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German Discussions on the Atonement.
ART. VI.-Recent German Discussions on the Atonement.
Der Schriftbeveis. Ein Theologischer Versuch. (The Scriptural Proof.
A Theological Essay.) By Dr. J. Chr. K. VON HOFMANN.
Second Edition. Three vols. Nördlingen. 1857-60. Herr Dr. von Hofmann Gegenüber der Lutherischer Versöhnungs und
Rechtfertigungslehre. (Dr. von Hofmann Opposed to the Lir theran Doctrine of the Atonement and Justification.) By Dr. F.
A. PHILIPPI. Frankfort and Erlangen. 1856. Das Bekenntniss der Lutherischen Kirche von der Versöhnung und die
Versöhnungslehre Dr. Chr. K. von Hofmann. (The Confession of the Lutheran Church on the Atonement and Dr. von Hofmann's Doctrine of the Atonement.) By Dr. G. THOMASIUS.
Appendix by Dr. HARNACK. Erlangen. 1857. Schutzschriften für eine neue Weise alte Wahrheit zu Lehren. (Defence
of a New Way of Teaching the Old Truth.) By Dr. J. Chr. K. VON HOFMANN. Second Part. Concerning Christ's Work of Atonement, Nördlingen. 1857.
these days, when so many students of theology are, year
by year in increasing numbers, flocking to the Univerities of Germany, and studying the productions of its fertile thinkers, the University of Erlangen is one that has become of late a very favourite resort for_this purpose. Many reasons might be assigned for this. For one thing, the place possesses no small attractions of an external kind. A quiet country town of Northern Bavaria, it lies amid pleasant and picturesque scenery, just where the last spurs and outliers of the Bohemian mountains sink in gentle fir-clad undulations to the plain ; where the sluggish Regnitz flows northwards to swell the upper waters of the Main ; and is not far from the romantic tract of country which is somewhat extravagantly dignified by the name of Franconian Switzerland, nor from the grander scenery of the Fichtelgebirge. Nor is the surrounding country destitute of historic associations of great interest. The grand old imperial free city of Nüremberg, with its two cathedrals, its quaint old houses, and its moated walls and towers—seeming like a fragment of the Middle Ages preserved intact to our day, to remind one vividly of the days when Gustavus Adolphus held the city against the hosts of Wallenstein, or when Luther preached and Albert Dürer painted within its walls – is within easy reach of Erlangen ; while the episcopal city of Bamberg and the princely residence of Baireuth are not much further off. Altogether, in outward respects, Erlangen is a place where a summer may be very pleasantly spent, and where the aspects of German life in town and country may be observed, free from the disturbing influence of tourists and travellers. And then, too,
. in its University it possesses attractions of a high order for the theologian. It may be said to be the head-quarters of the modern Lutheran orthodoxy. The theological faculty, though not very large numerically, can boast of several men both able and eminent in their respective branches. Among these are Delitzsch, one of the greatest Hebraists of the present day, and well known as the author of excellent commentaries on various parts of the Old and New Testaments; Thomasius, one of the best modern systematic divines in the Lutheran Church ; Herzog, the accomplished editor of the valuable theological encyclopædia known by his name; and Hofmann, who is perhaps the most original, acute, and profound thinker of them all. His most important contribution to theology as yet is the first of the works named at the head of this article, the Schriftbeweis, or “Scriptural Proof,” as he calls it, which, though modestly designated on the title-page only "a theological essay," extends to the formidable size of three thick and closely-printed octavo volumes, and is virtually a complete system of theology. This is, we say, his most important work as yet; for he is at present engaged in another, on the Scriptures of the New Testament, which bids fair, if completed on the scale on which it is begun, to attain at least an equal extent and importance. The former work, however, possesses an interest for the student, not only as containing the views taken of the entire body of Divine truth by an earnest and highly-gifted mind, but also because it has given rise to a large amount of discussion in Germany on the fundamental article of the Christian faith, the doctrine of the Atonement. We intend here to attempt a sketch of the controversy on this great doctrine that has been carried on in Germany in connexion with Hofmann's views, as set forth in the Schriftbeweis, in the hope that it may prove both interesting and instructive to call attention to some of the recent aspects that have been assumed on the Continent by this great question, so much canvassed in some quarters in our own country.
Now in the outset of such a sketch, it is of no small importance for the right understanding of the controversy in question, to see with some clearness its position in the general movement or current of thought, to have a general view of the lie of the country as it were, before we descend to a more particular survey. The whole history of religious discussion may be regarded as one long warfare or campaign, in which truth and falsehood are the great opposing powers. The scene is at the first glance confused enough. There seems to be an endless variety of combatants, arrayed under different stan
State of Theology in Germany.
dards, or under none at all, some moving in one direction, and some in another, some wavering and halting between the two sides, some falling away, suddenly, from one or other, others gradually and unconsciously moving off from those with whom they formerly stood, one band meeting another, with varying success, at points or positions of more or less importance and value for either side ; here we see an obstinate struggle for a position of very small importance, and there the key of the whole country may be lightly given up, with little thought of its value. To understand aright the meaning and bearing of any one of these conflicts, it were well, if possible, to discover their place in the general plan of the campaign. What then, let us ask, is the position of Hofmann and his system in the general map or chart of theological opinion, and in what direction are he and his opponents respectively moving ?
