This week in Christian history: Dietrich Bonhoeffer born, Philipp Spener dies

Philipp Spener dies – Feb. 5, 1705

Philipp Spener (1635-1705), a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was part of the Pietism movement.
Philipp Spener (1635-1705), a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was part of the Pietism movement. | Public Domain

This week marks the anniversary of when Philipp Spener, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who was a leader in the Pietism movement, died at the age of 70.

While serving as lead pastor at a church in the German city of Frankfort am Main, Spener oversaw devotional gatherings to advance personal piety and wrote a major work in 1675 titled Pious Desires.

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“His emphasis upon practice was often considered extreme, to the detriment of doctrine. But the doctrinal conflicts of his time deeply concerned Spener, who considered many of them harmful and irrelevant,” noted Britannica.

“In 1686 he was made first court chaplain at Dresden, then the most valued position in the German Lutheran Church, but his views soon aroused opposition. Attacks upon Pietism came from the orthodox Lutherans at the University of Leipzig and from the Saxon court, whose elector, John George III, had been rebuked by Spener for drunkenness. Spener consequently moved to Berlin in 1691 to become provost of St. Nicholas’ Church.”

Spener would write around 300 different works on Christian faith and practice, including Das geistliche Priestertum (The Spiritual Priesthood) in 1677 and Die allgemeine Gottesgelehrtheit (General Theology) in 1680.

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