One of the leading Awakened theologians in Germany was Friedrich August Tholuck (1799-1877). Tholuck was Professor of Theology at the University of Halle from 1825 until his death; he was a prolific scholar and an active preacher, fighting for an Awakened Protestantism and battling religious rationalists from the pulpit, at faculty meetings, in the lecture hall, and in both scholarly studies and polemical essays. Following are excerpts from two sermons he delivered at the university chapel in Halle to students of Protestant theology. The first, "What is human reason worth?," from the early 1840s, opposes the efforts of rationalists like David Friedrich Strauss to criticize Biblical texts by asserting that human reason is only valuable if it is exercised under the guidance of divine inspiration, as laid down in revelation. The second, "When is greater civic freedom fortunate for a people?," given during the revolution of 1848, is sharply critical of the revolution, and of calls for freedom, democracy, and civic rights. It shows the strongly conservative political orientation of most devout German Protestants of the era.
Between the growth of a secular humanism, on the one hand, and a religious revivalism on the other, it became more difficult in the years 1815-66 to find a religious middle ground, one that sought to reconcile revealed religion with developments in science and critical humanistic scholarship. Adherents of all religions in Germany tried to do this, although efforts in this direction were less common among Catholics than among Jews and Protestants. One prominent example of such an attempt was the founding at a conference in the Thuringian city of Eisenach in 1865 of the Protestant Association (Protestantenverein). Daniel Schenkel (1813-1885), Professor of Theology at the University of Heidelberg, a center of religious rationalism in Germany, was one of the co-founders of the group. The following excerpts from a pamphlet he wrote to justify the organization's existence outline some of the major arguments used to carve out a place between rationalist humanism and religious revivalism. Schenkel's distinction between religion and church, his definition of Protestantism in terms of freedom of conscience and individual spiritual inquiry, produced a very different picture of religion than did Tholuck's, which was based on Biblical revelation. Schenkel's linking of Protestantism to the German nation and to demands for critical thinking on the part of the educated German middle class suggested a religion aligned with liberalism and nationalism, once again different from Tholuck's views on religion and politics. The slogan of the Protestant Association, its call for "the renewal of the Protestant Church in the spirit of evangelical freedom" and "in harmony with the overall cultural development of our time," would suggest a way to reconcile Protestant religion with the new trends in science and scholarship, while retaining the ideals of the Reformation.