Nearly a century after Luther penned The Freedom of a Christian, the most popular devotional book in the history of Western Christianity, Sechs Bucher vom wahren Christenthum (True Christianity) echoed his theses: ''What is a Christian according to faith but namely a lord over everything; and what is he according to love but namely a servant among everyone.'' Johann Arndt's (1555-1621) True Christianity began with ''book one'' in 1605 and was completed posthumously with a length of about 1,000 pages - saturated with discussion and meditation on love. While the phrasing of Luther's and Arndt's theses is nearly identical, their respective contexts differed. As Wallmann notes, Arndt's pastoral ministry was addressed to ''the changed situation of the third postReformation generation.'' The late medieval person tormented by guilt and the efforts to overcome it by good works found liberation in Luther's proclamation of justification by grace alone apart from works. Arndt's audience in the postReformation context had grown accustomed to hearing of the graceful God who forgives sin, but Arndt did not see the fruits of this faith. As Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), the German Romantic poet, reputedly said on his deathbed, ''Of course God will forgive me; that's his job.'' Centuries later, the martyr to National Socialism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) called this ''cheap grace.'' Hence Arndt's opening sentence of the first edition of True Christianity-, ''The reason for this little book was given to me by the great and shameful abuse of the dear gospel, the great impenitence and security of the people who praise Christ and his holy gospel with full mouths and nevertheless with their works behave and act contrary to the gospel just as if they had renounced the gospel.'' ''Where,'' Arndt asked, ''is brotherly love?''
Faith, Arndt did not tire of asserting, is to be active in love for love is rooted in faith. ''Faith unites with God, love with humankind.'' ''The love of God and the neighbor is one, and must not be divided. True godly love cannot be better noted and proved than by love of the neighbor.'' ''God extends his love over all humankind, which he attests to not only in his Word but also in all of nature.'' Sun, air, water, earth are for all - the highest and lowest. And as God intends for us, so we should intend for our neighbor. God does not need our service, but our neighbor does. ''For so strong is the commandment of love to the neighbor that if it is broken then God's love is withdrawn from us, and the person is immediately judged and condemned by the strict righteousness of God.'' ''If you hate your brother, then you hate God who has forbidden such.'' True worship is nothing other than to serve the neighbor with love and good deeds. Such love is pure when one loves the neighbor not for the sake of one's own need and enjoyment, but purely for the sake of God because God has so loved us. Why ought you love your enemy? Because God commands it. Echoing Luther's comment that the heart creates its gods, Arndt wrote, ''The human heart is thus created by God so that it cannot live without love. It must love something, whether itbe God, the world, or the self.'' The entire book is concerned with true and false love and how to serve God and the neighbor.
To cite Wallmann again, ''Arndt's desire was to lead Christians to true godliness (pietas). He turned against a spreading ungodliness (impietas) among Christians. He was not directed against a theoretical atheism, which in fact did not yet exist in his time, but against the practical atheism which confessed Christ only with the mouth but not with the heart and that denied him in fact.'' As we shall see, by the mid-nineteenth century when atheism had arrived, Ludwig Feuerbach (18041872) - famous or infamous as the case may be for his claim that theology is really anthropology - chided Christians for their ''practical atheism'' that gave lip service to God but neglected love to the neighbor.
In 1675 an edition of Arndt's extremely popular and frequently republished sermons appeared with a new preface written by Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705). The preface caused such a sensation that it was reprinted independently within months with the title Pia Desideria (Pious Desires), and became the programmatic text for a renewal movement that soon came to be known as Pietism. While Spener at that time was a Lutheran pastor in Frankfurt, Pietism intentionally transcended denominations and national borders for its orientation was to the practice of Christianity; the emphasis was upon love inseparable from faith. Spener emphasized ''it is by no means enough to have knowledge of the Christian faith, for Christianity consists rather of practice.'' The mark of this practice is love. ''Indeed, love is the whole life of man who has faith and who through his faith is saved, and his fulfillment of the laws of God consists of love.'' ''Fervent love... toward all men,'' including ''unbelievers and heretics'' will accomplish, he wrote, ''all that we desire.''
