Rohr, Johann Friedrich
Rohr, Johann Friedrich, a prominent rationalist, was born July 30, 1777, at Rossbach, on the Saale, of humble parents, and early displayed mental qualities which induced his friends to provide him with opportunities for study. He was thus enabled to enter Leipsic University as a student of theology, and while there attended the lectures of Platner and Keil, and employed his mind in the examination of Kant's philosophy. Reinhard examined him for ministerial license, and recommended him as assistant preacher to the University Church. Transferred in 1802 to Pforta, he engaged in the study of modern languages, particularly English, and published a tabular view of English pronunciation (1803). Unpleasant relations with his colleagues led to his removal in the following year (1804). He next became pastor at Ostrau, near Zeitz, and remained in that station during sixteen years, at the end of which period he was called to be chief minister at Weimar; and to that position the government added the dignities of court preacher, ecclesiastical councillor, and general superintendent for the principality of Weimar, his duties, in addition to those connected with his relation to his parisl, including general visitations, examinations, inspection of the Weimar Gymnasium, and the filling of appointments. He held these positions from 1820 to 1848, when he died.
Rohr's historical significance grows out of the energy with which he asserted the theological position of vulgar rationalism. His views were for the first time presented in a connected scheme in Briefe uber den Rationalismus, etc. (Zeitz, 1813), whose train of ideas may be summarized as follows: Religious truth may be ascertained from revelation or from reason, the latter term denoting the natural, not cultured, judgment of the mind. If such truth is grounded on reason, the system of rationalism or naturalism will result, which is the only tenable system. This rationalism rejects all religious teachings which have not universal authority and a strict adaptation to moral ends; for the ultimate end of religion is a pure morality. There is in Christianity a theology or doctrine respecting God, and an anthropology or doctrine respecting man in his intelligent and moral nature, and also in his sensuality and consequent depravity; but it does not properly include a Christology, since opinions respecting the first expounder of a universal religion can form no part of that religion. Stripped of all additions to his personality made by the evangelists, Christ is simply a man, though the greatest, and even a unique, man. A subsequent work, entitled Grund- und Glaubenssatze d. evang.-prot. Kirche (1832), was intended to unite the Church for its protection against its Roman Catholic, and still more against its pietistic, adversaries, and to that end was sent to a number of theological faculties for their approval. The effort failed, however, even Rohr's fellow rationalists refusing to endorse his purpose. In the second and third editions (1834, 1844), he gave a summary of the essential teachings of the Gospel in specifically Christian language. There is a true God, who is proclaimed to us by Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, and who deserves our profound veneration because of his perfections. This veneration can be truly rendered only by the cultivation of a sincerely virtuous character and life, and for this work we may hope for the aid of the Divine Spirit. As God's children, we may confidently look for his help in earthly troubles, and in the consciousness of moral weakness and unworthiness we may look for grace and mercy through Christ; while in death we may be assured of undying continuance and a better, retributive life.
It is needless to add that throughout his official life Rohr was engaged in controversy with the orthodox theologians of his time, e.g. Reinhard, Harms, Hahn, Hengstenberg, Sartorius, etc., whom he accused of literalism, want of progressiveness, and similar offenses. He was utterly incapable of appreciating the aims of such spirits as Schleiermacher, Twesten, etc., in the direction of a higher development within the limits of Protestant freedom; and in consequence of this incapacity, he blundered into a dispute with Hase on the occasion of the appearance of the Hutterus Redivivus written by the latter, which Hase ended by clearly demonstrating that the "rationalism of sound reason" is utterly unscientific and has no regard for the facts of history. His peculiar views and tempers are reflected also in his sermons. The moral element predominates, of course, and tne sunernatural is reduced to natural proportions. His Christologische Predigten (Weimar, 1831, 1837) are not Christological in character, exhibiting Jesus simply as "the pattern and example of true culture," etc. His casual sermons, however, sometimes present all the characteristics of truly religious discourse. His published homiletical works are very numerous.
In addition to the works already mentioned, we notice the Kritische prediger-Bibliothek, wihicih under various names he edited from 1810 to 1848: — Palastina zur Zeit Jesu (Zeitz, 1816; 8th ed. 184.): — Luther's Leben u. Wirken (ibid. 1817; 2d ed. 1828): — Die gute Sache d. Protestantismus (Leips. 1842), and others.