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Protestant Theology through Catholic Eyes (1902)

A Catholic theologian criticizes his Protestant contemporaries for failing to connect with their congregants and permitting divergent theological opinions. Catholics often viewed Protestants as secular and servile to the state.

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The Evangelischer Kirchlicher Anzeiger in Berlin is the organ of the Prussian court and union theology. Thus, it is easy to understand why it has a difficult time acknowledging the ways in which Protestantism is flawed. It is all the more remarkable when it writes in a long lamentation (nos. 23 and 26, 1898) about the party that calls itself liberal:

“Who does not know them, these younger or older gentlemen who feel obliged to recite to Christians for edification, not the creed of the church, but the lecture notes [Kollegien-Heft] of their professor? Who recommend themselves to the community in which they seek office by presenting a new theory of the miraculous, but who otherwise insult the convictions of the most earnest believers? That in the Christian congregation, in its places of worship, there are needs other than those of reason, that the high enlightenment of the preacher could be taken as an affront to faith and creed – this is seen by these gentlemen as an injustice both to them and the progress of science. And it is considered the fault of church governance [Kirchenregiment] that it is not permissible for any given preacher to present the congregation with what seems to make the most sense to him at the most current stage of his inner development or to a particular theological school at a particular time. Admittedly, university theologians do not have as direct a relationship with the Christian community as the official clergy; however, objectively speaking, it is impossible that they could feel entirely devoid of responsibility toward the Church. To be sure, they have to teach scholarship, and faith is not something one learns at university. But through scholarship they are to train servants of the Church, and even though only a few are entrusted with supporting the development of a burgeoning faith among the student youth, it is incumbent upon all, at the very least, not to explicitly obstruct such a development. That all learned theologians might also be faithful believers by conviction will no doubt remain a pious wish; but it is surely a justified demand that all theological teachers of youth maintain a serious, ethically bound, and respectful attitude towards sacred matters. Scholarship has its temporal currents; thus, at times, the prevailing theological views are thoroughly penetrated by downright anti-ecclesiastical and anti-Christian currents, naturalism, nationalism, and skepticism toward everything transcendent, and the studying youth is weaned from an awe for the holy. And here everyone who renders a sober and honest judgment will admit: it leads to utter nonsense when the academic teacher of theology, himself at odds with the teachings of the Church or indifferent toward it, [decides] on the basis of academic freedom to undermine respect for the Church’s foundations in the minds of the studying youth, the future servants of the Church – and [when] the Church has to suffer this passively.”

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