Enlightenment Theologians. All Material Written By Thomas Perez

Written By Thomas Perez. May 8, 2010 at 7:03PM. Copyright 2010.


1. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

Major works

• Discourse on Method

• Meditations on First Philosophy


• Important French philosopher

• Founder of modern philosophy

• Founded philosophy upon doubt (Cogito ergo sum) and in doing so shifted center of knowledge from God to the subject

• Famous rationalist—tried to attain philosophical truth by the use of reason; (1) reason important; (2) human autonomy from God; (3) nature is harmonious; (4) believed in progress

• Attempted to prove existence of God

• Believed in mind/body dualism

2. Philip Spener (1635-1705)

Major work

• Heartfelt Desires for a God-pleasing Reform of the True Evangelical Churches


• Founder of German pietism

• Stressed relationship between faith and works

• Wanted reform of the Lutheran church

• Believed conversion experience was necessary

• Attacked ignorance and moral laxness of the clergy

• Stressed going to the original sources

• Promoted small groups within churches

• Called for reform of seminary education

3. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Major works

• “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

• A Treatise on Religious Affections


• Massachusetts Congregational minister

• Theologian of the first Great Awakening

• Often recognized as greatest evangelical American theologian

• Stressed sovereignty of God

• Promoter of Calvinism

• Wrote about affections

• Was a postmillennialist—believed millennium was ushered in with the Great Awakening

• Believed in a future for national Israel

4. Thomas Reid (1710-1796)

Major work

• Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man


• The founder of Scottish Realism (Scottish Realism attempted to overcome the epistemological, metaphysical, and moral skepticism of the Enlightenment philosophy of David Hume with a philosophy of common sense and natural realism)

• A moderate Presbyterian clergyman

• Believed the human mind perceives external objects directly through intuitive knowledge

5. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Major works

• Critique of Pure Reason (human reason)

• Critique of Practical Reason (ethics)

• Critique of Judgment (aesthetics)

• Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone


• Most important philosopher of the Enlightenment

• His approach to knowledge combined elements from both rationalism and empiricism; He said all of our knowledge of the outside world comes to us via our senses but the mind also contributes to our knowledge of reality. The mind processes the data

• We do not know reality as it is in itself

• Made a distinction between phenomena and noumena

• Rejected all metaphysical knowledge (Kant bifurcated knowledge and put God in the upper story)

• Rejected all metaphysical arguments for the existence of God, including the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments

• Made a distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions

• Applied the “categorical imperative”—“Act only on the maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (moral oughtness)

• The notions of God, freedom, and immortality were regulative principles; though indemonstrable they gave coherence to ethical thought and behavior

• Grounded theology in morality instead of morality in theology

• Christianity was a way of teaching ethics for the philosophically unsophisticated

• Jesus was an enlightened moral teacher

• Said Hume awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers

• Held that enlightenment is man’s emergence from immaturity, man may think for himself without relying on some authority such as the Bible, church, or state

6. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

Major works

• On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers

• The Christian Faith


• In Christianity, this German leader was the was the bridge between the Enlightenment and the modern era

• Profoundly influenced 19th and 20th century philosophy

• Known as the father of liberal Protestant theology

• Wanted to keep Christianity relevant in the wake of the Enlightenment

• Defined religion as “the feeling of absolute dependence” or “God-consciousness”

• Denied a historical fall; denied Bible’s authority and inspiration; denied Trinity; denied return of Christ

• Emphasized God’s immanence

• Said the Bible is record of human experience

• There is no external authority, whether Scripture, church, or historic creed, that takes precedence over the immediate experience of believers

• Immensely popular with the people

• great public speaker

• Translated Plato’s works into German

• Large funeral when he died

• Ideas would be sharply challenged by Barth

7. Charles Finney (1792-1875)

Major works

• Lectures on Revival

• Lectures on Systematic Theology


• Between 1824 and 1832 established the modern forms and methods of revivalism in America

