“A religious genius.” “One of the most massive figures of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Europe.” Ernst Stoeffler on August Francke

As far as I can tell, evangelicalism right now, here in America, could really use a re-infusion of the spirit of the 17th- and 18th-century German Pietists. And it is up to a school like Bethel University (truth in advertising: my employer), whose founding denomination is a Pietist one, to position itself under the fountain of historical Pietism and get a good, thorough soaking in that movement’s spirit. For though Pietism is our heritage, we don’t know what it was any more. That’s a sad loss.

Specifically, we stand to learn from such Pietist leaders as August Hermann Francke, the subject of this post, how to overhaul education, social action, and the Christian life along Pietist lines. If this sounds intriguing, then read on . . .

Also, for other posts on Pietism, Philip Spener, and Francke, search on those terms in the search box of this blog.

On August Hermann Francke from German Pietism During the Eighteenth Century, by F. Ernest Stoeffler

[This book is the sequel to Stoeffler’s The Rise of Evangelical Pietism.]

In his preface, Stoeffler identifies the following as emphases which Spener and his early followers regarded to be of basic importance:

•      the need for, and the possibility of, an authentic and vitally significant experience of God on the part of individual Christians;

•      the religious life as a life of love for God and man, which is marked by social sensitivity and ethical concern;

•      utter confidence, with respect to the issues of both life and death, in the experientially verifiable authenticity of God’s revelation in Christ, as found in the biblical witness;

•      the church as a community of God’s people, which must ever be renewed through the transformation of individuals, and which necessarily transcends all organizationally required boundaries;

•      the need for the implementation of the Reformation understanding of the priesthood of all believers through responsible lay participation in the varied concerns of the Christian enterprise;

•      a ministry which is sensitized, trained, and oriented to respond to the needs and problems of a given age;

•      and finally, the continual adaptation of ecclesiastical structures, practices, and verbal definitions to the mission  of the church. (ix)

He talks about the 18th c. as the ‘golden age of the Pietistic movement.’  ‘For multitudes of men and women, who had been alienated from the church by its ever growing detachment from life’s concerns, the Christian faith became once again a viable religious option.’

[Paul Hiebert, “Popular Religions,” in James Phillips & Robert Coote, Toward the 21st Century in Christian Mission, Hiebert distinguishes High from Folk Religion, and avers that Christians get involved in syncretistic, superstitious practices because their ‘high religion’ doesn’t deal with their everyday needs.  It is vital, (not ‘anthropological religion’) that God be seen as meeting man’s needs.  We are intensely practical creatures.  Impractical Christianity results in practical atheism.  And the area in which the world is most desperate to ‘have their needs met’ (or at least the Western world) is the area of morality and relationships.  Technology has fulfilled other promises, but has failed in this area.  This, then is the area in which we can demonstrate, through an experiential, moral, relational apologetic, that Christianity is not a religion so High as to be useless, but a religion in which the Highest reaches down to touch the Lowest (ourselves) and accommodate Himself to our practical concerns.

This is, yes, a mere step from ‘cash machine religion’–that is, the Health and Wealth Gospel, etc.  But because the needs I speak of ARE relational (human and human-divine relations being our God’s pre-eminent concern), this sort of practical, re-Folkizing movement in Christianity should bear little resemblance to a gratification machine.  We are not talking about gratification, or our-happiness-as-our-prime-concern-without-which-we-refuse-to-worship-God.  We are talking about emotional, relational, and moral healing which starts in each one of us, and affects every area of our lives, and meets our deepest felt needs.  Without God we will always, inevitably, fail to relate well with other people.  Once we have related well, again, with God, then we can began through his help and direction to relate well with other people.  For this reason, sanctification should be the very engine of counseling.  In fact, it should ultimately replace most counseling.]

‘Pietists were preeminently the advocates of change in their day.  Secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, they hoped to complete the Reformation, which, they felt, the sixteenth century reformers had only begun.  And significantly, many of them chose to regard true reformation not merely as a renewal of doctrine and ecclesiastical practice, but as a thoroughgoing renewal of man’s entire life, including his social institutions.

‘In time this religious perspective was transplanted to North America by a substantial number of immigrants from Continental Europe.  In its new environment it was merged with the impulses, quite similar in nature, which originated in the earlier Puritan tradition and the Evangelical Revival stemming from the Wesleys.  Thus it became an important aspect of the total matrix of religious beliefs, values, understandings, and attitudes in which Protestant church life in America had its origins.’ (x)

Chapter 1:  August Hermann Francke

‘Shortly before Easter in 1684 Francke entered the University of Leipzig….According to his own testimony the most meaningful institution at Leipzig was the collegium philobiblicum, which had come into existence on July 18, 1686 under the inspiration of Carpzov, and in which Francke quickly assumed a leading role.  here the more serious students, as well as some of the professors, came together on Sunday afternoon for the purpose of studying the Bible in the original languages.

‘Initially the interest in such study seems to have been dominantly linguistic.  When Philipp Jacob Spener, who had just come to Dresden, heard of it he advised the masters of the collegium philobiblicum that they should study the Bible devotionally and refrain from spending an excessive amount of time on difficult passages.  As a result of this suggestion the original intention  of the institution was modified.  The primary interest of the members of the collegium now became religious rather than linguistic.  This change was of major importance for Francke, insofar as the collegium sharpened most markedly his interest in, and appreciation for, the intensive, devotional study of Scripture.  In reference to it he says, ‘I can assure anyone, that, if I consider the benefit which has come to me as a result of it, I must regard this collegium as the most useful and best which I have ever held at any university.’  Hereafter Francke’s interests were turned from systematics to exegesis.’ (4)

‘Francke’s autobiographical observations would lead us to believe that his experiences at Leipzig had done more than serve only his scholarly interests.  They awakened within him the strong desire for a new religious orientation.  His main aim, he tells us, was now to become a true child of God.’ (5)

‘During his stay with Spener Francke appears to have become sure of himself and of his theological presuppositions.  This is indicated by the fact that upon his return to Leipzig (February 1689) Francke’s lectures quickly developed into the major attraction for students.  Three hundred strong they came out to hear him as he lectured in the great hall under the auspices of the collegium philobiblicum. In addition, Francke preached whenever the opportunity presented itself.  The result of his activity was an increasingly noticeable change in the religious and intellectual atmosphere of the university.  This is mad apparent by the curious complaints which the theological faculty lodged with the ruling authorities.  Students are seriously beginning to neglect lectures on systematic theology, they lamented, as well as disputations about the symbolical books, and if one mentions philosophical studies, logic, or metaphysics students only smile.  If one announces a lecture on one of these subjects the auditors are so few that one cannot even begin.’ (6)

‘The content of his theology was strongly influenced by his relation to Lutheran Orthodoxy.  While he still shared the basic theological convictions of Orthodoxy, he had become a stranger to its primary task, which was conceived to be polemical.  For him the basic theological concern was no longer reine Lehre but das Nutzliche, or that which has immediate relevance for the Christian life.  Lives changed, a church renewed, a nation reformed, a world evangelized–these were the great objectives in the realization of which he meant to employ his energies.  Theologizing, therefore, was of interest to him only insofar as it served to orient the Pietistic Movement toward these ends.’ (7)

‘While to his orthodox contemporaries Christianity was preeminently a matter of assent to received understandings concerning essential Christian doctrines, to Francke it was primarily a new state of being expressed in a new life.  At this point Francke has been generally misunderstood by his interpreters.  His central concern was not the experience of conversion and the Busskampf which leads up to it.  His real interest was in the individual’s new relation to god which must lead to a progressive amendment of life.

‘True faith,’ he says, ‘is a divine work in us, which transforms us and bestows upon us the new birth from God, which kills the old Adam, and fashions us into a man who is entirely different in heart, soul, mind, and in all his powers.’  To initiate this new life conversion is necessary, of course, but the emphasis is not on the means but on the result. That this was Francke’s primary interest is indicated also by his basic educational aim which, as will be pointed out, was essentially that of a life progressively conformed to the will of God.’ (8)

‘Like Spener, and in contradistinction to Orthodoxy, [Francke] emphasized the subjective effects of salvation rather than the objective ground for it.  In both men the primary concern has to do with what God does now for a sinner in need, rather than with God’s salvatory acts in history, though the latter are accepted as absolutely essential.  The practical effect of this is that both in Spener and in Francke we read more about regeneration than about justification.  The latter followed the former also in the general understanding of the ordo salutis, and the primary effect of divine illumination upon the will rather than the intellect, with a resulting emphasis upon man’s own effort in his salvation.  Here Francke would say that even continuation in the state of grace depends on the set of a man’s will….’ (10)

‘…the central theological issues to which he addressed himself…revolve around the new state of being, the quality of life which may be expected to result therefrom, and the conditions in church and society in which the new life is to be lived.’ (11)

In preparing to preach on true, living faith (as opposed to mere mental assent), the Lord impressed on Francke that he did not at present have that kind of faith.  This precipitated a crisis of earnest prayer.  He relates:

‘So great was his fatherly love, that he did not relieve me gradually of such doubt and inquietude of heart, which would have been enough for me.  But in order that I might be the more fully convinced, and in order that my reason might be bridled so as not to gainsay his power and faithfulness, he heard me suddenly.  Even as one turns his hand, so all my doubts were gone.  In my heart I was assured of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  I was able to call God not only God, but Father.  All sadness and restlessness of heart was taken away at once.  On the other hand, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a flood of joy, so that audibly I praised and magnified God, who had manifested such great grace to me.  Upon standing up I was minded entirely differently from the way I had been when I knelt down.–That, then, is the time which I may really regard as my true conversion, for from that time on my Christianity has had substance.  From that time on it was easy to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously and joyfully in this world.–And since I had once made an idol of erudition, I know realized that faith as big as a mustard seed is worth more than a hundred bags of erudition, and that all knowledge acquired at the feet of Gamaliel is to be accounted as dung as compared with the glorious knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord.’  This, then, is the experience which constitutes the foundation stone of Francke’s theology.’ (12)

[Description of the new kingdom, the new way of life of a Christian, according to Francke]:

‘It is a Kingdom created and sustained by God’s undeserved grace.  Its locus is the heart of those who have freely accepted the salvation in Christ which God offers all men.  Regnant within it is God’s Law which is by no means abrogated for the Christian but which, quite to the contrary, now orders every relationship in which the Christian stands

[The ‘internalization’ of the law described in the 6 antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount, and suggested by the words ‘I have written my law on your hearts.’]

In fact, the Christian’s obedience to the divine Law makes the difference between the Kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God.  Of course, to the converted Christian the Law no longer has the force of a commandment.  For him the motivational force is the voice of the Spirit within, a voice which he obeys freely and gladly.

[This of course is the problem with bibliolatry.  It moves gravitationally back to the Old Covenant, in which the law was written, read, processed by the mind, and obeyed externally as a commandment.  Bibliolatry is rationalist, and does not allow ‘inner voices.’]

From day to day he remembers, too, that this is the Kingdom in which God’s free and unfathomable love may be trusted utterly in relation to everything life has to offer, and that, for that reason, life in this Kingdom alone is one of overflowing joy and utter fulfillment.’ (13)

‘The widespread impression that Francke’s chief contribution to Pietism was a rigid schematization of the Spenerian insistence upon a conscious conversion is not born out by the facts.  In trying to combat this notion Beyreuther says: ‘The fable that Francke held to a conversion methodology in a way that was completely legalistic and insufferable, with a rigid sequence of Busskampf and acceptance of grace, and with a fixing of day and hour, appears…, of course, to be ineradicable.  August Hermann Francke was different!’….Actually he does not seem to have been interested in any given methodology.  What he hoped to accomplish through his preaching was that the sinner, as well as the saint, might find the fullness of the life which Francke felt God had intended for him.  Human nature being the same everywhere, he simply took for granted that ordinarily a radical change of religious orientation, the necessity of which he taught in common with Spener, is accompanied by appropriate feeling tones.’ (14)

