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The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology

January 30, 2014

By Dr. Annette Aubert, Lecturer in Historical Theology at the Westminster Theological Seminary, and author of The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology, available through Oxford Scholarship Online.

The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology

As research in the field of transatlantic studies grows, we have an increasingly more complete perspective on history. Hartmut Lehmann suggested novel directions for research on American religion by emphasizing its transatlantic. Whereas the general tendency has been to focus on Anglo-Atlantic relations, my book highlights German-American exchanges. The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology provides a fresh and transatlantic perspective that challenges the standard interpretations of nineteenth-century Reformed theology in America by connecting it to German sources and its wider intellectual context. Various detailed studies have focused on the influence of Scottish Common Sense Realism on Princeton theology, and those of Idealism and Romanticism on Mercersburg theology. Yet to date less attention has been given to the influences of nineteenth-century German mediating theologians on Reformed thought in America. This book explores the German influence, including that of mediating theology (or Vermittlungstheologie), on Emanuel Gerhart of Mercersburg and Charles Hodge of Princeton.

The theology and influence of continental mediating theology is not unknown, but it has been undervalued. Research into the texts of mediating theology is noticeably less common compared to the manifold investigations of Friedrich Schleiermacher. Yet the Mediating School had a great influence on the theological methods of nineteenth-century American theology. The mediating theologians were heirs of Schleiermacher, and their ideas of a scientific and christocentric theology spread to nineteenth-century America via different avenues such as migration, academic networks, book trade, and translation work. German theologians in the context of the modern university and new sciences industriously wrote new dogmatic works that were quickly translated into English.

In this book I explore how nineteenth-century theologians on both sides of the Atlantic formulated theology in the context of modern science and the Enlightenment. It provides an important background for investigating nineteenth-century theology in America in general, and Mercersburg theology and Princeton theology in particular.


Discover more: the 'Introduction' to The German Roots of Nineteenth-Century American Theology is now free and available to read for one month.