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Philipp Jakob Spener

1635-1705. German Lutheran Pietist leader. Born in Rappoltsweiler, Alsace, and raised in a highly protective and deeply religious atmosphere (characterized by a mixture of Puritanism and Arndtian Pietistic mysticism), he studied theology at Strasbourg in 1651-59 under the strict Lutheran J.K. Dannhauer. During academic wanderings in 1659-62 to Basle, Geneva, Stuttgart, and Tübingen he came into contact with Reformed theology and Jean de Labadie, who preached repentance and regeneration. In 1663 he became a free preacher at Strasbourg, received a doctorate in theology in 1664, and served as pastor and senior of the ministerium in Frankfurt am Main (1666-85), where he emerged as the leader of the Pietist Movement. He was appointed court chaplain at Dresden in 1686, but his relations with the Saxon ruling family soon became strained, and in 1691 he accepted the invitation of the elector of Brandenburg to the pastorate of St. Nicholas Church in Berlin.

At Frankfurt he reformed religious instruction by preaching on whole books of the Bible, restoring the confirmation service, and setting aside days of fasting and prayer. He proclaimed the necessity of conversion and holy living, and in 1670 set up a conventicle (collegia pietatis) within the church where pastors and laymen met to study the Bible and pray together for mutual edification. He saw such conventicles as ecclesiolae in ecclesia which would aid the pastor in his spiritual duties and return the church to the spiritual level of the of the early Christian communities. Modeled upon similar bodies among the Reformed, the institution spread throughout Lutheran areas. In the tract Pia Desideria (Pious Desires), published in 1675 as a preface to Johann Arndt's* True Christianity, Spener set forth the essence of his Pietistic doctrines-the central importance of Bible study, restoration of the priesthood of all believers, true faith expressed not in knowing but in deeds of love to one's neighbor, avoidance of theological disputation, emphasis upon spiritual life and devotional literature in the training of ministers, and preaching that should awaken in the hearers faith and its fruits.

As Spener's popularity spread, he became an increasingly controversial figure and his disciples were even expelled from Leipzig in 1690. Although little of his teaching was original (most had been expressed by Arndtian and Reformed Pietists before), his emphasis upon the new birth and exemplary life effectively undermined the position of scholastic orthodoxy and revitalized German Lutheranism.

A.B. Ritschl, Geschichte des Pietismus (3 vols., 1880-86; rep. 1966); P.J. Spener, Hauptschriften (ed. Paul Grünberg, 1889) and Pia Desideria (ed. T.G. Tappert, 1964); P. Grünberg, Philipp Jakob Spener (3 vols., 1893-1906); K. Aland, Spener-Studien (1943); F. Stoeffler, The Rise of Evangelical Pietism (1965); J. Wallmann, Philipp Jakob Spener und die Anfänge des Pietismus (1970).