‘In faithfulness to Reformation theology he pointed out that the transition from one kingdom to another, or from a ‘state of nature’ to a ‘state of grace,’ is initially effected by God’s prevenient grace.  Nothing can possibly happen apart from it.  On the other hand, nothing will happen unless man in his God-given freedom accepts this gift in genuine repentance.  In analyzing the psychological nature of repentance Francke, after much experience with great numbers of people, found that it was frequently accompanied by a decided inner struggle, the Busskampf.  By this he did not mean the artificially stimulated emotional state which we associate with some forms of later revivalism.’ (15)

‘The difference between Luther and Francke here is that Luther is still residually predestinarian, while Francke simply decided to affirm and live with the irreconcilable paradox of God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s full responsibility for his religious and moral choices. In fact, much of the polemic which Francke, and especially his followers, directed against orthodox Lutheranism was focused upon its alleged unwillingness to treat man as a fully responsible agent.’ (16)

On the relation between law and gospel, in which he approached the Calvinistic tradition, probably, says Stoeffler, due to ‘his pastoral insight into the human situation.’:

‘Without the hammer of the Law, he felt, the sinner tends to overlook God’s Gnadenstunden, and without the Law the Christian cannot know what the conditions of the new life are meant to be.  For these reasons Francke was able to rejoice in the Law as well as in the Gospel.  He was certain that in the divine economy both have their ordained function, the one preeminently to convict and instruct, the other to give comfort and hope.’ (17)

‘Perhaps the outstanding thing about Francke’s understanding of the life of faith is that here, as at various other points in his theology, he is closer to the Reformed Tradition than to Luther.  Accordingly he is wholly given to the dynamic conception of the life of faith which we find in Calvin [!!]. His tireless exhortation is that his hearers must grow in faith, grow in wisdom, grow in dedication, grow in good works, and by the same token, that they must dissociate themselves increasingly from the ‘world’ and from the pleasures of the ‘flesh.’  Nor can this be the result of an occasional attempt to amend one’s life.  It must, rather, be a constant, a daily effort.’ (18)

‘Francke is totally uncompromising in his application of the New Testament ethic to man’s daily relationships.  He did not recognize any adiaphora because they may lead to temptation.  A line of action either serves the self and is, therefore, sinful, or it serves God and is, therefore, acceptable in his sight.’ (18)

‘The judgment of Hirsch is perhaps too harsh when he says that Francke regarded all natural desires as evil.  It would be more correct to say that according to Francke all of man’s wants and endeavors are evil unless they can honestly be regarded as serving God’s honor either directly or indirectly.  It is quite obvious, of course, that in the application of this principle a certain casuistry is unavoidable and that the scope of the pietistic morality will differ according to the personal inclinations of the individual interpreter.  By and large Francke himself was a man of broad sympathies, of irenic temper, and of massive insight into human nature and its attendant problems.’ (19)

‘There are five marks of the life of faith of which Francke speaks ever and again in a great variety of ways.  They are ‘trials’ (Anfechtungen), cross-bearing, obedience to God’s Law, trust in God, and joy.’ (19)

[In summary:]

Trials are sent by god to test us and strengthen our resolve to live the life of faith.  Related language: cross-bearing, suffering.  ‘The Christian life is one essentially of self-denial in the service of active love.’  ‘Francke feels that in his new state [God’s law] confronts him at every moment of his life with God’s holy demands.  Yet, it is not the tyrant which Luther tended to see in it.  It is essentially God’s call to active love, expressed both toward him and toward the neighbor.  For him, therefore, in whom such love has become a settled modus vivendi God’s Law is in reality the way to freedom.  Thus Francke thinks of the Christian life as a life of freedom which compares most favorably with that of the ‘natural’ man who is subject to the tyrannies of sinful desires.’ (20)

‘On of the most incisive criticisms of the Christian life as conceived by Lutheran Orthodoxy, which was made by Spener and Francke alike, was its conspicuous lack of ethical urgency.  All these people do, Francke charged, is go to confession and then take communion every three moths.  Thereafter they go back and burden their consciences with the same wrong-headed way of life.  In place of this relatively passive approach to personal Christianity the Pietists advocated what they called an ‘active’ (tutig) approach.  They meant to advocate an understanding of the life of faith which requires complete dedication and an investment of all one’s energies.  Francke was one of the foremost representatives of this concept.  Hence he insisted constantly on the faithful and diligent use of those means which had long since proved helpful toward that end within the Pietistic Tradition.  These are self-examination, daily repentance, prayer, hearing the Word, and participating in the sacrament….In his insistence on self-examination Francke almost matched the Pietistic Puritans.  Both self-examination and the attendant repentance for sins committed, or moral weaknesses tolerated, needs to be a daily exercise.’ (21)

