Noll on Bible and Slavery in US History

An essay by Prof Mark A. Noll of Wheaton College in the collection Religion and the American Civil War (Oxford, 1998) outlines the place of the Bible in the American debate on slavery during the years leading up to the Civil War. Noll identifies the dominant view of the Bible on both side of the debate as “Reformed literalist.” Given that view of the Bible, the proslavery side seemed to have the upper hand. The Abolitionists were willing to move toward a “spirit not letter” type of interpretation, but all the orthodox saw this approach as a trajectory toward liberalism. Noll knows that “proslavery” — his term — is wrong, though a high view of the Bible is right; so he explores what might have gone wrong. He examines four alternative hermeneutical traditions that could have led to a different conclusion on slavery, while still holding to a high view of the Bible:(1) the “African American” way of reading the Bible; (2) the Roman Catholic; (3) High-church Lutheranism or Reformed; (4) the non-Southern Reformed, especially Charles Hodge. Only the last named of these had enough of a foothold in America to temper the discussion, but it fell short because of a root inconsistency in the American outlook which compromised the profession of sola scriptura and led to failure to draw a key distinction that would have unraveled the proslavery argument. Continue reading

Francke and Halle

The return from Lutheran bare orthodoxy to inward change, known as Pietism, was begun by Jakob Spener, though anticipated in the earlier writings of Johann Arndt. It grew wings, however, as a result of the life of August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), and transformed the city of Halle in remarkable ways. This is a brief rehearsal of this amazing story. Continue reading

Book: Barnes. Prophecy and Gnosis

Review of Robin Bruce Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis: Apocalypticism in the Wake of the Lutheran Reformation (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1988). BT 819.5 .B35 1988

Under the rubric of apocalypticism, this book weaves together a story about views of time and history, eschatology, astrology, magic and secret societies in Lutheran Germany in the century following the Reformation.

Prof. Barnes (of Davidson College) defines apocalypticism as a view of the future combining prophecy and Continue reading

Book: Zahn. The Influence of the Reformed Church on Prussia’s Greatness

This is a pamphlet I discovered at the WTS library containing a speech by one Adolf Zahn to the evangelical faculty of the Royal and Imperial University in Vienna in around 1871. It is interesting for two reasons.

First, it is fascinating to discover an intellectually vigorous Reformed movement Continue reading