and packed with practical advice on church revitalization. The Pietist Option mirrors Spener’s six pious desires for the renewal of the church. Gehrz and Pattie contemporize Spener’s revival program as: A More Extensive Listening to the Word of God; the Common Priesthood for the Common Good; Christianity as Life; the Irenic Spirit; Whole-Person, Whole-Life Formation; and Proclaiming the Good News.

Gehrz is a history professor at Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota and a member of Salem Covenant Church. Pattie is the senior pastor at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota. The book is filled with quotes from Covenant Church leaders such as Karl A. Olsson, Donald Frisk, Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, and Efrem Smith. There are warm-hearted illustrations about General Conference Baptist preacher and Bethel President Carl Lundquist. The Pietist Option is the unapologetic product of the theological tradition that grew out of Swedish-American Pietism.

The Pietist Option is not a general primer on Pietism. Gehrz and Pattie propose that the stories of the Covenant Church and Bethel University reflect the larger Pietistic impulse in contemporary America. That may be, but The Pietist Option succeeds because of its particularity. Gehrz and Pattie challenge the Covenant Church and its Baptist cousins to look at their unique history in order to inform their undecided future. It is more of a prophetic challenge than a history lesson. Just as in Spener’s day, today’s Christian Church would be wise to be more biblical, vocational, alive, peaceful, holistic, and full of good news.

The Evangelical Covenant Church of America should pay close attention to The Pietist Option. The Covenant Church is looking for a new president. The denominational school North Park University is also looking for a new president. The Covenant’s Department of Ordered Ministry is looking for a new executive minister. This should be a momentous year! The Pietist Option would be an excellent small group resource in preparation for the coming Annual Meeting (2018). It would be wonderful if all the delegates at the Annual Meeting knew who we were as we prepare to vote on who God is calling us to be. The book concludes with conventicle questions for personal devotion and small group discussion.

The Covenant denomination has steadily grown in numbers and diversity for over twenty years. The Covenant is no longer defined by Swedish heritage. The entire denomination would benefit from this fresh introduction to our Pietist history and theology. Gehrz and Pattie remind the Covenant Church who we once were and who we might yet be again. The Pietist Option is a welcome conversation-starter.