Regarding Prayer:  ‘In Christ God is thought to meet the Christian as a friend with whom the most intimate problems can be discussed.  All of it must take place, however, n the attitude of worship rather than in that of petitioning for favors.  In his opposition to Orthodoxy Francke deliberately emphasized the psychological as over against the objective efficacy of Scripture and preaching.’ (22)

Regarding the church and its need for renewal:

‘Generally he seems to have felt that this ‘external’ church is in need of a thorough-going renewal.  Hence the responsible and earnest pastor must concentrate his efforts upon establishing within it the ‘invisible church,’ which is constituted of truly converted people.  In this way a new reformation will take place in heart, home, and church…..The enterprise of theological education, to which he devoted much of his energy, was calculated to make it possible for the Pietists to establish Halle trained pastors in many local congregations.  Thus all pastoral work within an increasing number of local churches was aimed at the ideal of reformation through conversion.’ (22-3)

‘[Francke] helped to shift the religious emphasis of his entire age.  It was a shift from ‘true’ doctrine to right action, from theological speculation to devotional earnestness, from ontological to psychological interest, from an intellectualized to an experiential approach to Christian Faith, from systematic theology to biblical exposition, from that which God has done in history to that which he wants to do in every human being now, from passive reliance on God’s initiative to human responsibility.  Thus we find that in Francke the Arndt-Spener development had come into its own and constitutes a comprehensive re-orientation of Lutheranism toward the concerns of the modern age.’ (23)

Francke as Educator

‘…one of the few men of his day whose interests were not confined to Germany, or even to Europe, but were beginning to encompass the entire world.’ (24)

The blame for the terrible state of the world must be laid, he felt, not on government or society, but ‘upon the educational establishment, and particularly upon the universities.’ (24)  And that the latter had been characterized in his time by ‘general seduction and moral decay.’

Therefore the reformation could no longer be confined to the church, but ‘must reconstitute all of society throughout the world….[through] the religious and moral renewal of every segment of private and public life.’ (24)  Stoeffler remarks, ‘In this he would again seem to be closer to Geneva than to Wittenberg.’ (24)

Spener had concentrated on the church, and therefore on theological students.  ‘Francke, on the other hand, hoped for a thoroughgoing revision of the whole educational system from the university down to the folk school,’ and thus concentrated on ‘the proper training of both teachers and pastors.’ (25)

There follows a sketch of the Halle system, which ‘evolved between 1695 and 1702.’

Hallmarks of his innovations in the educational process:  ‘the close cooperation between the university and the other educational institutions…attempt…to bridge educationally the social stratification of his day…insistence upon giving every child an opportunity to move ahead according to its ‘God-given’ ability.’ (26)

Also in curricula and extra-curricular activities:  a strong pragmatic interest in making education relevant to his day, hence, not only teaching the three r’s, but astronomy, physics, history, geography, and law.  At the paedagogium (‘noble’ school for future army officers and state officials), Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French were supplemented with jurisprudence, medicine, history, geography, botany, and public speaking.  ‘For recreational as well as instructional purposes the students were to visit regularly various workshops and art studios in the community….Furthermore, a certain elementary knowledge of basic trades such as carpentry, optics, etc. was mandatory.  [as well as] astronomy, music, drawing, and calligraphy….and good manners….’ (27)

‘For bringing about a desirable learning experience Francke relied less upon a meticulously planned curriculum than upon a core of dedicated teachers.  One of his basic assumption was that instruction without a good example was not sufficient.  ‘True godliness,’ he says, ‘is best imparted to tender youth by the godly example of the teacher himself.’  For that reason theological students were preferred as teachers….Since qualified teachers were scarce…Francke instituted in 1707 the so-called seminarium selectum praeceptorum, the function of which was to prepare teachers especially for the upper schools….Here…an exercitium pietatis, at which both conversation and prayers had to be in Latin, was part of the weekly routine.’ (27-8)