In the context of bitter post-Reformation disputes not only between Protestants and Catholics but among Protestants concerning who is theologically correct, Spener argued that ''disputing is not enough either to maintain the truth among ourselves or to impart it to the erring. The holy love of God is necessary. If only we Evangelicals would make it our serious business to offer God the fruits of his truth in fervent love,... and show this in recognizable and unalloyed love of our neighbors, including those who are heretics____'' Spener's appeal to love over conflict gains added significance when we remember that he was writing less than a generation after the close of one of the most devastating wars on European soil, the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), itself rooted in religious conflict. Accompanying social disasters included famine, plague, class conflict, and growing criticism of the church, all of which fed into what Beyreuther referred to as a widespread secret atheism.
In this context Spener proclaimed hope for a better time, and in his pastorates in Frankfurt, Berlin, and elsewhere strove to live out the practice of love he proclaimed. The burdens of the poor, he wrote, are a ''blot on our Christianity,'' and necessitate rethinking our own property in terms of the common good. Thus he became active in the development of poor relief efforts in those two major cities. As leader of the Frankfurt clergy he dismissed haphazard almsgiving as ineffective and reconceived the city's poor relief. His work on social welfare brought him widespread attention and in 1693 Elector Friedrich III requested his advice on alleviating the dire social problems of Berlin. The city had nearly doubled in size to some 50,000 within one generation and included a large number of discharged soldiers and the widows and orphans of fallen soldiers. Spener's response was that support be provided through the creation of employment offices and public institutions for the humane care for invalids, widows, and orphans without regard to their person and religious affiliation. Financing was provided by the city parliament through weekly house-to-house collections; the state provided a subsidy to the discharged soldiers. The administration of the work- and poor-houses was assigned to 12 committees of elected citizens under the supervision of both Berlin provosts. The Elector created a central poor relief fund in 1695. Institutions for the poor, the sick, and orphans soon followed. In quick succession similar institutions were developed in many German locales.
Spener's concern to develop social implementations of God's love was energetically pursued by one of his most dedicated followers, August Hermann Francke (1663-1727). While preparing for parish ministry, Francke went through a severe crisis of faith followed by a conversion experience that charted the rest of his life. Now certain of God's existence and his own spiritual rebirth, he became a pastor in Glaucha, an economically and socially depressed suburb of Halle, the site of the new Prussian University of Halle. Francke's theological orientation was to emphasize continual growth in faith and improvement of life. The converted person was to be continually zealous in overcoming sin and diligent in doing good. Where such marks are not evident, ''it is,'' he wrote, ''a certain and clear sign that the life which is from God is no longer in him. For where it is in the person, there is no standing still but rather continual advance and perpetual growth.''
''Perpetual growth'' was certainly the characteristic of Francke's life and work. Through Spener's influence he received an academic post at Halle University as Professor of Oriental Languages along with his pastoral position in Glaucha. He initiated and throughout his life was the moving force behind institutions he centered at Halle. These included an orphanage, training schools for teachers and pastors, various schools for different levels and classes of students, a center for the study and translation of the Bible, a publishing house, science laboratory, and apothecary. He titled his account of these developments Die Fussstapfen des noch lebenden Gottes
(Footprints of the Still-Living God). This classic defense of Pietism and social activism was printed in English as Pietas Hallensis, and strongly influenced the British Isles and then developments in American colonies.
In many respects Francke was a modern entrepreneur. He initiated these institutions with only the small amount of money he found in his parish poor box, and they became the imposing series of Baroque buildings still standing at Halle University. He was also modern in arranging these institutions. He separated the orphanage from the poorhouse, the workhouse, and the house of correction. The orphanage was the most advanced of the time. Among other things it was a pioneer in hygiene. At a time when no one took offence at bodily uncleanness, Francke and his colleagues insisted that the children in their charge brush their teeth, bathe, and have clean clothes and bedding. Here cleanliness, as John Wesley affirmed, was indeed next to godliness.
