Good Will Hunting: Adolf Schlatter On Organic Volitional Sanctification -- By: Michael Bräutigam

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:1 (Mar 2012)
Article: Good Will Hunting: Adolf Schlatter On Organic Volitional Sanctification
Author: Michael Bräutigam

Good Will Hunting: Adolf Schlatter On Organic Volitional Sanctification

Michael Bräutigam

Michael Bräutigam is a Ph.D. student at the School of Divinity (New College), University of Edinburgh, Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LX, United Kingdom.

Swiss theologian Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938) was not satisfied with how the Reformers and their successors interpreted the NT account of sanctification.1 One of Schlatter’s declared goals was therefore, in the light of the biblical data, to identify and correct what he called “shortcomings” (Verkürzungen) in traditional Reformation and contemporary Pietist views of sanctification. I believe that it is worth listening to Schlatter’s voice from the past, in particular with a view to the practical implications of the doctrine both for the individual Christian and for the church. Before we turn to Schlatter’s proposal, it might be helpful to briefly mention a few facts about his life and theology as a background for our reflections. Adolf Schlatter is one of the most neglected2 and yet at the same time most prolific3 and influential theologians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.4 Lecturing for a hundred consecutive semesters in Bern (1881-88), Greifswald (1888-93), Berlin (1893-98), and Tübingen (1898-1930), Schlatter influenced several generations of pastors and theologians. A short list of some of his students reads like a who’s who of twentieth-century German Protestant theology: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Erich Seeberg, Paul Althaus, Paul Tillich, Ernst Käsemann, and Otto Michel, to name but a few. Schlatter was born in 1852 in St. Gallen into a family with a strong Reformed heritage.5

Growing up in the context of the Swiss revival movement,6 Schlatter encountered an alternative movement in school and at university. The aftermath of the Aufklärung and German Idealism had left its mark in the classroom as well as in the lecture hall. Throughout his studies and his theological career, Schlatter would find himself in the line of fire between the opposing camps of conservative Pietism and liberal Rationalism, without clearly belonging to either of these groups.7 In the course of his life, Schlatter remained confessionally open and theologically independent, showing no reservations towards representatives of any theological c...

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