"Piety" refers to the inward and outward states and acts that
constitute a life of devotion--chiefly to God, but commonly extended to
parents, as when we speak of "filial piety," and by further extension
to any relationship appropriately similar to that of child to parent. Thus,
externally viewed, it consists of routine activities carried out in sustaining a
relationship that honors those who give us life and well-being.
The piety of Anglo-American Evangelical tradition is
"Christ-Centered" in that it us a life of devotion to God through
interaction with Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:21-23) Of course it is not the only
Christian form of piety that has valid claim to be Christ-centered. But its
focus upon Christ, historically developing and changing from period to period,
does have a distinctive character, and one that is arguably of great
significance for God's people and purposes in human history.
Some of the major aspects of Evangelical piety, centered on the Evangel,
the Good Word, of Christ as Saver:
A. Conviction of sin:
1. Alienation from God (condemnation)
2. Inability to stop sinning (bondage)
1. Reconciliation (forgiveness, acceptance with God, entrance into heaven
2. Regeneration (new kind of life, deliverance from domination by sin,
Of acceptance with God, inward transformation (love, joy, peace), freedom
from domination by sin (not perfection), and ability to persevere in deeds of
righteousness (individual, social) beyond any natural talents and strength.— AN
INTEGRAL PART OF CONVERSION. BELIEF AND CONFESSION ARE INSEPARABLE PARTS OF ONE THING.
A. Living under public ministry of the
1. Continually hearing "The Old, Old Story" preached
2. In the family and in groups of friends
B. Individual bible study:
1. Regular (daily) reading
2. Regular special times of private prayer
3. "Continuing constant in prayer"
D. Traditional Evangelicalism held the ideal of a whole life of discipline and holiness
WITH CONCERN FOR "THE FIELDS WHITE UNTO HARVEST"
A. Giving of Money and Goods:
1. To the Church--gifts and tithes.
2. To those in need regardless of their status.
1. Speaking individually to others about their condition before God and about
God's provisions for them.
2. Involvement in public efforts of evangelization, including Missionary
outreach across the world.
C. Standing for truth:
1. "Earnestly contending for the faith once delivered."
2. What is right and just and good in society, including "speaking truth to
power" and political efforts.
My point is that those thoughtfully living in Evangelical circles
throughout the generations will very likely believe they do not quite measure up
if they are missing out on any of these areas of activity. (The ones under
"Substantive" are of course foundational.) Anything beyond this modest
claim would, I believe, be a venture into what is more or less peripheral to
We must add that, for Evangelical piety, all of these activities must be
"from the heart" and "unto the Lord." That means in
particular that they are not done to appear right before God or man, and
not to earn God's favor, but as acts of faith in the reality of God and
his Son, and as ways of standing with, being a part of, what God through Christ
is now doing in this world. At its best, Evangelical piety is transparent
identification with the kingdom of God, as spelled out in Christ, and with
abandoned service to human beings in agape love.
Discipleship to Jesus ideally means, in Evangelical piety, living
interactively with his resurrected presence (through his word and people) as we
progressively learn to lead our lives as he would lead our lives if he were we.
In recent decades much of the ideal character of Evangelical piety has,
arguably, been lost in favor of emphasis upon believing the right (Evangelical)
things and associating with the right (Evangelical) communion (local,
denominational), tendency, or even para-church movement. In particular, inward
transformation of personality and outward conformity to moral strength and
purity has been weakened to the point of disappearing, except for a
"remnant." Those with Evangelical identification generally differ
little from the whole population in these matters, as can be statistically
Over the last century, Evangelicalism's commitment to the intellectual
side of piety has dwindled--a mistaken response to "Modernism."
Compare, by contrast, Richard Baxter and John Wesley, or even the original
writers of the "Fundamentals".
Currently, strong currents within Evangelicalism are returning to a focus
upon discipline/character and upon intellectual responsibility. Will
Evangelicalism have something substantive to offer in response to the awesome
need currently revealed in such comments as those by President Derek Bok in his
"President's Report" of 1886-1887?
"Filial piety" = [transl. of Chin (Pek) hsiao]: reverence
for parents considered in Chinese ethics the prime virtue and the basis of all
right human relations. (Webster's Third International, unabridged.)