Schlatter’s Most Influential Essay

ATHEISTIC METHODS IN THEOLOGY

All attempts to illumine clearly the point at which the theological conflict among us arises render a commendable service. So it is fitting to welcome the contribution by Paul Jager in Die Christliche Welt 25 ( 1905). Without sentimental phraseology and with serious effort to establish a clear position, Jager demands that theology utilize “the atheistic method.” His remarks were prompted by Lutgert’ s statement’ that even in historical observation and judgments God is not to be ignored; an untheological theologian would be a self-contradiction. To this Jager replies that the atheistic method is the only scientific one: “We wish to explain the world (including religion, whether its social formation or the experience of the individual on the basis of this world,” i.e., “we wish to explain it, without any recourse to the concept of God, on the basis of the forces that are immanent within the world process.” In Jager’s view, then, today’s dominant leitmotif in all branches of science must function in the same way in theology. Jager has therefore boldly countered Lutgert’ s remark: While Lutgert indicates that it is impossible to ignore God, Jager answers: ‘Entirely right! And we do not wish to ignore him; rather, we wish to negate him.’ For whoever wishes to explain all phenomena “immanently” (on the basis of this-worldly factors alone)-whether Jesus’ divine Sonship or our own knowledge of God, whether human sinfulness or the apostolic gospel-does not ignore God but negates him. Any recourse to God is here excluded not only temporarily from scientific thinking, say in the interest of producing pure, authentic observation, but is categorically banned. The essential characteristic of theology becomes that it is blind to God. “The scientific method,” says Jager, “ignorat deum, knows nothing of God.”

Read the entire piece.  It is timely – in a profound way.

Remembering Adolf Schlatter on the Day He Died

Adolf Schlatter died on the 19th of May in the Year of Our Lord, 1938.  I love Schlatter.  His work is impeccable (yes, literally without sin) and his influence abiding.

I am unashamed to say that I think him one of the smartest exegetes of the 19th or 20th centuries.  He knew the text and it shows on every page of every commentary he wrote.  And he wrote one on every book of the New Testament.  Indeed, several New Testament books were treated more than once!  Sadly, very few of his works have been translated into English, which means he is essentially unknown in the non-German speaking world.

But he also wrote an introduction to the Bible (as a whole), dogmatic, and philosophical works.  He was well read and very learned, as even a cursory glance at his biography will show.

He has been accused of antisemitism by his detractors, and he may well have suffered a bit of it in his last years.  His little piece titled Wird der Jude über uns siegen?  Ein Wort für die Weinachtszeit, which he published in 1935, is more an encouragement to Christian fidelity to the standards of the faith and the uniqueness of Christianity than an attack on Judaism.   Yet, it is more than a little discomfiting.  Especially when Schlatter writes Der Jude haßt- Jesus nimmt dagegen jedem, den sein Wort erfaßt, den Haß aus der Seele.  I sure wish he hadn’t.  But I also wish Luther hadn’t written what he did about the Jews.

Yet the memory of neither Luther nor Schlatter should be controlled by one ill conceived idea when the vast majority of their work was positive and beneficial.  People shouldn’t be remembered only for their mistakes (though of course this is often what happens- in some cases deservedly admittedly).

So, today, read this very well written dissertation on Schlatter.

In Memoriam Adolf Schlatter (a Day Late)

Adolf Schlatter died on the 19th of May in the Year of Our Lord, 1938.  I love Schlatter.  His work is impeccable (yes, literally without sin) and his influence abiding.

I am unashamed to say that I think him one of the smartest exegetes of the 19th or 20th centuries.  He knew the text and it shows on every page of every commentary he wrote.  And he wrote one on every book of the New Testament.  Indeed, several New Testament books were treated more than once!  Sadly, very few of his works have been translated into English, which means he is essentially unknown in the non-German speaking world.

But he also wrote an introduction to the Bible (as a whole), dogmatic, and philosophical works.  He was well read and very learned, as even a cursory glance at his biography will show.

He has been accused of antisemitism by his detractors, and he may well have suffered a bit of it in his last years.  His little piece titled Wird der Jude über uns siegen?  Ein Wort für die Weinachtszeit, which he published in 1935, is more an encouragement to Christian fidelity to the standards of the faith and the uniqueness of Christianity than an attack on Judaism.   Yet, it is more than a little discomfiting.  Especially when Schlatter writes Der Jude haßt- Jesus nimmt dagegen jedem, den sein Wort erfaßt, den Haß aus der Seele.  I sure wish he hadn’t.  But I also wish Luther hadn’t written what he did about the Jews.

Yet the memory of neither Luther nor Schlatter should be controlled by one ill conceived idea when the vast majority of their work was positive and beneficial.  People shouldn’t be remembered only for their mistakes (though of course this is often what happens- in some cases deservedly admittedly).

