Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Jerusalem began to discuss central topics of Christian theology in a critical manner, and that Christoph Friedrich Nicolai applied literary criticism to biblical texts. It was in the two decades before the fall of the Bastille that Johann Salomo Semler, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and Immanuel Kant in their writings discussed and fully developed the programme of the Enlightenment. Religious and theological tradition, these writers insisted, had to stand the test of reason ('Vernunft'); further, Christianity had to adhere to the principle of tolerance. For Lessing, the ideas of Moses Mendelssohn were more important and inspiring than Protestant tradition. For Kant, criticism based on reason outweighed dogma.
To be sure, the programme of Enlightenment had two faces. One face was characterized by the application of the principles of rationalism and criticism. The other face was determined by the implementation of practical reforms in many spheres of life. One can even say that while the impact of biblical criticism within German Protestantism always remained limited to a relatively small circle of university theologians, it was these practical reforms which changed German Protestantism fundamentally and which helped to create and shape a new generation of Protestant clergy who understood their task in a new way. At least in the beginning, Pietists supported many of the Enlightened reforms wholeheartedly. In Halle, for example, Christian Thomasius stood behind the educational initiatives of August Hermann Francke. But while Pietists and Enlightened circles could co-operate in carrying through practical reforms, they parted ways when it came to matters of eschatology and Christology, and most certainly when Enlightened thinkers addressed questions of biblical criticism. Very often, and in many places, however, this was not the case before the middle of the eighteenth century. What we can observe, at least for some decades, are local coalitions between single members of both reform movements that were designed to carry through specific projects.
Enlightenment reforms mainly addressed six different spheres of German life. First, for the early Enlightenment as well as for the Enlightenment in the second half of the eighteenth century, the improvement of education was a central goal. Education meant that children should attend school regularly and learn how to write and read. Education also meant that people should learn the fundamentals of personal hygiene, that if illness occurred, they should consult a doctor and apply the right kind of medicine. In short, people were themselves responsible for their lives and should use the intellectual capabilities entrusted to them by God in order to improve their personal condition as well as the condition of their families and the communities in which they lived. It went without saying that curricula in secondary schools as well as academic
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