Francke, August Hermann

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Francke, August Hermann (1663-1727): German Theologian.

Fervent and devout from his youth, Francke studied at Kiel and the University of Leipzig and in 1687 underwent a religious conversion which marked all of his subsequent thought. On Phillip Jakob Spener’s recommendation he was in 1695 appointed to the new University of Halle and taught theology there until his death. Taking leading pastoral and administrative responsibilities, Francke remained committed to Pietist ideals, which offered novel, anti-intellectual alternatives to mainstream Protestant orthodoxy while not completely rejecting it. He transformed Halle into a leading Pietist centre, helping to institute practical as well as purely educational initiatives, including a school for the poor, orphanage and dispensary. Focusing on biblical events, Francke’s mature theology emphasizes an exclusively Christocentric view of redemption. For example, Francke sees the Resurrection principally as an image of justification by faith alone which Christ performs in as well as promises to the believer. God’s saving intercession is invincible, co-operation on the part of the believer being largely immaterial. Francke’s own conversion came about through what he saw as a scriptural message of justification. Starting with the Autobiography (1690), Francke’s work is sometimes complex and even obsessive, for example in his account of the ways in which the new Christian must yet shake off old habits of sin. The blend of scrupulous and scholarly detail with mysticism which characterizes his writings makes him very significant to the later influence of Pietism, especially on Romanticism.

Further Reading

Peter C. Erb, ed., Pietists. Selected Writings, 1983


Kevin O’Regan

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