‘What he aimed at essentially was the formation of Christian character, or, in secular terms, the development of adults who are responsible, moderate, sensitive to the needs of others, aware of every aspect of their world and its problems, honorable in their dealings with all men, devout if possible, and eminently concerned about the public good.’ (28)

‘To bring about a specifically religious experience, Halle style, he regarded it as ‘a special purpose’ of the educational experience of children, which, of course, the teacher should also be interested in.  To that end, as well as for the building of character, religious instruction was prescribed for every educational level.’ (28)

‘Staff and students alike were caught up in Francke’s astonishing vision of world renewal, which was thought to be taking concrete form at Halle.  Most noteworthy is Francke’s profound insight into human nature, his sensitivity to the needs of youth…and his constant attempt to insure individual attention to student problems.’ (28)

Regarding theological education…

‘…he tried to implement Spener’s suggestions regarding the training of pastors and theologians by devoting much thought and effort to this enterprise.  In 1708 he decided to write down his thoughts on the subject in three Latin tracts.  Perhaps even more important than these, however, are his idea studiosi theologiae etc. of 1712 and his lectiones paraeneticae. In the very center of his understanding of theological education was the idea that the study of theology cannot be divorced from a life of piety.  ‘For,’ he says, ‘it is not enough that you become learned; the basis of it must be a rightly formed being in Christ.’

“He was convinced that a pastor or a theologian without such an existential religious foundation is an anachronism [sic]….Hence, he advocated throughout his life that for students of theology a rigorous intellectual discipline must be supplemented by a constant, conscious striving to bring every aspect of life into harmony with God’s law.  To this end candidates for ecclesiastical office must not permit themselves to be tyrannized by any moral weakness.  They must attempt day by day to correct their own faults. They must be becomingly grave, generous, honorable, truthful, kind, patient, flexible, mild mannered, friendly, and honest.  With regard to their external appearance they need to be clean, unaffected, punctual, courageous, good conversationalists, happy, and well able to order their own households….

“Hence, there must be ample opportunity for devotional practices–the reading of scripture, of books like those of Arndt, meditation, and prayer. At times in his Thursday lectures Francke went so far as to counsel that for this reason other studies may be temporarily neglected. [!]  The primary purpose of these lectures, in fact, was that of the cultivation of Christian character.’ (29-30)

‘It would be a mistake to think, however, that as a result of such educational goals Francke relaxed the intellectual requirements of Halle students of theology.  Before they came to the university they were already well equipped by the Latin schools with the necessary linguistic tools–Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.  The center of the theological curriculum was the minute and careful study of the Bible in the original languages, a study which he called ‘the foundation’ on which all theological learning rests.  For the purpose of engaging in such study students were not only expected to take in lectures in hermeneutics and exegesis, but to further such study privately by becoming a member of one of the collegia biblica. In addition to biblical studies the theological curriculum consisted of dogmatics, including a careful study of the symbolical books of Lutheranism, polemics, and church history.’ (30)

‘…Francke made his chief contributions to the history of Pietism in setting out theological and educational goals…’ (31)

Regarding Pietas Hallensis, and his administration of the charity school/orphanage complex:

‘Through his charitable undertakings he has supplied Pietism with the prototype of all future so called ‘faith’ ventures, as well as with the model for the vivid expectation of concrete answers to prayer.’ (31)

Regarding his pastoral work

Regarding his pastoral work, at Glaucha, where he pastored from 1692 to his death in 1727, where he went to preach after phenomenal success and subsequent ejection by the authorities at Erfurt (1690-92):

‘Almost immediately after his installation as pastor he began catechising the children of the parish, whose religious instruction, he felt, had been sadly neglected.  He also abolished group confession by the mere repetition of the prescribed formula and put into its place an individual religious interview with the pastor.  Having thus gained some insight into the state of his congregation he preached a series of sermons on the training of children, in which he stressed the cooperation between home and church for the purpose of building character. His congregation realized very quickly that a new spirit was beginning to make itself manifest in the community….’ (32)

