Pfenninger, Johann Conrad

Pfenninger, Johann Conrad a German theologian, was born at Zurich, Switzerland, in 1747; studied theology at the university of his native place: in 1775 was made dean of the Orphans' Church, and later was appointed the successor of his friend Lavater (q.v.) in the pastorate, and was also made the dean of St. Peter's Church. He died in 1792. Pfenninger was a voluminous writer and much involved in controversy with the Rationalists, who then so very generally abounded in Germany. He was in close harmony with the theological views of Lavater, and with him attempted to give to his period a secure Christian impress, so as to lift Christianity from its Oriental vestments, and place it upon the ground of universal humanity. While the sceptics, and even Spalding among them, regarded modern Christianity rather as a purely comprehensible and abstract fact, and excluded every contribution of the imagination, Lavater and Pfenninger, like Klopstock (q.v.), thought it best to render aid by the Western imagination. They made Christianity not only accessible to the modern understanding, but to the modern feeling. Most valuable of all of Pfenninger's publications are his Judische Briefe aus der Zeit Jesu v. Nazareth (1783-92), which have been freely used by Stier in his Words of Jesus (transl. by Strong and Smith, N.Y. 3 volumes, 8vo). These Jewish letters furnish a sort of Christian romance, in which the men and women of the time of Jesus write letters to each other, just as sentimental men and women of the last century would hlave written, and Christianity was thus modernized to make it attractive and plain to the masses, and relieve it of the Oriental garb it wears in the Bible. (J.H.W.)

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