Theology and Piety

James M. Gustafson

Article Type: Perspective

Publication Date: 4/1/1983

Issue: Piety (Vol. 3, No 2, Spring, 1983)

Theology is reflection on the object of piety. Piety is a fundamental stance toward what is given in the world and human life: it is an attitude or disposition of respect, awe, and even devotion that is evoked by human experiences of dependence on powers we do not create and cannot fully master. Piety is not something esoteric; it is not to be confused with piousness—that pretentious display of religiosity that offends all of us, nor with pietism—that movement of religious life that strives to engender and sustain a high pitch of emotions. Piety is not self- stimulated; it is a response to the powers, objective to ourselves, that bring life into being and sustain it, that bear down upon us, and threaten us.

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