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Reviewed by:
  • Friedrich Loofs in Halle
  • Donald J. Dietrich
Friedrich Loofs in Halle. Edited by Jörg Ulrich. (New York: DeGruyter. 2010. Pp. x, 349. $140.00. ISBN 978-3-110-24634-6.)

Ulrich has edited a scholarly and lucid collection of essays devoted to the life and work of Friedrich Loofs (1858-1928), a Protestant professor of the history of dogma at Halle University. Loofs was the oldest of eleven children, and his father was a pastor in Hildesheim. He academically matured in a culture permeated by neo-Lutheranism, which he studied in Leipzig. He also was interested in the cultural Protestantism taught by Albrecht Ritschl and the developmental dogma ideas propounded by Adolf Harnack, who was consumed with investigating the origins of early Christian dogma.

A portion of the research on Loofs is based on his archive at Halle, which contains more than 3000 letters that offer reflections on a variety of topics, including the work of his contemporary, Harnack. The first edition of Loofs's Dogmengeschichte appeared in 1889. He subsequently wrote a number of shorter pieces, including those on St. Augustine and Pelagianism, which solidified his reputation as an expert in classical Christian history. Two themes seem to have influenced his academic endeavors and his theological reputation. The first is the doctrine of justification and its existential consequences for evangelical Christians. The second theme is focused on the relation of Jesus of Nazareth to the Christological dogma of the patristic church. Within this context he defined church history as the theological and historical discipline that interacts with all the models of historical, critical research but is oriented to the needs of contemporary and future pastors.

Church history is theological knowledge, according to Loofs, developed in the context of ecclesial activities in the present and yet retains its critical [End Page 835] capacities. In essence, Loofs has offered the contextual theological model characterized by the relationship of Theorie to praxis. In this respect he shows his rootedness in the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher. Dogmas for Loofs, therefore, emerge out of the community as a whole or at least out of its theological component. Significantly, while Catholics were assaulting modernism, Loofs insisted that the history of dogmas had to be seen as a genuine theological discipline that did not lead to relativism. Although sensitive to Harnack's hellenization theory of early Christianity, Loofs nevertheless opted for a narrower connection between the New Testament kerygma and subsequent dogma formulations. In brief, Loofs offers a substantive example of an eclectic theologian who does not seem to be constrained by any specific systematic theological perspective.

Essays in this collection also point out the effectiveness of Loofs through his homilies as well as through his social concerns. One of his concerns revolved around the German horror toward the sanctioned murder of the Armenians during World War I. Before the war, Loofs and others were quite focused on bringing Armenian students to German universities and formed a German Armenian Society to improve relations. The essay by Hermann Goltz suggests that the German compassion toward the Armenians was developed through intimate associations, a condition that would later be lacking toward Jews. This essay nicely addresses the formation of bystander empathy.

This collection of essays leads the reader to wonder if more figures like the eclectic Loofs could have changed the outlook of Protestant theology when confronted with the Third Reich. Some of the authors in this volume also question the insidious role of nationalism in the formation of theological perspectives. Such an insight would be useful in helping both Protestants and Catholics in critiquing the nexus of faith and culture. [End Page 836]

Donald J. Dietrich
Boston College


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