Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg: Bio, Schleiermacher, Rationalism & Liberalism

Hengstenberg, Ernst Wilhelm. History of the Kingdom of God Under the Old Testament, Vol.2. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1872.

Volume 2 contains a 48-page biography of Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Wilhelm Hengstenberg by Rev. W. B. Pope, Principal of Wesley College, Didsbury, Manchester. While not dated, it appears to be about 30 years after the posthumous publication of Volume 2. Some notes.

Various and sundry bio-notes:

1. “Eminent expositor” (many volumes, The Christology of the Old Testament being the "most famous and influential")

2. “Sound and honest and loyal in German theology”

3. “Foremost man in Lutheran Protestantism for nearly a generation”

4. “Laid the English theological public under very great obligation”

5. Born in Frondenberg, Westphalia on Oct 20, 1802

6. Several generations back to the 14th century of “political and ecclesiastical Hengstenbergs” with an unbroken succession, including leaders in the Reformation period

7. His father was a Reformed pastor favoring the “Union,” that is, the union of Lutherans and the Reformed in Germany

8. His father died early in life; his mother supervised his young life

9. Studied from 5-6 A.M. to 8 P.M. throughout life with 3 hours off

10. Age 20: translated Aristotle’s Metaphysics (although we find this hardly remarkable, other than that he knew Greek; but my Canadian parents had 5 years of Greek and Latin in high school and this was normative for European "gymnasiums" too)

11. Translated an Arabic document into Latin: Amurklkeisi Moallakah, allegedly, the basis for receipt of the Doctor of Laws (not sure what that is)

12. Studied Hebrew, Aramaic and related dialects

13. Went to Basle Missionary College as an instructor in ancient languages

14. Years later, Mr. Hengstenberg, despite his home and education, claimed that he “found the Pearl of great price,” a period of deepened commitment

15. He was presented a copy of Mr. Schleiermacher’s Glaubenslehre and famously said: “I shall not remain what I am; if I indeed did so, I should never be a theologian, but to that man, I shall never betake myself.” Two observations: (1) as a theologian, he was willing to change according to the Word and Spirit and (2) he was “plumbing the shallows” of Schleiermacher, as the biographer put it.

16. Schleiermacher was “fascinating German Protestantism”

17. Earned his Doctorate of Divinity at Tubingen. This is not the D.D. that Americans "hand out" to the likes of David Virtue, Leonard Riches, or Roy Grote. These were "earned doctorates" in those days

18. Taught at the University of Berlin

19. Famous students: Olhausen, Stier, Schmid, Tholuck, Havernick (we plan to get his Introduction), Keil, Caspari, Philippi, Schultze, and Kahnis. Even “grey-headed” men viewed him as a “master with profound respect;” Havernick, Keil and Olhausen are three names of note

20. Fought “vulgar rationalism.” For more, see below.

21. He edited the bi-weekly Evangelische Kirchenzeitung for 42 years.

Mr. Hengstenberg’s thoughts on feelings-based Schleiermachianism (think Costalized & liberal types):

1. It had “negative and unreal demands in the theology of dependence”

2. Schleiermacher’s God was not the “Triune God in personal manifestations

3. Christ was presented as an “Ideal” (we’re not fully sure of his meaning)

4. The Atonement was “Ideal” rather than substitutionary, penal, sacrificial and satisfactory

5. “The whole face of theology was changed”

6. “Man was the center of religious truth”

7. The “subjective spirit of the new Christianity [Schleiermacher] trifled with objective facts”

8. The experientialists “subordinated the firm external Word to the internal consciousness of feeling”

Hengstenberg fought the “vulgar rationalism;” apparently there were rude as well as sophisticated forms:

1. Rohr and Bretschneider, as rationalists, were in the ascendancy

2. Students caught “every argument against traditionalism” and “every sally of wit” against Confessional Churchmen

3. The rationalists had, over time, gained the highest places

4. “Pietism” and “Rationalism” had lost sight of sound Confessionalism (in this instance Lutheran), sound liturgy and vibrant faith in the three-fold mix, expressed in those ways

5. The rationalists and experientialists had surrendered the Old Testament; we would add, "functional Marcionites"

6. The rationalists turned the Old Testament into a “mere collection of literary fragments,” had “played havoc with the text,” and had “cleared way all miracles and all mysteries”

7. Hengstenberg was allegedly phlegmatic, quiet, and retiring, but believed himself “called to the arena of controversy”

8. He became known as the “acknowledged defender of the documents of Holy Scriptures, especially the Old Testament” and was the “avowed enemy of all temporizing and compromise”

9. As a Professor, he was not an enthusiast or charmer, but a skilled technician. He stuck to his text; he did not have the “extemporary eloquence” that “attracted crowds.” But his words contained an “indescribable vigor of profound conviction” that he “expressed in unfaltering words.”

10. He schooled other famous men who were his students. “He saved many from sheer infidelity and many more from mediating theology [=compromise, think syncretistic ACNA with their "co-existing integrities" = continuing confusions and incoherences]…”

11. He helped to refuel “High Lutheran and Confessional orthodoxy” although some called him a pietist; his strength was not systematic theology

12. Opposed all forms of “rationalism, disguised and undisguised” as direct “infidelity or that of indifference” and “pursued with unsparing animosities the manifold mazes” of rationalism; Schleiermacher “had almost entirely left the Old Testament out of the question”

Crassness, vulgarity, and the unbelief of rationalists that confronted Mr. Hengstenberg:

1. The Jews “erroneously and vaingloriously believed they were favored by Divine Providence”

2. The Jews “focused on their petty selves”

3. The Jewish believers believed in an “imaginary descent of Divinity for the giving of their laws…”

4. Jewish believers “borrowed from surrounding nations but gave nothing in return”

5. Jewish believers “excluded the rest of the world”

6. Jewish believers had “their peculiar enthusiasms” resulting from an “immediate afflatus of the breath of the Spirit of God”

7. Jewish believers were “content with no lower an authorship for their holy books than that of Jehovah Himself…”

8. Rationalism “poured immeasurable contempt” on classical and confessional believers; it apparently had socio-ecclesiastico-political dimensions; apparently, rude efforts were used

9. For the rationalist, the Hebrew faith “could not stand up to criticism, or moral or history”

10. Rationalism had small beginnings but grew in popularity

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