Dr. Robert W. Yarbrough‘s 1995 Francis Schaeffer Lecture Series at Covenant Theological Seminary on “Adolf Schlatter and the Future of Christianity” is available for free as nine MP3s.

  1. Schlatter’s Life and Legacy
  2. Schlatter’s Life and Legacy – Q & A
  3. Schlatter’s Interpretation of Scripture
  4. Schlatter’s Interpretation of Scripture – Q & A
  5. Schlatter’s Methodological Genius
  6. Schlatter’s Methodological Genius – Q & A
  7. Schlatter and Prayer
  8. Schlatter’s Promise for the Church and Theology
  9. Schlatter’s Promise for the Church and Theology – Q & A

Enjoy a bit of Adolf today.

Adolf Schlatter: Virtually Unread in the English Speaking World

220px-Schlatter_im_LehnstuhlTragically, as this fascinating post leads us to understand. In part

Here are few of the brilliantly insightful things he [Schlatter] wrote:

-It is absolutely clear: there can be no talk of man’s but only of God’s righteousness. Man is unrighteous, for the relation which he establishes towards God and man is enmity and a lie. Only what is peculiar to God and God’s activity is the righteousness which establishes fellowship. The genitive δικαιοσυνη θεου permits no relaxing.

-Wir erlangen das Heil durch die Erfüllung unseres Dienstes.

-Gott hat die Scham dem Menschen ins Herz gepflanzt als einen Wächter, der ihn gegen das Böse empfindlich machen soll.

-In der Hand der Sünder ist auch die Gabe sündig. Nur in der Hand des Priesters ist das Opfer rein und wohlgefällig.

In case the reader wonders why the first quote is in English and the rest in German, I simply wish to make a point that only a small fragment of Schlatter’s work has ever been translated. But everything he wrote is worthy of translation. Schlatter’s works are an expansive woodland, scarcely traversed (especially in the English speaking world). Treasure waits in these woods for those brave enough to venture in.

Atheists as Hermeneuts: An Observation

For myself, there are two suppositions and one consequence of those two suppositions which lead me to the assertion that self avowed atheists cannot correctly interpret the biblical text.

Supposition 1) atheists deny the existence of God and accordingly God’s intervention in history.

Supposition 2) the Bible is, from cover to cover, a book about God’s intervention in history.

Consequence of the suppositions: if someone doesn’t accept 1, how can they properly evaluate 2?

Therefore, atheists cannot correctly interpret the biblical text. Others are free to come to their own conclusions based on their own suppositions- but I challenge anyone to accept the preceding 2 assertions and come to a different conclusion.*

_____________________
* Please do not assume from the observation here stated that I dislike or have disrespect for my atheist friends and atheists in general. That is not the case. The fact that they are not deemed appropriate interpreters of the Bible is no insult any more than the assertion that 95% of the people who think they are fine singers are in fact horrible at it. Atheists are, by their own decisions, horrible exegetes. And that’s ok. No one is good at everything.

For more on the topic of atheists as exegetes, see Adolf Schlatter’s Atheistic Methods in Theology. He states things in a more congenial (and lengthy) manner.

Adolf Schlatter is Still Worth Remembering

Adolph Schlatter died on the 19th of May, 1938.  I am unashamed to say that I think him one of the smartest exegetes of the 19th or 20th centuries.  He knew the text and it shows on every page of every commentary he wrote.  And he wrote one on every book of the New Testament.  Indeed, several New Testament books were treated more than once!  Sadly, very few of his works have been translated into English, which means he is essentially unknown in the non-German speaking world.

But he also wrote an introduction to the Bible (as a whole), dogmatic, and philosophical works.  He was well read and very learned, as even a cursory glance at his biography will show.

He has been accused of antisemitism by his detractors, and he may well have suffered a bit of it in his last years.  His little piece titled Wird der Jude über uns siegen?  Ein Wort für die Weinachtszeit, which he published in 1935, is more an encouragement to Christian fidelity to the standards of the faith and the uniqueness of Christianity than an attack on Judaism.   Yet, it is more than a little discomfiting.  Especially when Schlatter writes Der Jude haßt- Jesus nimmt dagegen jedem, den sein Wort erfaßt, den Haß aus der Seele.  I sure wish he hadn’t.  But I also wish Luther hadn’t written what he did about the Jews.

Yet the memory of neither Luther nor Schlatter should be controlled by one ill conceived idea when the vast majority of their work was positive and beneficial.  People shouldn’t be remembered only for their mistakes (though of course this is often what happens- in some cases deservedly admittedly).

