Francke, August Hermann

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated


FRANCKE, AUGUST HERMANN (16631727), was, after Spener, the major spokesman for early Lutheran Pietism. Francke was born in the Hanseatic city of Lübeck on March 22, 1663. Both his father and his maternal grandfather were prominent jurists, and young August was more or less expected to take up a learned career. Because the Francke household was pervaded by the piety of Johann Arndt (15551621), it was quite natural for August to prepare himself for the Lutheran ministry. Accordingly, he studied at Erfurt and Kiel, and finally received his master of arts degree from the University of Leipzig. For religious reasons he refused further academic preparation, though much of his time continued to be spent in private study. Thus he emerged from his student career superbly prepared not only in philosophy, theology, and biblical studies but with considerable competence in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French, and English, besides his native German.

As the result of an experience of a conscious religious awakening (1687), Francke joined the circle of Spener's followers and eventually became the leader of the Spenerian renewal movement of continental Protestantism. The University of Halle, to the faculty of which he was appointed in 1691, quickly became the intellectual center of Lutheran Pietism. His pioneer work in establishing an imposing array of educational and charitable institutions attracted much attention in Europe. His extensive system of connections included a large segment of European nobility as well as several European courts. The periodic reports of his work, such as Segensvolle Fußstapfen (translated into English in 1706 under the title Liber Pietatis Hallensis ), spurred educational, charitable, missionary, and ecumenical impulses not only on the continent but in England and in the English colonies of North America. Under Francke's guidance the Canstein Bible Institute, begun in 1710, satisfied the ever-increasing need for cheap Bibles and devotional aids. The theological works issuing from Francke's pen and from Halle were a major factor in substituting biblical for dogmatic theology and ethically oriented concerns for purely theological discourses in Protestant pulpits. At the zenith of his career Francke was widely respected as an innovative pastor, theologian, educator, organizer of charitable institutions, promoter of domestic and foreign missions, and advocate of a new vision of ecumenical cooperation.


Important for Francke study is still D. Gustav Kramer's August Hermann Francke, 2 vols. (Halle, 18801882), though dated in many respects. The best biography is the scholarly, very appreciative study by Erich Beyreuther, August Hermann Francke, 16631727 (Marburg, 1956). For Francke's theology, Erhard Peschke's Studien zur Theologie August Hermann Franckes, 2 vols. (Berlin, 19641966) is indispensable. Peschke also edited a selection of Francke's works titled Streitschriften (New York, 1981). Available in English are Gary Stattler's God's Glory and the Neighbor's Good: A Brief Introduction to the Life and Writings of August Hermann Francke (Chicago, 1982) and a small selection of Francke's writings in Peter C. Erb's The Pietists: Selected Writings (Ramsey, N.J., 1983).

F. Ernest Stoeffler (1987)