1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dorner, Isaac August

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DORNER, ISAAC AUGUST (1809-1884), German Lutheran divine, was born at Neuhausen-ob-Eck in Württemberg on the 20th of June 1809. His father was pastor at Neuhausen. He was educated at Maulbronn and the university of Tübingen. After acting for two years as assistant to his father in his native place he travelled in England and Holland to complete his studies and acquaint himself with different types of Protestantism. He returned to Tübingen in 1834, and in 1837 was made professor extraordinarius of theology. As a student at the university, one of his teachers had been Christian Friedrich Schmid (1794-1852), author of a well-known book, Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testamentes, and one of the most vigorous opponents of F. C. Baur. At Schmid’s suggestion, and with his encouragement, Dorner set to work upon a history of the development of the doctrine of the person of Christ, Entwicklungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi. He published the first part of it in 1835, the year in which Strauss, his colleague, gave to the public his Life of Jesus; completed it in 1839, and afterwards considerably enlarged it for a second edition (1845-1856). It was an indirect reply to Strauss, which showed “profound learning, objectivity of judgment, and fine appreciation of the moving ideas of history” (Otto Pfleiderer). The author at once took high rank as a theologian and historian, and in 1839 was invited to Kiel as professor ordinarius. It was here that he produced, amongst other works, Das Princip unserer Kirche nach dem innern Verhältniss seiner zwei Seiten betrachtet (1841). In 1843 he removed as professor of theology to Königsberg. Thence he was called to Bonn in 1847, and to Göttingen in 1853. Finally in 1862 he settled in the same capacity at Berlin, where he was a member of the supreme consistorial council. A few years later (1867) he published his valuable Geschichte der protestantischen Theologie (Eng. trans., History of Protestant Theology, 2 vols.; 1871), in which he “developed and elaborated,” as Pfleiderer says, “his own convictions by his diligent and loving study of the history of the Church’s thought and belief.” The theological positions to which he ultimately attained are best seen in his Christliche Glaubenslehre, published shortly before his death (1879-1881). It is “a work extremely rich in thought and matter. It takes the reader through a mass of historical material by the examination and discussion of ancient and modern teachers, and so leads up to the author’s own view, which is mostly one intermediate between the opposite extremes, and appears as a more or less successful synthesis of antagonistic theses” (Pfleiderer). The companion work, System der christlichen Sittenlehre, was published by his son August Dorner in 1886. He also contributed articles to Herzog-Hauck’s Realencyklopädie, and was the founder and for many years one of the editors of the Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie. He died at Wiesbaden on the 8th of July 1884. One of the most noteworthy of the “mediating” theologians, he has been ranked with Friedrich Schleiermacher, J. A. W. Neander, Karl Nitzsch, Julius Müller and Richard Rothe.

His son, August (b. 1846), after studying at Berlin and acting as Repetent at Göttingen (1870-1873), became professor of theology and co-director of the theological seminary at Wittenberg. Amongst his works is Augustinus, sein theologisches System und seine religionsphilosoph. Anschauung (1873), and he is the author of the article on Isaac Dorner in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.

See Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie; Allgemeine deutsche Biographie (1904); Otto Pfleiderer, The Development of Theology in Germany since Kant (1890); F. Lichtenberger, History of German Theology in the Nineteenth Century (1889); Carl Schwarz, Zur Geschichte der neuesten Theologie (1869).

(M. A. C.)