Ritschl, Mbrecht

Ritschl, Mbrecht
( 1822 - 1889 )
   Liberal German theologian
   Albrecht Benjamin Ritschl was born on March 25, 1822, in Berlin, the son of a cultivated Lutheran minister. He studied at Bonn, Halle, Heidelberg, and Tübingen, where he was influenced by the pioneering historical-critical work of Ferdinand Christian Baur. Ritschl began his own professional career in 1839 at the University of Bonn, where he lectured in New Testament, history of doctrine, and later dogmatics. In 1864, he moved to the University of Göttingen, where he taught New Testament and systematic theology until his death in 1889.
   Ritschl tried to ground his theology on the historical sources - most notably the Bible's narrative of Jesus and his work for human redemption. He reinterpreted traditional ideas of justification, reconciliation, and sin. He equated justification, which comes by faith in Jesus Christ, with the forgiveness of sins, through which humans gain ethical freedom and renew their fellowship with God. He understood Jesus' death not as a sacrifice for sins but as the end result of Jesus' obedience to his Father. Jesus is an ethical model, and Ritschl emphasized ethical action as opposed to metaphysical speculation. Salvation, in Ritschl's system, is not only individual, but social, symbolized in the ideal of the Kingdom of God. The community (church and society) becomes the place to express the new relationship with God.
   Ritschl's optimistic theology found expression in his writings, notably the three-volume Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation (1870, 3rd edition in 1874); Christian Perfection (1874); and the History of Pietism (1880-6). The latter works deal with practical issues of living the Christian life and include a critique of the Pietism he found early in his career at Halle.
   Ritschl's thought came to dominate the generation prior to World War I in Germany and remained popular in North America through the 1930s. Its optimistic view of the world, however, was shattered by two world wars and gave way to Neo-Orthodoxy through most of the Protestant theological community.
   Further reading:
   ■ Philip Hefner, Faith and the Vitalities of History: A Theological Study Based on the Work by Albrecht Ritschl (New York: Harper & Row, 1966)
   ■ Darrell Jodock, Ritschl in Retrospect: History, Community, and Science (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1995)
   ■ Hugh Ross Mackintosh, Types of Modern Theology: Schleiermacher to Barth (London: Nisbet, 1937)
   ■ David L. Mueller, An Introduction to the Theology of Albrecht Ritschl (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969)
   ■ Albrecht Ritschl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation: The Positive Development of the Doctrine, trans. by H. R. Mackintosh and A. B. Macaulay (1874; reprint, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1902).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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