Briefly, Francke preached three sermons during the week and two on Sunday; preached two special sermons on repentance every quarter, for which a special service of preparation was arranged the day before for Bible study and prayer; young people and adults were catechized almost every day; in conjunction with this instruction morning and evening prayer meetings were held (the evening meetings for instruction and prayer might be attended by as many as 500 young people and children)–in this instructional program, theological students were expected to help; Bible study was held at the parsonage from 11 AM to 12 PM each day (all welcome); prayer/Bible study meetings were held in the homes of church members during the week, attended by as many as 50 or 60 people; pastoral visits were scheduled, for instruction, Bible reading, and prayer for the whole household…and so on! (32-33)

Of the sermons themselves (which were invariably well-attended):  they ‘…appear to lack all sparkle and originality.  They are hastily put together, insufferably repetitious discourses on a selection of themes which remains endlessly the same.  There are few illustrations, no interesting turns in phraseology, no startling insights.  In fact, they seem to be consciously following the model of Puritan sermons, which were designed not to be ‘witty.’

Thus the appeal of Francke’s sermonic effectiveness must be sought, on the one hand, in his transparent sincerity, which gave everything he said an utterly authentic ring.  His hearers invariably felt that the message he brought them came directly from God.  On the other hand, Francke was an uncommonly kind and gentle man, who seemed to be concerned personally about everybody’s problem, without ever creating the impression of wanting to meddle in other people’s business.  For this reason the dirty alleys of Glaucha, with the accumulated filth of its 2,000 inhabitants, suddenly seemed brightened when the ‘Pastor’ passed by, while its many establishments for making whiskey, and its innumerable and ill-reputed taverns, seemed a little more like the portals of hell which Francke thought they were.  Thus, to a most unusual degree the Pastor of Glaucha was his own message.‘ (33-4)

‘Pastor of Europe’

Noted:  He corresponded with, and greatly affected, many of the Princes and other leading men of Europe.  He had approximately 5,000 addresses, and corresponded more or less regularly with over 300 people.  This ‘ministry to leadership,’ which Francke wisely saw as essential to the kind of widespread reform he had in mind, was inherited along with the mantle of Spener. (34-5)

Missionary statesman

‘He also began to use his immense system of important connections to spread the zeal for foreign missions throughout Europe….Soon a stream of missionary gifts poured into Halle from all over Europe, and Francke has become one of the outstanding personalities connected with the rise of Protestant missions.’ (35)

Bible popularizer

‘It was Francke who, above all others in the history of later Protestantism, supplied the initial inspiration to make the Bible really a book of the people.’ (36)


‘Francke is undoubtedly one of the most massive figures of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in Europe.  As a religious genius he fashioned Spenerian Pietism into the most self-assured, theologically compact, as well as dynamic, religious movement of his day.  In doing so he proved himself to be a man of large ideas and broad concerns, envisioning a world in which ignorance, religious and moral apathy, injustice and hunger, even war, could be progressively reduced through a determined effort to apply the Christian Gospel to man’s individual and corporate needs.’ (36)

[In this, I believe he was simply taking his own deeply personal experience of the power of sanctification and God’s willingness to intervene in human life day by day and make us better, and projecting it onto the screen of the world.  This is sanctification writ large, across every human institution.  At the same time, he was enough of a realist about the power of sin, and about the deceptions of the enemy that continue to blind men’s eyes, that he was unwilling to involve himself in politically-motivated ecumenical schemes, and certainly was wary of compromising the truth in any way as he strove to bring the gospel to a sin-sick world.]

‘As an educator he inspired his generation with entirely new concepts of educational philosophy.  Education was no longer to be book centered, but person centered; a school was no longer to be an institution primarily for the transmission of information, but for the transformation of human character, and for the alleviation of the evils of social caste; educational method was to be flexible and adapted to the needs of the individual; the curriculum was to be pragmatically determined, rather than based on merely traditional patterns; and above all, every child, even the sadly underprivileged orphan, was to be given a chance to grow according to his innate ability.’ (36-7)

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