begin as early as 1836. And when late in the eighteenth century Protestants residing along the North Atlantic coastlines gained freer access to the non-European world, eschatologies like that of Spener were very heavily pressed in the cause of overseas missions.

All the evangelical movements saw in an emphasis on 'system' one of the roots of fruitless polemic; system was Aristotelian and all evangelicals were anti-Aristotelian. Here they were in the tradition of Arndt who in the fourth book of True Christianity confessed himself drawn to the doctrines of the sixteenth-century Swiss physician and Neoplatonist, Paracelsus: Arndt suggested that the inner light which is in every man signified the art of magic, and he viewed the Kabbala, the Jewish medieval mysticism, to be a great effort to recover the hidden mysteries under the letter of scripture. 'Where magic ceases', he declared, 'the Kabbala begins, and where the Kabbala ceases there true theology and prophetic spirit begins.'1 The vitalism which characterized the alchemical tradition had an obvious appeal to men who were themselves seeking to recover religious vitality, but there seemed to be a strong scientific basis for it too. Both Spener and Francke dabbled in the science and mysticism of Paracelsus, and Paracelsianism remained dominant in Germany and the north throughout the eighteenth century.

Any perception of a harmonious syncretism in this Lutheran devotion to the Kabbala and Hebraic studies was mocked by the general belief that Romans 11 promised that the immediate preface to the Last Days would be the conversion of the Jews. Orthodox Lutheran expectations were encouraged by the outcome of the dreadful pogroms in Poland in 1648. While these revived the messianic hopes of many Jewish congregations for the imminent return of the Messiah based on the Kabbala, the pogroms led also to the conversion of many thousands of Jews to Catholicism. This was not, to be sure, quite the outcome suggested by the exegetes. Nonetheless, so long as many Protestants had no perspectives upon the world other than those of the Bible and the ancient classics, the Jews were bound to be a central preoccupation for them. The Quakers perceived the Delaware Indians as the Lost Tribe of Israel; sixty years later Zinzendorf took much the same view, and in between Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards concluded even more pejoratively that the Indians were not Jews but Canaanites, or that they had been brought over from Europe by the Devil himself to be his peculiar people untouched by Christian influence. Spener had his own Jewish problem. From 1666 to 1686 he was senior pastor of Frankfurt, a town of very mixed religious allegiance with the biggest Jewish ghetto in Germany. He began working for the religious and moral improvement of the town in the traditional Lutheran way by seeking

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment