An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 317 pages of information about An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant.


Allusion has been made to pietism.  We have no need to set forth its own achievements.  We must recur to it merely as one of the influences which made the transition from the century of rationalism to bear, in Germany, an aspect different from that which it bore in any other land.  Pietism had at first much in common with rationalism.  It shared with the latter its opposition to the whole administration of religion established by the State, its antagonism to the social distinctions which prevailed, its individualism, its emphasis upon the practical.  It was part of a general religious reaction against ecclesiasticism, as were also Jansenism in France, and Methodism in England, and the Whitefieldian revival in America.  But, through the character of Spener, and through the peculiarity of German social relations, it gained an influence over the educated classes, such as Methodism never had in England, nor, on the whole, the Great Awakening in America.  In virtue of this, German pietism was able, among influential persons, to present victorious opposition to the merely secular tendencies of the rationalistic movement.  In no small measure it breathed into that movement a religious quality which in other lands was utterly lacking.  It gave to it an ethical seriousness from which in other places it had too often set itself free.

In England there had followed upon the age of the great religious conflict one of astounding ebb of spiritual interest.  Men turned with all energy to the political and economic interests of a wholly modern civilisation.  They retained, after a short period of friction, a smug and latitudinarian orthodoxy, which Methodism did little to change.  In France not only was the Huguenot Church annihilated, but the Jansenist movement was savagely suppressed.  The tyranny of the Bourbon State and the corruption of the Gallican Church which was so deeply identified with it caused the rationalist movement to bear the trait of a passionate opposition to religion.  In the time of Pascal, Jansenism had a moment when it bade fair to be to France what pietism was to Germany.  Later, in the anguish and isolation of the conflict the movement lost its poise and intellectual quality.  In Germany, even after the temporary alliance of pietism and rationalism against the Church had been transcended, and the length and breadth of their mutual antagonism had been revealed, there remained a deep mutual respect and salutary interaction.  Obscurantists and sentimentalists might denounce rationalism.  Vulgar ranters like Dippel and Barth might defame religion.  That had little weight as compared with the fact that Klopstock, Hamann and Herder, Jacobi, Goethe and Jean Paul, had all passed at some time under the influence of pietism.  Lessing learned from the Moravians the undogmatic essence of religion.  Schleiermacher was bred among the devoted followers of Zinzendorf.  Even the

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An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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