Radical German Pietism (c. 1675-c. 1760)
Ensign, Chauncey David
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The purpose of this dissertation is to describe historically the German radical Pietist movement, which flourished from about 1675 to the 1750's, and to summarize and analyze its beliefs and practices. It is defined as that branch of the Pietist movement which emphasize separatistic or sectarian elements and Boehmist mysticism. No other work has ever completely analyzed and described these men and groups as comprising a movement. The most material of value is to be found in Max Goebel's Geschichte des christlichan Leben in der rheinsch-west-phalischen evangelischen Kirche (3 vols., 1849-1860), and in Albrecht Ritschl's three-volume work, Geschichte des pietismus (1880-1886). Radical Pietism owes much to anabaptists, spiritualists and mystics of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and is particularly indebted to Jakob Boehme. Prominent among the elements of his theosophy which Radicals accepted was his speculation concerning the fall of man, according to which Adam was created androgynous, with an immortal, paradisiacal body. With his will he desired the earthly principle, and lost his heavenly form. The "heavenly Wisdom" (Sophia) had been his "wife," but as a result of this Urfall, Eve was created. Thus the division of the sexes and "animal" reproduction were seen to be consequences of the fall. Through faith in Christ man may turn his will back to God, be reborn, and begin to acquire again the angelical powers he had lost. Boehme opposed the doctrines of imputed righteousness and predestination. The church which trusts in mere human reason and opinion, and persecutes others, is "Babel." The true Christian has his church within himself, and the true church is invisible and universal. Heathen of good will may be saved. God continues to reveal natural and spiritual secrets to the initiates. A golden "lily-time" is approaching. These elements were further developed by radical Pietism. Johann Arndt introduced a practical, mystical piety into the Lutheran Church early in the seventeenth century, and popularized the devotional scheme of the "Song of Solomon" in which the soul has fellowship with Jesus, her beloved or bridegroom. Radicals often fits Sophia into this scheme. Voet, Coccejus and Lodensteyn were among those who contributed to pietistic thought in the Netherlands, Reformed churches in Germany were influenced by them, and bt the Labadists, who actually split from the state church. Such individuals as Hohburg, Breckling and Kuhlmann brought a strong element of Boehmism into developing Pietism. Philipp J. Spencer's Pia desideria signalized, in 1675, the beginning of a reform movement in the Lutheran Church known as Pietism. A. H. Francke and others of his associates developed educational, philanthropic and missionary institutions at Halle, which became the leading center of churchly Pietism. Others of Spencer's associates were unable to keep within confessional bounds, and became radical Pietists. Some individuals gave direction to this movement before 1700 and later. J.G. Glichtel demanded celibacy as a prerequisite to union with the heavenly Sophia. His followers, called "Engelbruder," interceded for others as a "Melchizedekian priesthood." J.W. Petersen and his wife publicized the doctrine of the restoration of all things (Universalism), and aroused interest in an imminent coming of the "Philadelphian" church,, and the millennial kingdom. Gottfried Arnold's church histories pictured the fall of the church from apostolic purity and the heretics as better Christians than their persecutors. J.K. Dippel attacked orthodox doctrines, especially the satisfaction idea of the atonement. E.C. Hochmann spread separatistic Radicalism throughout western Germany. In that day of territorial church government radical Pietists were fortunate to find centers of refuge in the lands of Wittgenstein and Isenburg, Krefeld, and a few other places. The early period, in the few years before and after 1700, was characterized by zealous attacks on the state churches, called "Babel-storming." This enthusiasm was soon modified by quietism, coming from Molinos and Guyon, and taught by Poiret and Arnold. Alexander Mack and other followers of Hochmann founded the Brethren sect in 1708. They spread from Schwarzenau to Marienborn, Krefeld, and Holland, finally migrating to Pennsylvania. There a split produced a monastic-like community at Ephrata under the direction of J.C. Beissel. The Brethren practiced an apostolic cultus, with believer's baptism by immersion, feet-washing, lovefeast, and strict discipline. The Inspirationists, introduced into Germany from France, taught that their prophets were divinely inspired. They soon became a popular movement, but declined with the cessation of prophecy in all but J.F. Rock. During the "mature" period (from the 1720's to the 1750's) aggressive separatism was no longer common. The Berleburg Bible (1726-1742), edited by J.H. Haug, exhibited both the Boehmism and te quietism inherent in Radicalism. The Geistliche Fama (1730-1744), a periodical edited by Dr. J.S. Carl, gives valuable insights into the movement. J.C. Edelmann, who worked on the Berleburg Bible, left the Inspirationists upon being convinced that "God is Reason," and became a notorious critic of revealed religion. Despite many radical Pietist traits, the Moravian Brethren differed from them in their church concept, doctrine of atonement and concept of marriage. Several attempts of Count Zinzendorf to unite Radical failed. Gerhard Tersteegen propagated a sober, quietistic mysticism among the Lower Rhine radical Pietists. A new "Zion" was established in Ronsdorf by followers of the Ellers, who claimed to be the founders of the promised apocalyptic kingdom. They did not make their peace with the Reformed synod until 1765, and brought prophetic Radicalism into disrepute. Tersteegen and Ronsdorf are among the latest evidences of radicala Pietist activity. A summary of beliefs and practices of radical Pietists is given in the last chapter. They were critical of such state church practices as infant baptism and the admission of the unregenerate to communion. They favored apostolic customs, which the sects were able to establish as their church practices. They introduced feet-washing and lovefeasts, among others, and the Brethren insisted on the immersion of believers in baptism. Most separatists chiefly valued the subjective element in the sacraments. E.L. Gruber insisted that the true separatists did not form new sects. They believed that God would soon establish a universal, non-sectarian, invisible "Philadelphian" church. In this they followed the ideal of the English Philadelphians, and established similar societies in Germany for an unsectarian fellowship among those of like expectations. The sectarians felt impelled to form their own churches, in which they could implement their apostolic ideals. The Brethren and the Inspirationists were the major Gemeinden. The Buttlarites, Engelbruder, Ephrata Society and Ronsdorfer were organized on a more esoteric basis. The main source of tension within the radical Pietist movement was between these two opposing church ideals: the separatist or "philadelphian," and the sectarian. Boehmist Sophia-mysticism was carried by the "Gichtelianer" to the extreme of demanding celibacy, but most Radicals agreed with Hochmann that there could be a Christian marriage, though a "spiritual" one was a higher type, and marriage to the "Lamb" was the highest. Sphia-mysticism likewise involved an interest in the revelation of natural "secrets" in alchemy and medicine. Quietism discouraged this, as well as any emphasis on the feelings and "enthusiasm." The "mystical theology," a system taught by Hohburg, Poiret and Arnold, led to an amalgamation of mystical strains. Boehmism remained the framework of radical Pietism nonetheless. All Pietists valued the "pure life" above the "pure doctrine." Radical ideas, often based on Boehmism, were frequently at variance with confessional standards, though they held to the substance of the historic Christian tradition. They avoided trinitarian formulations, and allowed that heathen could be saved by following their "inner light." Even Radicals with a Reformed background opposed the idea of predestination. Sanctification to the point of perfectionism replaced the usual orthodox interest in justification. Belief in a state of purification after death, the universal restoration of all souls (the Wiederbringung), and a spiritualized eschatology were developed from Boehmism. The state-church legal relationship was not approved. Rulers were held to be competent only in the realm of nature, and not in that of grace. Radical Pietists commonly refused to take the oath or perform military service. Some groups practiced community of goods, like the apostolic church. Coming largely from the lower classes, they helped break down social barriers. One cannot understand these persons and groups without the concept of radical Pietism. "Separatism" is not an identical term. The importance of Boehmism as a basdis for its unity must be understood. Interest in the Philadelphian and Sophia doctrines has disappeared, but some contributions of radical Pietism remain. It helped gain a larger measure of religious tolerance in Germany, and fostered cooperation across confessional lines. Modern universalism and spiritualism are indebted to its for some of their ideas. The Amana Society in Iowa descends from the Inspirationists. The Church of the Brethren and related churches spring from radical Pietism, and can be rightly understood only in this context.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Boston University