German Lutheran theologian and historian of dogma; b. Pörrafer, Estonia, April 5, 1859; d. Ahrenshoop, Germany, Oct. 23, 1935. He studied theology at Dorpat (later Tartu) in Estonia and at Erlangen, Germany, and taught at Dorpat (1884–89), Erlangen (1889–98), and Berlin (1898–1927). Seeberg's numerous works were concerned with the history of dogma and stressed the theory of the development of doctrine. Believing that the fundamental truths of Christianity persisted in different but increasingly more precise forms, he wrote Die Grundwahrheiten der Christlichen Religion (1902; tr. Fundamental Truths of the Christian Religion, 1908). to refute harnack's Wesen des Christentums (1901). Seeberg's most important work on the history of dogma was Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (1895–98; 5th ed., 4 v. 1954; tr. as Text-Book of the Doctrines, 1905). He wrote also Grundriss der Dogmengeschichte (1901; 7th ed.1936). In addition, he published works on social ethics and systematic theology. His System der Ethik (1911) interpreted Christian morality as a dedication to God based on principles formed within a Christian framework but realized under concrete circumstances and possibilities. Although he regarded morality as primarily personal, he insisted that it must extend to social, political, and national problems. Seeberg's Christliche Dogmatik (2 v. 1924–25) described Christianity as a life-process between the infinite spirit of God and the finite spirit of man.
Bibliography: r. seeberg in Die Religionswissenschaft der Gegenwart in Selbstdarstellungen, ed. e. stange (Leipzig 1925) 173–206, autobiog. sketch, h. lammers, Reinhold Seeberg Bibliographie (Stuttgart 1939). h. beintker, Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon: Kirchlich-theologisches Handwörterbuch, ed. h. brunotte and o. weber, 4 v. (Göttingen 1956–61) 3:895. e. schott, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3rd ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 5:1632–33. a. deissmann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65); 9:564–565.
[l. j. swidler]