The university became a center for theology students whose studies were related directly to practice, for example work in the hospital and knowledge of pharmaceuticals. Francke fostered such studies with the motto that a Christian ''shall be equipped and sent out so that all the world may see that no more useful people may be found than those who belong to Jesus Christ.'' Francke placed great value upon the fruits of love as signs of living faith. His energetic efforts on behalf of the poor and marginalized expressed his understanding of who the neighbor is and how to love him or her. The Halle programs were also conceived and perceived as expressions of the credibility of faith active in love in social and economic activism.
Care for the sick and poor among Roman Catholics had its modern roots in the work of St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) who is remembered not only for his own efforts to apply Christian love to social issues but also for founding the Sisters of Charity (1633), the first Roman Catholic congregation of women devoted entirely to care of the sick and poor. A major lay association arose with the leadership of Frederic Ozanam in Paris in 1833 - the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. ''Caritas'' organizations, beginning in Freiburg, Germany in 1897, soon spread throughout the world. These national movements came under the umbrella of Caritas Internationalis in 1957. The influence of De Paul and also the Sisters of Charity stimulated a number of Protestant leaders - women and men - in their own efforts to relate love to pressing social concerns.
The application of love to social and economic issues became increasingly difficult for both Protestants and Roman Catholics in the generations following Francke. The Enlightenment challenge to faith, to be picked up in our next chapter, was but one of the tests put to those who believed faith to be active in love. The late eighteenth century witnessed widespread famines, epidemics, homelessness, unemployment, and underemployment. Ten percent of the German population was forced to survive through begging. The nineteenth century began with the storm and consequences of the French Revolution (1789) with its enthusiasms, but the Napoleonic wars and the development of factories also contributed to personal and social suffering and demoralization. Responses came from individuals - including women - across the spectrum of churches and countries. The English Quaker, Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), mother of 11 children, began her ministry of love in London's infamous Newgate prison, and by 1817 had formed the ''Association of Women for Female Prisoners.'' She became a leading advocate for prison reform and against the death penalty under her motto, ''punishment ought not be vengeance.'' At home she became an inspiration to Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), and abroad she lectured in Berlin, Bremen, and Hanover. The pioneer of women's service in Germany was Amalie Sieveking (1794-1859), who during the 1831 cholera epidemic in Hamburg called upon women in the name of Christ to care for the sick. She called on women for assistance to serve ''the poorest and the weakest'' ''as far as our influence can reach with the heavenly power of love.''
The most successful recruitment of Protestant women for service to the marginalized came through the work of Theodor Fliedner (1800-1864), pastor of a struggling parish in Kaiserswerth on the Rhine. In his travels to raise funds for local needs he visited England five times where he became acquainted with Elisabeth Fry as well as the industrial development taking place there. At home he unsuccessfully appealed for the establishment of an asylum for released women prisoners, and thus began the work himself in his own home. By 1836 he and his wife had opened a school for young children and an institute to train women in nursing. These ''deaconesses'' as Flied-ner now called them attracted more and more young women to service as Christian nurses, including Florence Nightingale who spent time studying at Kaiserswerth. The deaconess movement spread throughout Europe and into the Near East. In the process of training and serving these women not only brought healing and hope to the marginalized, they also pioneered the way toward the emancipation of women from the dominant view of the time that limited women to the home.
Another social reformer of the time was Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881), who referred to Vincent de Paul as ''unmatched'' in the world for his love to the poor. Born in Hamburg during the French occupation, by 15 Wichern became responsible for his six younger siblings and mother upon the death of his father. Yet with incredible drive and the assistance of his deceased father's friends he gained a university education in theology. Wichern's visit to the Francke institutions in Halle impressed him and reinforced his openness to contemporary calls for prison reform and support for the poor. In 1831 he became an assistant to a Hamburg pastor, Rautenberg, who was influenced by the English proposals for Sunday Schools that would provide learning and moral instruction to poor children.
