Friedrich Bodelschwingh

1831-1910. Lutheran pastor. A Westphalian, he was led by Pietist influence into the ministry. In teaching children, the Word of God in the Bible came alive for him and the experience of the death of four of his own children within a few weeks in 1869 deeply moved him. From 1872 he took charge at Bielefeld of an institution for epileptics, later known as Bethel.* Its work, connected with the Innere Mission,* grew to include the training of deaconesses, a workers' colony, etc. Bodelschwingh held a strong view of the church's social responsibility and entered the Prussian Landtag in 1903. But he stood closer to C.F. Blumhardt,* whom he knew, than to Adolf Stöcker, believing that all welfare activities were limited by eschatology: they do not build God's kingdom but prepare for the returning Lord. The epileptics, on the fringes of society and having their future only in God, were thus seen to be teaching concretely the truth about the kingdom. At the same time, hope for all in the Gospel meant that even the most disabled were found useful work, and theological students were expected to learn from paroled convicts.