Pietism was originally a reform movement in the German Lutheran Church during the 17th and 18th centuries, which endeavored to renew the devotional ideal in the Protestant religion. The most predominant trait of pietism is its emphasis on a practical, active piety (praxis pietatis) rather than on doctrine. This involved, among other things, an emphasis on the performance of good works, the scrutinization of daily life, the diligent study of the Scriptures with particular reference to its moral teachings, the centrality of forming a personal and experiential relationship with God and disassociation from worldly practices such as dancing and non-religious reading, inevitably leading to separatism and a sense of exclusivity.

Continental pietism proved to be influential throughout Protestantism, and along with Reformed puritanism, inspired the Methodist movement in England and was the formational heritage of Jonathan Edwards in America and the emphasis on individual piety, and a vigorous Christian life.