Wichern recorded his shocked descriptions of the living conditions of the urban proletariat in his diary, and his early writings parallel Friedrich Engels' descriptions of the situation of the English working class. The young Wichern used large parish meetings as a bully pulpit to challenge citizens to charitable work. Convinced that neglected and abused children had to be given a new environment, he gained access to a dilapidated cottage on a local estate and began a rescue home for children. Known as the ''Rauhe Haus'' (''Rough House'') because of its poor condition, but called by Wichern ''the House of Love,'' he, his mother, a sister and brother, moved in and began repairs. Within days they were bringing in neglected children of the city. By the end of the year (1833) there were 12 boys ranging in age from five to eighteen most of whom Wichern had met in prison or on the streets where they literally spent their nights. One of the 12-year-olds had been arrested 92 times for theft!
Wichern noted that the power of sin needs no demonstration but love does. He told the children he knew their pasts, but that they were now forgiven. In addition to forgiveness, he emphasized trust as the avenue to creating a new life. Thus he removed fences and locks, and stated there would be no spying. In spite of thefts and runaways, Wichern held to his vision that liberation from sin led to human freedom and love. As the children who remained gained in experience of freedom, mutual responsibility, and care for each other, the home expanded. By 1839, it was clear that Wichern needed more help for the Rauhe Haus, and he established a ''Bruderhaus'' to train others in the service of love. This was the beginning of a male diaconate. He saw a fundamental need for the development of a community that would train future educators and co-workers in the church's works of love.
The context for so much social misery was the beginning of the industrial age. There were no laws protecting workers or regulating their work other than the 1839 Prussian law that prohibited children under nine from factory labor, and that children were not to work at night, on Sunday, and no more than ten hours a day. People came to the cities in search of work and multiplied the industrial proletariat, most of whom worked for starvation wages and lived in overcrowded, terrible conditions. Friedrich Engels, the close associate of Karl Marx, knew these conditions firsthand from his youth in a worker family of Wuppertal. He saw on Sundays the pious factory owners and supervisors go to church while their workers barely eked out their lives. Wichern, too, understood the spiritual and material conditions of these workers, and sought to alleviate those conditions through the work of his deacons, a work he referred to as the ''Inner Mission.'' The point of the Inner Mission was that the church's missionary work also needed to address the loss of faith and social injustices of Europe.
Wichern's work became increasingly known throughout Germany, creating state and church rescue homes for thousands of orphans. By 1844 he was publishing his own paper with articles on the social needs of the day, reports on the churches, and works of love in order to strengthen the consciousness of solidarity and fellowship in service. He was optimistic that ''the spirit of compassionate love is again awakened in [the Christian community]. This has opened and confirmed the Kingdom of God upon earth as a kingdom of saving love in Christ.'' The Kingdom of God, however, was understood differently by many of his contemporaries. In the flux of the political, social, and economic issues leading up to 1848 - the year of revolutions and the ''Communist Manifesto'' - many socialists were ripe for a utopian classless society while many of the liberal bourgeoisie continued to be addicted to dreams of a technological utopia to which the present social pain was rationalized as the midwife.
