Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 21:2 (June 1978) p. 182
The Herrnhuterian Pietism in the Baltic and Its Outreach Into America and Elsewhere in the World. By Valdis Mezezers. North Quincy, MA: Christopher, 1975, 151 pp., $6.95 ($4.95 paper).
When the Russians occupied their homelands at the close of World War II, thousands of Baltic nationals from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania emigrated to the United States by way of displaced persons’ camps in western Germany. This book describes the religious heritage of one of these nations, Latvia. It also provides revealing insights into the life and work of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, “a man of God and a genius” around whose Christocentric theology the eighteenth-century Herrnhuterian pietism developed.
The author is a retired Lutheran pastor. Educated and ordained in his Latvian homeland, Mezezers served parishes there and in Maryland, Pennsylvania and North Carolina where he now resides. Originally he wrote this book as a doctoral dissertation. He has had a varied career as dramatist, educator, editor and poet.
The book does not intend to provide detailed descriptions of Latvian history or the recent Latvian immigration, nor of the work of Count Zinzendorf. Those desiring further information along these lines should consult such works as J. T. Hamilton and K. G. Hamilton, History of the Moravian Church (Bethlehem, PA: Moravian Church in America, 1967). But Mezezers’ book does afford a splendid introduction to its subject and an excellent orientation for those who simply wish to become better acquainted with the Latvians in America. The book describes their temperament and heritage as well as their religious outlook from pre-Christian times, including their primitive concepts of God, Dievs (a name derived from Sanskrit).
Another contemporary value of this work derives from the recent renewal of interest in Zinzendorf (cf. G. W. Forell’s edition of Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion by Zinzendorf, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1973). Now that the Moravian Church has applied for membership in the Lutheran World Federation the relationship between these two churches needs to be clarified, particularly since Moravianism in America usually has identified itself with the Methodist family. Zinzendorf and the father of North American Lutheranism, H. M. Muhlenberg, were religious antagonists in the thirteen colonies in the middle of the eighteenth century. Zinzendorf himself, a lifelong evangelical Lutheran, was attracted to the Moravian Brotherhood by their deep piety centered on the concept of Christ as the Lamb. He wrote many hymns and prayers of unexcelled depth and beauty.
Along the way Mezezers reveals other interesting facts about the d...
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