An Overview of Protestant Spirituality -- By: Eldon Sheffer

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 26:0 (NA 1994)
Article: An Overview of Protestant Spirituality
Author: Eldon Sheffer


An Overview of Protestant Spirituality

Eldon Sheffer

Dr. Eldon Sheffer is pastor of Ripley Church, Greenwich, OH. An instructor in Greek at Ashland Seminary, he holds the D.Min. degree with specialization in ministry with men.

History of Spirituality

Christian spirituality has deep roots into the spiritual traditions of many centuries back to the time of Christ. However, the focus of this article will be to briefly examine some of the main streams of tradition since the time of the Reformation (sixteenth century). To give a sense of the more recent history of spirituality, the following traditions will be surveyed: Lutheran spirituality, Reformed spirituality, Anabaptist spirituality, Anglican spirituality, Puritan spirituality, the spirituality of Pietism, and Methodist spirituality.

Lutheran Spirituality

Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a central figure in the early stages of the Protestant Reformation. Although others made significant contributions to this renewal movement, Luther, through his quest” for piety, certainly played an important role.

Liturgical piety has been a vital element in Lutheran spirituality. Frank Senn points out:

The chief Liturgy of Word and Sacrament especially has been a way in which Lutherans have appropriated God’s grace by faith and responded with the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in prayer, liturgical chant, and hymnody. In their worship Lutherans have been nourished by the means of grace in order to put their faith to work in the everyday world. The liturgy has been formative of a genuine lay spirituality, which is also a major contribution of Luther to Protestant spirituality in general...1

From the emphasis on the liturgy of the Word and Sacraments come other elements which are important in Lutheran spirituality. The “priesthood of all believers” gave laity a greater stake in things of a spiritual nature. There is no difference between the clergy and the laity except one of office. The “Catechism” served as a foundation for spiritual life. Instruction in and regular attention to the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer is expected of Lutheran young people in preparation for confirmation.

Hymnody and devotional literature have also played an important part in Lutheran spirituality.

Reformed Spirituality

Reformed spirituality finds its roots in the experience and thinking of Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) and John Calvin (1509–1564). Zwingli emphasized two elements which relate to spirituality. He ...

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