• Taught that results of revival can be produced by human means

• Taught Christian perfection

• Was a professor at Oberlin

8. Charles Hodge (1797-1878)

Major works

• Systematic Theology

• Commentaries on Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians


• Most influential American Presbyterian theologian of the 19th century

• Taught at Princeton Seminary

• Linked with Archibald Alexander

• Espoused orthodox Calvinism and attacked deviations from it

• Defended authority of the Bible

• Critical of Charles Finney

9. John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Major work

• An Essay on the Development of Doctrine


• The most famous English convert to Roman Catholicism in the 19th century

• Held to apostolic succession of the episcopate

• Launched Catholic Anglicanism known as Tractarianism (stressing authority of the bishop as the way to renewal)

• Had a Calvinistic upbringing

10. Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)

Major work

• The Essence of Christianity

• Principles of the Philosophy of the Future


• A leading Left Hegelian

• Said philosophy needs to become anthropology—man stands at the center of the world

• Was hostile to religion

• Argued against personal immortality

• promoted naturalistic humanism

• God is the essence of man himself

• Believed the nation state to be the ideal human community

• Said the dissolution of Protestantism will make way for a democratic republican state

• Became a critic of Hegel

• His ideas became important to Marx and Engels

11. Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889)

Major works

• Instruction in the Christian Religion

• The Christian Doctrine of Justification


• German Protestant theologian who used historical criticism for his methodology

• His thinking influenced nineteenth and twentieth century liberal theologians

• Taught that theology must focus on morals and ethics

• Distinguished between “value” and “fact” judgments

• Denied orthodox views of justification, original sin, incarnation, revelation, resurrection, church, and kingdom of God

• Distinguished between Jesus of history and the Christ of faith

• Viewed religion as practical not speculative

12. James Orr (1844-1913)

Major work

• The Progress of Dogma


• Scottish theologian in the United Presbyterian Church

• Held that by divine inner necessity the logical, systematic statement of theology is a reflection of its temporal development

13. B.B. Warfield (1851-1921)

Major work

• The Lord of Glory


• Last conservative theologian to defend Calvinistic orthodoxy from the Chair at Princeton

• Expert on Augustine, Calvin, and the Westminster Confession

• Fought liberalism

• Defended inerrancy of Scripture

• Viewed premillennialism and dispensationalism as aberrations

14. John Locke (1632-1704)

Major works

• Essay Concerning Human Understanding

• Reasonableness of Christianity


• English philosopher and early modern empiricist

• Believed human mind is a tabula rasa (“blank slate”)

• The two foundations of knowledge are sense-experience and self-reflection

• Discarded Descartes’ Platonic concept of “innate ideas”

• Reason is the final criterion in ascertaining the truth of the Bible

• Believed the essence of Christianity is the acknowledgment of Christ as the Messiah

• Held that Christianity was reasonable and argued for God’s existence

• His ideas were a bridge to deism

15. Mathew Tindal (1655-1733)

Major works

• Christianity as Old as the Creation

• The Gospel a Republication of the Religion of Nature (1730) (became the Bible of deism)


• Famous English Deist

• Criticized alliances between church and state

• Criticized traditional views of the Bible

• Special revelation not needed for the rational person because all rational creatures have a law of nature or reason

• Influenced Voltaire’s religious outlook

• Advocated high-church Anglicanism

16. John Wesley (1703-1791)


• Founder of Methodism and primary figure in the 18th century Evangelical Revival

• Taught Christian perfectionism

• Taught prevenient grace—grace between conception and conversion

• Was basically Arminian

• Held to two phases of conversion: (1) justification and (2) new birth and the process of sanctification

• Son of Susanna and brother of Charles

17. David Hume (1711-1776)

Major works

• Treatise of Human Nature

• “Essay on Miracles”


• Scottish philosopher and historian

• Attacked both deism and orthodox Christianity

• Said all of one’s knowledge is the product of experience (empiricist)

• All religious sentiments grow out of two human emotions, hope and fear, especially fear

• Argued the existence of God cannot be proved by arguments from cause and effect

• Said the existence of God may not be established from reason or sense experience