Eventually aware that events were passing them by, the churches called for an all-German church meeting in 1848 in Wittenberg, the first Kirchentag. As they met, barricades were being manned in Berlin. Wichern attended on the condition that he might speak on behalf of the Inner Mission. After endless debates on the state of the church and nation, Wichern asserted that the issue of the Inner Mission must be taken up. His entire speech was impromptu, and there is only the stenographer's recorded text. He noted that people should not be surprised that the unprecedented has happened; they should have seen it coming in the oppressive conditions foisted upon the proletariat. The Inner Mission, he said, had long warned of the abyss that now lay unmasked before them. The people no longer go to the church, therefore the church must go to the people. ''My friends! It is necessary that the whole church recognize this: The work of the Inner Mission is mine! The church must place its seal on the sum total of this work: Love belongs to me as much as faith. Saving love must become the great instrument by which the church manifests the fact of its faith. This love must flame up in the church as the bright torch of God, making Christ known in his people. As the whole Christ reveals himself in the living Word of God, so he must proclaim himself also in divine deeds, and the highest, purest, most churchly of these deeds is redeeming love.''
Wichern was overjoyed by the Assembly's positive response to take up the cause of the Inner Mission. But as Beyreuther notes, Wichern did not remain free of the ''catastrophe psychosis'' of 1848 that affected the bourgeoisie. He saw the revolution as an atheistic uprising because he associated it so closely to Communism. The dramatic opening of the
Communist Manifesto - ''A specter covers Europe, the specter of Communism'' - fueled fears of an anarchistic and atheistic proletariat. At the same time, Wichern's theological perspective was a strength as well as a weakness. For him, the first step to the reform of society was repentance by everyone, including the working class. He conceived of the social order as viable with reform, whereas Marx believed the society was determined by class conflict and the church had outlived its usefulness. Whereas Wichern saw the origins of social and economic suffering in the ''de-Christianization'' of society, Marx saw them in the bourgeois method of production blessed by the church and state. Thus to the Communists and other social revolutionaries, the principle of ''saving love'' only stood in the way of a revolutionary ushering in of a classless society. The efforts of state and church to overcome mass need through a social policy on work and the economy was too little and too late.
Echoes of Wichern's call for ''saving love'' may, however, be heard in the turn-of-the-century Evangelical Social Congress that provided Protestant intellectuals and theologians a platform for their goal of establishing a modern welfare state. Its president for many years was the famous historian of dogma, Adolf von Harnack (1851-1920). On the Roman Catholic side there was Leo XIII's (1810-1903) encyclical ''Rerum Novarum'' (1891) that advocated social justice, especially with regard to working conditions. In America, ''saving love'' took the form of the Social Gospel movement that also promoted in words and actions the inseparability of love and justice. One of its leading exponents, Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) whose first parish ministry was in ''Hell's Kitchen,'' New York City, was a tireless advocate for social justice.
In his Dare We Be Christians? Rauschenbusch wrote concerning the class conflicts related to industrialization. ''The gravest issue is not simply a question of dollars and cents, but of the sterilization of love by social injustice. If love is really as important to God and humanity as we have said, this social antagonism becomes a very serious thing to a religious mind. Must we permanently live in a loveless industrial world, or do we dare to be Christians?''
Among the many influenced by Rauschenbusch were Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). Niebuhr (1892-1971) gave a sharper, more realistic focus with his view of justice as an ''approximation of brotherhood under conditions of sin,'' and advocated political policies that recognized the sharp distinction between ''moral man and immoral society.'' In King's Strength to Love he has a chapter that is an imaginary letter from St. Paul to American Christians in which he writes: ''I must say to you... that love is the most durable power in the world. Throughout the centuries men have sought to discover the highest good. . . . This was one of the big questions of Greek philosophy. The Epicureans and the Stoics sought to answer it; Plato and Aristotle sought to answer it. What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have found the answer, America. I have discovered that the highest good is love. This principle is at the centre of the cosmos. It is the great unifying force of life. God is love. He who loves has discovered the clue to the meaning of ultimate reality; he who hates stands in immediate candidacy for nonbeing.''
Was this article helpful?
Always wondered what meditation is all about but didn't knew who to ask? Here are some great information which will answer all of you questions on meditation. Do you want to improve your life? Are there areas of your life that just aren’t quite right? I felt the same way a few years ago. Although I had a good job and a nice family, there were parts of my life that definitely needed improvement.