1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hermes, Georg

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HERMES, GEORG (1775–1831), German Roman Catholic theologian, was born on the 22nd of April 1775, at Dreyerwalde, in Westphalia, and was educated at the gymnasium and university of Münster, in both of which institutions he afterwards taught. In 1820 he was appointed professor of theology at Bonn, where he died on the 26th of May 1831. Hermes had a devoted band of adherents, of whom the most notable was Peter Josef Elvenich (1796–1886), who became professor at Breslau in 1829, and in 1870 threw in his lot with the Old Catholic movement. His works were Untersuchungen über die innere Wahrheit des Christenthums (Münster, 1805), and Einleitung in die christkatholische Theologie, of which the first part, a philosophical introduction, was published in 1819, the second part, on positive theology, in 1829. The Einleitung was never completed. His Christkatholische Dogmatik was published, from his lectures, after his death by two of his students, Achterfeld and Braun (3 vols., 1831–1834).

The Einleitung is a remarkable work, both in itself and in its effect upon Catholic theology in Germany. Few works of modern times have excited a more keen and bitter controversy. Hermes himself was very largely under the influence of the Kantian and Fichtean ideas, and though in the philosophical portion of his Einleitung he criticizes both these thinkers severely, rejects their doctrine of the moral law as the sole guarantee for the existence of God, and condemns their restricted view of the possibility and nature of revelation, enough remained of purely speculative material to render his system obnoxious to his church. After his death, the contests between his followers and their opponents grew so bitter that the dispute was referred to the papal see. The judgment was adverse, and on the 25th of September 1835 a papal bull condemned both parts of the Einleitung and the first volume of the Dogmatik. Two months later the remaining volumes of the Dogmatik were likewise condemned. The controversy did not cease, and in 1845 a systematic attempt was made anonymously by F. X. Werner to examine and refute the Hermesian doctrines, as contrasted with the orthodox Catholic faith (Der Hermesianismus, 1845). In 1847 the condemnation of 1835 was confirmed by Pius IX.

See K. Werner, Geschichte der katholischen Theologie (1866), pp. 405 sqq.