« Baum, Johann Wilhelm Baumgarten, Michael Baumgarten, Otto »

Baumgarten, Michael

BAUMGARTEN, MICHAEL: German theologian and active promoter of free church life; b. at Haseldorf, near Hamburg, Mar. 25, 1812; d. at Rostock July 21, 1889. He was educated at Altona, Kiel, and Berlin, becoming in the last-named place an outspoken adherent of Hengstenberg. But the study of Dorner during a period of seven years (1839–46) spent at Kiel as a teacher convinced him that the traditional orthodox view of the person of Christ was inadequate to explain the mystery of redemption; he passed from Hengstenberg to Schleiermacher, with his principle that Christianity is not a doctrine but a life, and then to Hofmann, in whose Weissagung und Erfüllung he saw a theology that could lead him further on his road. In his treatise Liturgie und Predigt (Kiel, 1843) he lays down his programme, to which as an old man he was still proud of having adhered. Here he classes as stumbling blocks in the Church's way a variety of ancient institutions, laws, and customs, viz.: the misleading notion of a "Christian State"; the use of compulsion in the Church (as in the case of baptism); the power of civil rulers within the Church, in allowing which the Reformers had brought back a Byzantine system; the diversity of teaching among Protestants; and the failure to recognize the menace of the Roman errors. About the same time (1843–44) appeared his commentary on the Pentateuch, to which Delitzsch appealed when in 1850 he recommended his friend to succeed him in the Rostock professorship, but which none the less he sharply criticized in some points. In the eventful years 1846–50 he was pastor of St. Michael's church at Sleswick, and was one of the leaders of the clergy of Sleswick Holstein in their struggle for the German right to the duchies. After the battle of Idstedt, he was obliged to escape from Sleswick with his family to Holstein, where his call to Rostock found him. Here he was expected to take part in the upbuilding of the Church of the duchy, which was under Kliefoth's leadership; but two men more diametrically opposed in their whole way of looking at things could scarcely have been found. Baumgarten frankly expressed his own view of the earliest history of the Church in his Apostelgeschichte (2 vols., Halle, 1852), and of its modern needs in his Nachtgesichte Sacharjas (Brunswick, 1854). It was not difficult to make a collection of heretical propositions from the writings of a man who cared so little to express himself in time-honored formulas, and who was wrestling with such modern problems; and the attempt was soon made. The Grand Duke dismissed him from the theological commission in 1856; the consistory examined his works, it must be admitted without strict adherence to constitutional rules or to the principles of fairness, found a whole series of departures from the received doctrine, and deprived him of his position. He declined an invitation to go to India as a missionary, preferring to remain and carry on the struggle for a complete reconstruction of the Evangelical Church in Germany. With this aim he was for thirteen years a zealous member of the Protestant Union from 1863 to 1876, but left it when it showed intolerance in the Heidelberg case. His life grew more and more lonely, though he could always count on a few faithful friends, like Studt, Ziegler, and Pestalozzi. He was a member of the Reichstag from 1874 to 1881, in which he showed himself a determined opponent of Stöcker and of the Jesuits, and stood for his principles of religious liberty and complete separation of Church and State. He was a man of great natural endowment, fitted for useful constructive work in theology, if the unfortunate circumstances in his career had not forced him to expend his energy in the combat to which most of his numerous later writings have reference.

(J. Haussleiter.)

Bibliography: His autobiography was edited and published posthumously by K. H. Studt, 2 vols., Kiel, 1891.

« Baum, Johann Wilhelm Baumgarten, Michael Baumgarten, Otto »
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