Rethinking ‘Enthusiasm’: Christoph Blumhardt on the Discernment of the Spirit

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Abstract

This article uses resources from the theology of Christoph Blumhardt to argue that Luther was mistaken in identifying a necessary theological connection between ‘enthusiastic’ views of the Spirit and naive anthropology. It demonstrates that Blumhardt successfully combined an abiding concern over the problem of spiritual self-deception together with a pneumatology that affirmed the importance of affective experience of the Spirit not mediated exclusively by the proclaimed Word of Scripture, through a conviction that the most reliable sign of the Spirit's activity is ‘negative’, in suffering and visceral encounter with divine judgement, in the first instance. This critical ‘enthusiasm’ helps explain Blumhardt's singular critique of the nationalistic ‘Spirit of August’ from the start of World War I.

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