They should not separate themselves from the church, but try to build a better church. Third, Spener argued, although salvation history had progressed, as all the signs of his time indicated, God had promised to His children before Christ's return a prolonged period in which they could and should build God's kingdom. This hope for better times, as it was called, was a most startling and innovative interpretation of Protestant eschatology. This theological notion meant that all of those who followed the example of Spener were expected to labour most actively in the affairs of this world so that they would, with God's blessing, successfully lay the foundations for His kingdom. Rather than prepare themselves for the Day of the Last Judgement in the fear that this day was imminent, Christians should recognize that God demanded social responsibility and a high standard in the conduct of one's affairs. Through this, Spener redirected the activity particularly of those Protestants who were afraid that they would not gain eternal life. Instead of fearfully observing the signs ofthe times, he argued, they should initiate and shoulder reform projects that served the good of the church, and indeed the community of all Christians hoping for salvation.
Spener's various initiatives at Frankfurt soon attracted attention. While some of his fellow-pastors applauded what he had done and attempted to proceed in the same manner, others criticized him severely. They argued that by assembling a part of his congregation in a special meeting, Spener was about to divide the church effectively into two camps, those who were brought to believe that they were reborn, and the rest, the so-called children of the world ('Weltkinder'), who were supposedly doomed. Not surprisingly, there were soon also tensions right in the midst of the Frankfurt conventicle. While Spener tried to ensure that the energy of his conventicles would help reform the church, his most important collaborator, the Frankfurt lawyer Johann Jakob Schutz, believed that the church could not be saved and that any efforts in that direction were futile. For Schutz, as salvation history had progressed rapidly, the assembly of those who now met in conventicles was the true church of the end-time.
After long discussions and what was certainly a most painful process, the Frankfurt conventicle split in two. The followers of Schutz met separately, and after some years they decided to migrate to Pennsylvania where they hoped to find a place of refuge as the apocalypse approached. Spener, meanwhile, continued his work for some time in Frankfurt, but in 1686 he decided to accept the position of court preacher in Dresden. Although the Dresden post was considered to be the most prestigious position in Protestant Germany and within Lutheranism, Spener soon found out that he was unable to implement
Was this article helpful?