Die Bildung einer gemeinschaftlichen Identität in niederländischen Briefen an den deutschen Theologen August Tholuck (1799–1877)

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Several leading persons in the Dutch nineteenth-century religious, theological and ecclesiastical field corresponded with the prominent German theologian August Tholuck (1799–1877), as numerous preserved letters in the estate of Tholuck in the archive of the Francke Foundations in Halle (Saale, Germany) show. The current research is the first to disclose the content of a few of those letters. It does so by questioning in what sense the processes of positioning the self and appropriating the other contributed to the shaping of a common identity between the correspondents and Tholuck in the context of Tholuck’s theological position and the Dutch situation. The research used both the concept of self-fashioning in Greenblatt’s New Historicism and the theory of das kulturelle Gedächtnis by Jann Assmann. The correspondents underlined how their views resemble Tholuck’s with references to theological rationalism and modern theology, ecclesiastical conflicts between orthodoxy and modernists, and a common Christian identity shaped in the Evangelical Alliance. They made use of biblical narratives, which function as a common symbol system beyond the different languages, the common value of historical embeddedness of the different churches, and the religious experience of a unity in Christ beyond all human differences. It turned out that the common identity is not just shaped between the correspondents and Tholuck, but refers to a much broader context of nineteenth-century religious, theological and ecclesiastical life, in particular related to the awakening movement(s). In this way, the research contributes to new insights in the creation of interconfessional and transnational networks within the awakening movement.
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