The Theological Situation In Germany -- By: Albert Temple Swing

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 067:265 (Jan 1910)
Article: The Theological Situation In Germany
Author: Albert Temple Swing


The Theological Situation In Germany

Professor Albert Temple Swing

1. Of the sixty-three millions of people in the Empire of Germany, something over one-third are Roman Catholics. While France and America are the richest Catholic contributors, the German Catholics, in loyalty to the Papacy, are not surpassed by any people. Austria and Spain, and even Italy, are below Germany in their aggressive attitude.

Within recent years two important books have appeared which have struck very deep at Protestantism, viz. Janssen’s “History of the German People at the close of Middle Ages”1 and Denifle’s “Luther and Lutheranism.” 2 In Janssen’s account the Catholic situation, in almost every point of view, is shown to have been much better than it had been previously pictured by Protestants; while under Denifle’s analysis the great idolized hero of the Reformation appears in a much worse light than before.

2. At the close of the Thirty Years’ War, when Protestantism obtained its official recognition in the Peace of Westphalia, there were two Protestant parties in Germany, the Lutherans and the Calvinists (called also the Reformed). This was the first official sanction granted the Calvinists. At the

great Diet of Augsburg (1530), when the Lutherans thought to establish their doctrinal basis in the eyes of the Catholic world, they had declined to stand sponsor for the Swiss. Though Bucer and Calvin, and even Melanchthon later, sought for a fraternal union of the Lutheran and Reformed forces, nothing commensurate was accomplished. This was due, not only to the independence of the Reformed leaders, but chiefly to the development of a narrow and scholastic Lutheranism in the early years after Luther’s death. It was not till in 1817–18 that the two church parties were formally united in the Evangelical State Church of Germany. Two small fractions, of about equal size, have pulled out of this union and returned to the old ecclesiastical organizations. One of these, the Old Lutheran, is strenuous for the authority of the original unchanged Augsburg Confession (Invariata). In their eyes this Confession, which embodies the Holy Scriptures, is as sacred as the verbally inspired word itself.

The Lutherans of the Evangelical Church fall naturally into the types of thought which characterize all bodies, as more conservative or less conservative according to the influences of modern scholarship and of science, with the mediating leaders trying to harmonize the two trends and hold them in union.

Such men...

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