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Ernst Troeltsch.

Ernst Troeltsch (17 February 1865, Haunstetten – 1 February 1923, Berlin) was a German Protestant theologian and writer on philosophy of religion and philosophy of history, and an influential figure in German thought before 1914, including as a member of the history of religions school. His work was a synthesis of a number of strands, drawing on Albrecht Ritschl, Max Weber's conception of sociology, and the Neo-Kantians of the Baden school.

His The Social Teachings of the Christian Church (two volume edition in translation by Harper Row, 1960) is a seminal work in this area.


Troeltsch was born into a Lutheran family to a doctor but went to a Catholic school in a predominantly Catholic area before attending university in Erlangen and then Göttingen. His ordination in 1889 was followed in 1891 by a post teaching theology at Göttingen. In 1892, he moved on to teach at the University of Bonn; in 1894, he moved on again to Heidelberg University. Finally, in 1915, he transferred to teach at what is now the Humboldt University of Berlin where he took the title of professor of philosophy and civilization.[1]


Christianity in crisis[edit]

Throughout Troeltsch's life, he wrote frequently of his belief that changes in society posed a threat to Christian religion, that "the disenchantment of the world" as described by sociologist Max Weber was under way. At an academic conference that took place in 1896, following a paper on the doctrine of logos, Troeltsch responded by saying "Gentlemen, everything is tottering!"[2]

Troeltsch sought to explain the decline of religion in the modern era through a description of the historical evolution of the role of religion in society, describing European civilisation as having three periods: ancient, medieval and modern. Troeltsch's understanding of the border between the medieval and modern periods is revisionary: instead of claiming that modernity starts with the rise of Protestantism, Troeltsch argues that early Protestantism should be understood as a continuation of the medieval period. The modern period starts much later on this account—it was later, in the seventeenth century that the modern period truly began. The Renaissance in Italy—as well as the scientific revolution—planted the seeds for the arrival of the modern period, and Protestantism delayed rather than heralded its onset. Protestantism, Troeltsch argued, was "in the first place, simply a modification of Catholicism, in which the Catholic formulation of the problems was retained, while a different answer was given to them".[3] Troeltsch saw this distinction between early and late (or "neo-") Protestantism as "the presupposition for any historical understanding of Protestantism".[4]


Troeltsch was strongly supportive of Germany's role in World War I: "Yesterday we took up arms. Listen to the ethos that resounds in the splendor of heroism: To your weapons, To your weapons!"[5]


In the immediate aftermath of Troeltsch's death, his work was considered passé and irrelevant. This was part of a wider rejection of liberal thought with the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy in Protestant theology, especially with the prominence of Karl Barth in the German speaking world. From 1960 onwards though, Troeltsch's thought has seen a revival of interest in academic circles with a variety of books being published on Troeltsch's theological and sociological work.[6]


  1. ^ Michael Walsh (ed.). Dictionary of Christian Biography. Continuum. p. 1108. ISBN 0826452639. 
  2. ^ Robert J. Rubanowice (1982). Crisis in consciousness: The Thought of Ernst Troeltsch. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida. p. 9. ISBN 0813007216. 
  3. ^ Quoted in Rubanowice, p. 21, from Protestantism and Progress (translated by W. Montgomery, 1958), p. 59. Original title: Die Bedeutung des Protestantismus für die Entstehung de modernen Welt.
  4. ^ Quoted in Toshimasa Yasukata (1986). Ernst Troeltsch: Systematic Theologian of Radical Historicality. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press. p. 51. ISBN 1555400698. 
  5. ^ Emma Wallis (9 April 2014). "Ernst Troeltsch and the power of the pen". DW.de. 
  6. ^ Garrett E. Paul. "Why Troeltsch? Why today? Theology for the 21st Century". Religion-Online. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Nix, Jr., Echol. Ernst Troeltsch and Comparative Theology (Peter Lang Publishing; 2010) 247 pages; a study of Troeltsch and the contemporary American philosopher and theologian Robert Neville (b. 1939).

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Troeltsch — Please support Wikipedia.
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6 news items

Vanderbilt University News

Vanderbilt University News
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 05:00:00 -0700

He has written five books: The World Calling: The Church's Witness in Politics and Society; Christian Faith and History: A Critical Comparison of Ernst Troeltsch and Karl Barth; The Death of God Controversy; The Use of the Bible in Christian Ethics ...
OUPblog (blog)
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:35:49 -0700

There are two kinds of churches. The 'church type', as the great sociologist Ernst Troeltsch called it, has fuzzy boundaries and embraces the whole of society. The 'sect type' has hard boundaries and tries to keep its distance. Until recently, the ...
Los Tiempos
Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:52:30 -0700

Estamos muy lejos de aquella jubilosa celebración de la era moderna que cantó en 1911 Ernst Troeltsch mediante su hermosa obra El protestantismo y el mundo moderno: la tolerancia y convivencia pacífica de diversos credos practicados simultáneamente, ...


Thu, 07 Aug 2014 08:14:12 -0700

... um den man sich nicht weiter bekümmern müsste, dass sie aber auch zu schätzen ist - und zu verteidigen zum Nutzen aller. Kämper zitiert in diesem Zusammenhang gerne eine Aussage des einflussreichen Theologen Ernst Troeltsch, der nach dem Ersten ...
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 22:29:22 -0700

Ernst Troeltsch svakako nije bio nekakva "usijana glava" željna rata i po svemu se razlikovao od mladog doseljenika iz Austrije gotovo bez ikakvog završenog školovanja, Adolfa Hitlera koji je ratu klicao na Odeonsplatz u Münchenu s desecima tisuća ...


Fri, 01 Aug 2014 11:23:34 -0700

On vidi sebe na liniji liberalne teologije, posebno na liniji Ernsta Trelča (Ernst Troeltsch). Graf je glavni priređivač kritičkog izdanja dela ovog legendarnog protestantskog teologa koji je, kao i Graf, nastojao da vaspostavi prosvetiteljske ideje sa ...

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