It is well known to all who are at all acquainted with the present state of theology in Germany, that whereas at one time Rationalism, with few exceptions, almost universally prevailed, now this enemy of the truth has been to a very large extent overcome; and the general teaching (leaving out of view Strauss and the Tübingen school, with a few other yet remaining adherents of the old Rationalism) is evangelical and orthodox. This is undoubtedly true; but while the modern teachers of theology are certainly orthodox as compared with the preceding Rationalism, we must further recognize the fact that they are not all equally so, as compared with one another, or with the standard that would be applied by the great body of Evangelical Christians in this country. We may distinguish among them two, or perhaps three, general types of character. One of these may be regarded as the successors of Schleiermacher-not indeed as occupying his position, or maintaining his views, but as having advanced from the start made by him, and in the line in which he showed the way to a much more Evangelical position than he ever attained. For the great merit and historical importance of Schleiermacher seems to us to have lain in this : that he was instrumental in first turning the tide of battle, and giving it an impulse in an Evangelical direction. His own system contained many rationalistic and mystic elements, and, judged of by an abstract standard, would be reckoned heterodox enough ; and so too that school of theology which we may call generally, and in the mass, his followers is characterized by some laxity and boldness of speculation ; but it is now of a much more sound and Evangelical character than Schleiermacher's own, and, whatever may be its defects, the barometer is, so to speak, rising, not falling; and it seems to be advancing to a better and healthier faith than ever, having learned in the conflict with Rationalism to hate and avoid that cold, hard, dogmatism, which in Germany was the immediate precursor of the reign of Rationalism. This school comprises such names as Neander, Ullmann, Tholuck, Nitzsch, Dorner, &c., but it is, of course, from its nature, moie of a general tendency than of any special set of opinions that holds such men together.
With another party again, the reaction against Rationalism has been much more complete and rapid, and has led to a revival of the original Lutheran system, as elaborated by the divines of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The theologians of this class take their stand on the symbolical books of the Reformation, and give to them an authority which almost verges on the supremacy of Scripture; and in doctrine, judged by our standard, they err as much by excess as the other school err by defect, holding baptismal regeneration, consubstantiation, and all the extreme views of Luther on the authority of the Church and its ministers. This school may be represented by such men as Hengstenberg, Keil, Kurtz, Thomasius, and others; men whom we cannot but hold in high esteem for their eminent services on behalf of the truth, but in whom there is much of a confessional, a ritual, in a word, a High Church spirit, with which we cannot sympathize. The true ideal of a revived orthodoxy would lie between the two extremes, relying less on speculation than the former, and less on Church authority than the latter; and more simply and exclusively on Scripture, thoroughly and exactly understood, than either. Such we may see exemplified in such men as Schmid and Beck, of Tübingen; and may perhaps be regarded as a third form of theological thought besides the other two.
Now the first of these schools, if we may so call them, stands, it will be evident, in the most close and vital connexion with the general current of thought of the present age. It is quite in harmony with it, and can easily adapt its garb and form so as to be at once intelligible and acceptable to it. But it is otherwise with the revived Lutheranism of the other school. It has been attained by a violent reaction ; and must almost of necessity take the form of opposition and protest against all the current modes of thought and speculation. Not only Rationalism, but every other form of doctrine that falls short of the Augsburg Confession, are regarded simply as enemies; and there seems to be something forced or artificial in such a position, and little room for sympathy with the prevailing tendencies of the age. But the attractive power of current mo les of thought is continually acting on a party resisting or standing aloof; the influence of the imDr. von FIofmann.
pulse imparted to theology by Schleiermacher is felt even by the extreme party; and is now and then drawing some from it towards itself. The new Lutheran school have felt this even where they are strongest. Baumgarten has been influenced by it; and in Erlangen, which is one of the great strongholds of Lutheranism, Hofmann, whose speculations seem to be due to the same kind of influence, has become involved in a controversy with the most eminent men of his own school
This, which is but a very rough and general outline of the various theological schools on the Continent, may convey a substantially correct idea of the position and movements of Hofmann's theology, and of the nature of the discussions to which it has given rise. It would seem to be due very much to the influence of that mode of thought and theological atmosphere, if we may so say, that has prevailed in Germany since the time of Schleiermacher; and to be a movement at least in that direction. Hence, the more severe among his critics have not scrupled to regard his system as essentially rationalistic ; he has been called, as he says, to answer charges that his doctrine on the Atonement and Justification is “ Romish, Osiandrian, Socinian, mystical, rationalistic, and Schleiermacherian;" and Philippi, referring to the downfall of Schleiermacher's system, and presaging a like fate for Hofmann's nearly related one, has quoted the words in Acts v. 9, “ Behold the feet of them that have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.” Such statements are doubtless exaggerated; or at least rest on the controversial practice, too commonly employed, of holding a man responsible for all the consequences that may be drawn from his statements. Still, they indicate, as it were, the line on which the opinions in question move, while more exact inquiry must determine the precise point on the line, whether nearer or further from the centre of truth, at which the respective parties stand.
It was quite natural, that a work containing such a system and coming from one of the orthodox school of revived Lutheranism, should excite much attention, and raise much opposition among the adherents of that party. The works named at the head of this article are but a few out of a very large number that have been written on this controversy, some bearing more generally on Hofmann's method and system as a whole, and others more especially on his doctrine of the Atonement, which is both in itself the most important, and the chief point in which he has deviated from the current orthodoxy. Hofmann himself does not admit that he has departed essentially from the standards of the Lutheran Church ; he is