Book Review: Theology as Science in Nineteenth Century Germany: From F. C. Baur to Ernst Troeltsch

By Aubert, Annette G. | Church History, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Book Review: Theology as Science in Nineteenth Century Germany: From F. C. Baur to Ernst Troeltsch


Aubert, Annette G., Church History


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Theology As Science in Nineteenth Century Germany: From F. C. Baur to Ernst Troeltsch . By Johannes Zachhuber . New York : Oxford University Press , 2013. xiii + 318 pp. $118.95 cloth.

Book Reviews and Notes

Johannes Zachhuber's exceptional book addresses a topic that has received little scholarly attention in the English-speaking world: nineteenth-century German academic theology in the context of new scientific directions in modern universities. Zachhuber discusses how German protestant scholars from the Tübingen and Ritschlian Schools treated theology as a science in light of the novel notion of Wissenschaft .

This noteworthy monograph excels in several aspects, the most important being understudied figures and sources. Zachhuber skillfully uses primary sources to investigate in a penetrating way the scientific theology of several misunderstood nineteenth-century figures, and offers fresh readings of their views. By exploring the contexts of their intellectual and philosophical disputes, Zachhuber clearly depicts developments, influences, and tensions among scholars of that period, providing evidence that underscores the significance and complexity of the nineteenth century as one of the most creative and productive for theology. While he does not engage in great detail with the scientific endeavors of nineteenth-century mediating theologians, he does give considerable attention to other German theologians and their scientific theological work from 1820 to 1880, including Eduard Zeller and Adolf Hilgenfeld.

The book has ten chapters in two parts, the first part dealing with Ferdinand Baur and other members of the Tübingen School, especially the development and decline of the school and Baur's version of "historicist theology." Zachhuber asserts that the Tübingen School was characterized by a revolutionary "historical and exegetical scholarship" supported by theology and philosophy. The second part of the book looks at Albrecht Ritschl and the manner in which the Ritschlian School both extended and detracted from Baur's agenda of scientific theology. Building on Jörn Rüsen's work involving the formative years of historicism and idealist history of philosophy, a central theme in Zachhuber's book is the relationship between historicism and idealism and their positions within the triad of history, philosophy, and theology. The book depicts how theologians blended historical and systematic theology contained by the twofold enterprise of historicism and German Idealism.

The first chapter discusses the emergence and significance of historicization that became dominant in Germany. The chapter includes a general overview of the influence of Gotthold Lessing and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, especially Schelling's acknowledged influence on Friedrich Schleiermacher's ideas regarding religion and history. The second and third chapters focus on Baur's scientific theology and the influences that shaped his ideas. Baur's Die christliche Gnosis established an agenda for scientific theology that was both philosophical and historical. An example of his idealist agenda is his attempt to conquer "the dualistic dichotomy of history and reason" by way of "rational self-reflection" (49). Zachhuber explains how Baur created two scientific theological schemes: one "idealist" and the other "neo-rationalist." Zachhuber uses his interpretation to clarify the influence of the neo-rationalist program on Baur's students in terms of its historical method.

David Strauss, Baur's most controversial student, takes center stage in chapter 4. …

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