Wilhelm Herrmann

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Wilhelm Herrmann
Born Johann Georg Wilhelm Herrmann
(1846-12-06)6 December 1846
Died 2 January 1922(1922-01-02) (aged 75)
Marburg an der Lahn
Occupation Professor, theologian
Notable work The Communion of the Christian with God
Theological work
Language German
Tradition or movement Lutheran, Liberalism
Main interests Idealism

Johann Georg Wilhelm Herrmann (6 December 1846 – 2 January 1922) was a Lutheran German theologian.

Hermann taught at Halle before becoming professor at Marburg.[1] Influenced by Kant and Ritschl, his theology was in the idealist tradition, seeing God as the power of goodness. Jesus was to be seen as an exemplary man. Even if Jesus never existed, according to Herrmann, his traditional portrayal was still valid.[2] His book The Communion of the Christian God[3] was seen as a highlight of nineteenth century Liberal Christianity, although he is also credited with preserving certain conservative ideals against liberal revisionism.[4] against which Karl Barth, one of his pupils,[5] and dialectical theology were later to react.[6]

Among Herrmann's most distinguished pupils where Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Barth, and John Gresham Machen. Both Barth and Machen would reject Herrmann's teaching and come to notability by their opposition to such liberal theology.

Theological outlook[edit]

Herrmann's theology has been characterized as "Lutheran neo-Kantianism"[7] and influenced by the work of Immanuel Kant, Herrmann taught "dialectical theology".[8] He held that one can only speak of God dialectically, with two opposing statements - thesis and antithesis, "the dogmatic and the critical, the Yes and the No, the unveiling and the veiling, objectivity, and subjectivity."[8] The goal was not to find a synthesis but to find in the tension "a space free in the middle and hopes that God himself will intervene since only God can say his Word."[8] Herrmann also freely admitted his thinking was indebted to Friedrich Schleiermacher, who had held that the religious experience of God took place within the individual.[7]


  1. ^ Derek Michaud. "Johann Wilhelm Herrmann". Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology. 
  2. ^ Sockness, Brent (July 1992), "The Ideal and the Historical in the Christology of Wilhelm Herrmann: The Promise and the Perils of Revisionary Christology", The Journal of Religion, The University of Chicago Press, 72 (3): 366–388, doi:10.1086/488917, ISSN 0022-4189, JSTOR 1204421 
  3. ^ J. Wilhelm Herrmann The Communion of the Christian God, (1895).
  4. ^ Smith, Gerald (January 1928), "Review: Herrmann's Theology in the Light of Present-Day Thinking", The Journal of Religion, The University of Chicago Press, 8 (1): 144–146, doi:10.1086/480723, ISSN 0022-4189, JSTOR 1195197 
  5. ^ Jagnow, Albert (July 1936), "Karl Barth and Wilhelm Herrmann: Pupil and Teacher", The Journal of Religion, The University of Chicago Press, 16 (3): 300–316, doi:10.1086/481842, ISSN 0022-4189, JSTOR 1196448 
  6. ^ "Wilhelm Herrman", Britannica Online Encyclopedia, 23 February 2012, retrieved 2012-12-03 
  7. ^ a b William D. Dennison (2008). The Young Bultmann: Context for His Understanding of God, 1884-1925. Peter Lang Publishing. 
  8. ^ a b c Chrisophe Chalamet (August 1, 2004). Dialectical Theologians: Wilhelm Herrmann, Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. Theologischer Verlag.