Heim, Karl (1874–1958)

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Karl Heim, the German theologian, was born at Frauenzimmern in Württemberg. He studied at Tübingen and was professor of theology at Münster (1914) and at Tübingen from 1920 until his death.

Heim's work has philosophical interest insofar as he was concerned all of his life with the problem of restating Christianity in a form that would be credible in the scientific age. His early work explored the epistemology of religious faith, and his developed account draws on the Ithou philosophy of Martin Buber and also on some of the concepts of modern science. Heim's fundamental point was that the experiencing subject cannot itself become an object and so cannot be brought under the objectifying categories of scientific thought. Thus we have a way of breaking out of, or transcending, the objective world of science, for there is open to us also a nonobjectifiable, interpersonal world. Heim spoke of this as a further dimension of experience, analogous to a dimension of space. This suggests a new way in which we may try to think about the transcendent God; and belief in such a God seemed to Heim the most important point calling for defense and restatement in the Christian tradition. Modern cosmology has made it senseless to talk of such a God as "up there" or "out there" or "beyond." But this God is not an object in the world any more than the experiencing subject is, and God too must be sought in the nonobjectifiable dimensions of experience, not in the realm of Iit. Just as the situation is revolutionized if we add a third dimension to a two-dimensional manifold, and what was hitherto impossible in two dimensions may be possible in three, so Heim believed that the conflicting attitudes of religion and science may be reconciled by admitting the multidimensional character of experience. We are familiar today with the notion of geometries of more than three dimensions, and we can think of an interpersonal space as having a different order and structure from physical space. Both kinds of space are embraced in an archetypal space, which is also a suprapolar space because it resolves the polarities of both the interpersonal and the physical spaces. This suprapolar space is the abode of God; it cannot be proved, but it is disclosed in the experiences of faith that may be likened to opening up new dimensions of a fuller life. Heim also taught a doctrine of panpsychism, which suggested that the further dimensions opened up in man's encounter with other persons and with God are at least potentially present at all levels of being.

See also Buber, Martin; Panpsychism; Religion and the Biological Sciences; Religion and the Physical Sciences; Space.


principal works by heim

Glaubensgewissheit. Leipzig, 1916.

Glaube und Denken. Berlin, 1931. Translated as God Transcendent. Edinburgh, 1935.

Jesus der Herr. Berlin, 1935. Translated as Jesus the Lord. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961.

Der christliche Gottesglaube und die Naturwissenschaft. Tübingen, 1949. Translated as Christian Faith and Natural Science. London, 1953; New York: Harper, 1957.

Die Wandlung im naturwissenschaftlichen Weltbild. Hamburg, 1952. Translated as The Transformation of the Scientific World View. London: SCM, 1953; New York: Harper, 1954.

Weltschöpfung und Weltende. Hamburg, 1958. Translated as The World: Its Creation and Consummation. Philadelphia, Muhlenberg Press, 1962.

works on heim

Eerikainen, Atso. Two Dimensions of Time: The Dimensional Theory of Karl Heim. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Eisenhuth, H. E. "Im Gedenken und Karl Heim." In Theologische Literaturzeitung 83 (Leipzig, 1958): 657662.

Holmstrand, Ingemar. Karl Heim on Philosophy, Science, and the Transcendence of God. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala Universitet, 1980.

Spemann, F. Karl Heim und die Theologie seiner Zeit. Tübingen, 1932.

John Macquarrie (1967)

Bibliography updated by Christian B. Miller (2005)