The Enlightenment

<span class="date">aufklärung</span>. A movement seen in particularly clear-cut form in eighteenth-century Germany. <span class="auto-link">[[Karl Barth]]</span> characterized it as “a system founded upon the presupposition of faith in the omnipotence of human ability.” <span class="auto-link">[[Immanuel Kant]]</span> defined it in his <em>Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Only</em> (1793): “<span class="auto-link">[[The Enlightenment]]</span> represents man's emergence from a self-inflicted state of minority. A minor is one who is incapable of making use of his understanding without guidance from someone else . . . <em>Sapere aude!</em> Have the courage to make use of your own understanding, is therefore the watchword of the Enlightenment.” According to F.A.G. Tholuck, the theological and philosophical pacemaker of the <em>Aufklärung was Christian Wolff</em> (1679-1754), who sought the path to absolute truth through “pure reason.” A more radical form is seen in H.S. Reimarus.* Influenced by English Deists, he rejected supernatural revelation and expressed this in his <em><span class="auto-link">[[Wolfenbüttel Fragments]]</span></em>, published after the author's death by G.E. Lessing.* The latter held that man had developed beyond the need for Christianity (<em>Education of the Human Race</em>, 1780). In Lessing's best-known work, <em>Nathan the Wise</em> (1779), he argued that truth was found in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, therefore toleration was imperative.<br /><br />

Predicated upon the reliability of reason, the <em>Aufklärung</em> rejected both supernatural revelation and man's sinfulness. God, the all-wise creator, had implanted in man a natural religion which taught both morality and immortality.<br /><br />