The New Ethicist and the Old Bookkeeper: Isaak Dorner, Johann Quenstedt, and Modern Appropriations of Classical Protestantism

Zachary Purvis

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Abstract

This paper examines various nineteenth-century appropriations of classical Protestantism, the age of post-Reformation confessionalization and orthodoxy. I focus on an important source from the 1850s, namely Isaak August Dorner’s famed essay on the problem of divine immutability. Though Karl Barth and others fixated on Dorner’s constructive arguments for God’s immutability in ethical and not metaphysical or essential terms, the role that Dorner assigned to the seventeenth-century Lutheran scholastic Johann Andreas Quenstedt remains neglected. I contextualize Dorner’s essay and stance toward classical Protestantism and argue that he rhetorically obfuscated Quenstedt’s discussion of the claim that God does not change. At the same time, his own interaction with Quenstedt belied his statements to the effect that the dogmatic works of the seventeenth century were outdated. Dorner’s essay thus serves as an insightful case study into the complex and myriad ways in which Protestant theologians of Europe’s revolutionary era viewed seventeenth-century Lutheran and Reformed sources both critically and constructively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14–33
Number of pages20
JournalJournal for the History of Modern Theology
Volume19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

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