In memoriam Adolf Schlatter…

McNutt on Grundmann, Schlatter, and Heschel and the Aryan Jesus

From Cambridge U. Press-

The most recent issue of Harvard Theological Review includes an intriguing article by James E. McNutt:  A Very Damning Truth: Walter Grundmann, Adolf Schlatter, and Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus

McNutt examines Susannah Heschel’s work and finds evidence that any theoretical dichotomy between religious anti-Judaism and racial anti-Semitism is likely obsolete. He finds compelling her argument that the nationalism of Adolf Schlatter added fuel to Nazi anti-Semitism, despite Schlatter’s aversion to National Socialism itself.  Read the full text of this important research article here.

Readers interested in this theme may also wish to read Lukas Bormann’s piece from the July issue of New Testament Studies, which looks at why many of the initial German members of the SNTS were also supporters of the Nazi regime. His article is written in German and focuses on Professor Gerhard Kittel from Tübingen: ‘Auch unter politischen Gesichtspunkten sehr sorgfältig ausgewählt’: Die ersten deutschen Mitglieder der Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS) 1937–1946.

 

It’s Adolf Schlatter’s Birthday!

That profoundly gifted exegete and theologian Adolf Schlatter was born on the 16th of August in 1852. His productivity was second to none as he published commentaries on every book of the New Testament (some for general readers and some more advanced), dogmatics, ethics, devotional materials, philosophy, history, and even an introduction to the entire Bible.

Only a fragment of his work has been translated into English and consequently he is barely known (if at all). This is a real shame, as he has much to say that’s worth hearing.

Not that everyone cares for his work, or even him. Both Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann studied for a time under him and neither of them were very impressed. And in more recent times, Gerd Ludemann has found him wanting because of his apparent support of the Nazi party (which, I hasten to add, was not the case at all!).

I’m Glad I’m Not Alone In Remembering Schlatter Today

The folk at Logos have too-

As the world spiraled toward a second World War, Adolf Schlatter knew his time on earth was coming to a close. Schlatter had stood behind the lectern of some of Europe’s most prestigious universities, authored important scholarly monographs, and ministered to students and parishioners. But his final days were spent in prayer and agony for the German church, which he feared was being swallowed up by fascism. On the morning of May 19, 1938, at the age of 85, Adolf Schlatter entered into the eternal rest of his Savior, whom he treasured and proclaimed faithfully all his life.

I have to say, again, that I think it’s grand that they’re going to offer Schlatter’s ‘Faith in the New Testament’ in English.

Adolf Schlatter’s ‘Faith’ In the New Testament

Logos is apparently considering undertaking a translation of Adolf Schlatter’s classic ‘Glaube im Neuen Testament‘.  This book has, astonishingly, never been rendered into English (a fact that continues to appall).  So I hope they do.  It’s brilliant.  Even the opening preface is a delight (because Schlatter tells the story of a little old lady who thanked him for his work- it had helped her understand what faith was better than anything else).

Schlatter was an awesome scholar.  Really a polymath.  He’s not read widely enough because of two factors:  biblical scholars in America can scarcely manage to bother with Hebrew and Greek.  Forget about learning German.  And second, Schlatter wrote so much it would take an army of translators working for years to finish his corpus.

So hooray for Logos for at least trying to get a remarkable volume out to a larger public.

On The Anniversary of the Birth of Adolf Schlatter

That profoundly gifted exegete and theologian Adolf Schlatter was born on the 16th of August in 1852.   His productivity was second to none as he published commentaries on every book of the New Testament (some for general readers and some more advanced), dogmatics, ethics, devotional materials, philosophy, history, and even an introduction to the entire Bible.

Only a fragment of his work has been translated into English and consequently he is barely known (if at all).  This is a real shame, as he has much to say that’s worth hearing.

Not that everyone cares for his work, or even him.  Both Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann studied for a time under him and neither of them were very impressed.  And in more recent times, Gerd Ludemann has found him wanting because of his apparent support of the Nazi party (which, I hasten to add, was not the case at all!).

I’ll be mentioning a number of his publications throughout the day.  I honestly hope you’ll get to know the man and his work.  Not at second hand (which is never the proper way to learn anyone or anything) but for yourself, through his words.

In Memoriam Adolf Schlatter

He was a brilliant exegete, a knowledgeable historian, a systematician, and a generalist.  And he died on the 19th of May in 1938.  He wrote tons of very, very useful stuff.  Unfortunately the vast majority is inaccessible to non-German readers.

He, besides being a Professor (teaching the likes of both Barth and Bultmann, neither of whom, by the way, were very impressed by him), was also a devoted churchman.

Ben Meyers posted a little snippet a few years ago when he laid hold of the tiny Schlatter biography published in English.  Other than Ben, I don’t think any other theobloggers or bibliobloggers have really noticed Schlatter (probably because they don’t know him).

More people should familiarize themselves with his work.  It really is quite good.  So now, in honor of the day he left this world, a little slideshow.

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