Rothe’s Ethics -- By: C. C. Tiffany

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 017:66 (Apr 1860)
Article: Rothe’s Ethics
Author: C. C. Tiffany


Rothe’s Ethics1

Rev. C. C. Tiffany

Dr. Richard Rothe is universally regarded, in Germany, as one of the most richly gifted theologians the nation has ever produced. Widely known as having been connected with the Theological Seminary at Wittenberg, the University at Bonn, and the University at Heidelberg; eminently distinguished for the originality of his views and the extent of his learning as displayed in his volume on “The Beginnings of the Christian Church;” and, moreover, introduced to the English and American Public, in words of the highest encomium and heartiest commendation, by the Chevalier Bunsen in his celebrated work “God and Mankind,” we have thought that it might be doing a good service to present to our readers a sketch of the philosophical principles and chief topics of interest contained in his most elaborate work, The Theological Ethics; a work which, from its size and peculiar phraseology, we may scarcely hope ever to see translated.

As a theologian, Dr. Rothe is eminently progressive. He

believes in development and growth. He is too historic to cut loose from the past; but he looks backward only to gain impulse to move on.

“Sunt quibus unum opus est, intactæ Palladis arces
Carmine perpetuo celebrare,”

but Dr. Rothe is not one of them. He reveres the past, but he believes also in a future. In the work before us he attempts, while preserving the essence of the Christian faith as contained in the New Testament, to reconstruct its formula in accordance with the scientific requirements of the present age.

Of the origin of this work, the author thus speaks in the Introduction. “I have been constrained, as it were, by an inward necessity, to express my theological views. Although it has ever been my inclination to take a place in some already existing school, I have never been able to do so. In spite of myself, I have gradually erected a theological edifice, of which I am conscious I am the sole occupant. But I have an irresistible desire to break through the limits of this scientific hermitage, and invite others to enter it, even though I thereby incur the charge of importunacy. For my system is no artificial elaboration, but a natural and necessary growth out of the depth of my nature, and it stands in the closest relation to my individual development; it is, in fact, the expression of it.” We are thus prepared to expect, in this treatise on theological ethics, a discussion of human life in all its moral bearings. Nor are we disappointed. Our author proposes to himself the task of treating of “the moral,” in the widest sense of the word, incl...

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