• Said the report of a miracle is much more likely to be a false report than an interruption in the uniform course of nature

• Anticipated Kant by attacking ontological, cosmological, and teleological proofs for the existence of God

18. Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781)

Major works

• Fragments (opened door to critical study of the Bible, especially the New Testament)

• The Education of the Human Race


• German dramatist, critic and writer

• A deist who rejected validity of biblical revelation and explained the origin of Christianity from a naturalist standpoint

• Said Jesus of the Gospels is different than the Jesus of history

• View on gap between history and faith became known as “Lessing’s Ditch” –“the accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason”

• Believed there was an Aramaic Gospel of Matthew

• Known for his contributions in literature and the evolution of the German language

19. G.F.W. Hegel (1770-1831)

Major work

• The Phenomenology of Spirit

• Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences

• Several published lectures


• Influential German philosopher

• Most influential of German idealists

• Taught that only the mind is real, everything else is the expression of the mind

• All reality is an expression of the Absolute, who is God

• All that exists is the expression of the divine mind

• The state is man’s highest social achievement

• Held to four levels of religion—(1) animism, (2) God in human form, (3) incarnation of Jesus, and (4) reformulation of Christian beliefs into the concepts of a speculative philosophy

• Views God as being manifested in history

• Truth is in process, reality is developing

• Influenced Marx and Kierkegaard

• Accused of holding to Pantheism

• Is well-known for thesis/antithesis/synthesis model

• Contracted smallpox at the age of 3

20. John L. Dagg (1794-1884)

Major work

• Manual of Theology (1857)


• First Southern Baptist systematic theologian to be read widely by Southern Baptists

• Held to Calvinism

• Refuted Landmarkism

• Chief concern was holiness of God

• Came to baptistic view of baptism and rejected infant baptism

• God known through feelings, natural world, and divine revelation

• Believed in election and particular redemption

• Element’s of Moral Science (1859) was a defense of slavery

21. John N. Darby (1800-82)


• British leader of Plymouth Brethren movement

• Systematizer of Dispensationalism

• Major player in American fundamentalism

• Divided history into dispensations

• Held to a future salvation of national Israel

• Said church and Israel two distinct groups

• Taught two phases to Christ’s coming—a secret rapture and a visible coming

• Taught a literal fulfillment of Old Testament promises with Israel

• Was a hymn writer

22. Horace Bushnell (1802-1876)

Major works

• Vicarious Sacrifice

• Christian Nurture

• “Dissertation of Language”


• Father of American theological liberalism

• Reconciled competing theological ideas

• Bushnell’s influence hastened the acceptance of Schleiermacher in America

• Enjoyed a large following in America

• Held a theological perspective that was not completely divorced from traditional Protestantism but helped clear the way for a thorough liberalization of the faith

• Had great confidence in America’s future

23. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Major works

• Philosophical Fragments

• Training in Christianity


• Danish lay theologian and unintentional founder of existentialism

• Said no philosophical system could explain the human condition

• Held to the subjectivity of truth

• Taught the “leap of faith”—a passionate commitment to God in the face of uncertainty and objective reasoning

• Argued that free choice of faith alone brings authentic human existence

• His broken engagement with Regine Olsen deeply affected him the rest of his life

24. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Major work

• Zarathustra


• German philosopher

• Famous atheist

• Power of the individual he called “superman”

• Virtues of Christianity are weak and must be abolished

• Held there is no absolute truth

• Some view him as the father of postmodernism

• Spent last 11 years of life as a vegetable

• His views important today; he influenced Derrida

25. Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930)

Major works

• History of Dogma (7 vols.)

• What is Christianity


• German theologian and church historian

• Was the foremost German advocate of a Protestant liberal theological program

• Saw religion as reconciling culture and the Christian faith

• Taught that we must get past dogma to the practical thrust of Jesus’ teachings

• Took a highly individualistic approach to Christian living

• Emphasized love and the kingdom of God

• Most outstanding patristic scholar of his generation

• Was greatly influenced by Ritschl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s