1902 Encyclopedia > Georg Hermes

Georg Hermes
German Catholic theologian

GEORG HERMES (1775-1831), a distinguished Catholic theologian, born on 22d April 1775, at Dreyerwald, in Westphalia, was educated at the gymnasium and university of Münster. His life presents no facts of importance. After completing his course of study at Münster, he acted for some time as lecturer at the gymnasium and then as professor at the university. In 1820 he was called, as professor of theology, to the university of Bonn, where he remained till his death on 26th May 1831. Hermes was peculiarly adapted for the life and work of the professoriate. He had great gifts as a lecturer and teacher, and gathered round him at Bonn a devoted band of adherents. His works were Untersuchungen über die innere Wahrheit des Christenthums, Münster, 1805, and Einleitung in die Christ-katholische Theologie, of which the first part, a philoso-phical introduction, was published in 1819, the second part, on positive theology, in 1829. The Einleitung was never completed. His Christkatholische Dogmatik was published, from his lectures, after his death by two of his scholars, Achterfeld and Braun, 3 vols. 1831-4.

The Einleitung is a remarkable work, both in itself and in its effect upon Catholic theology in Germany. Few works of modern times have excited a more keen and bitter controversy. Hermes himself was very largely under the influence of the Kantian and Fichtean ideas, and though in the philosophical portion of his Einleitung he criticizes both these thinkers severely, rejects their doctrine of the moral law as the sole guarantee for the existence of God, and condemns their restricted view of the possibility and nature of revelation, enough remained of purely speculative material to render his system obnoxious to the Catholic Church. A very few years after his death, the contests between his followers and their opponents grew so embit-tered that reference of the dispute was made to the papal see. The judgment consequent upon a review of Hermes's writings, undertaken in Rome in 1833, was adverse, and on 25th September 1835 a papal bull condemned both parts of the Einleitung and the first volume of the Dog-matik. Two months later the remaining volumes of the Dogmatik were likewise condemned. The controversy did not cease with this condemnation; but not till 1845 was there any systematic attempt on the part of Catholic theo-logy to examine and refute the Hermesian doctrines. In that year was published anonymously by F. X. Werner the most complete survey of the principles of the works of Hermes as contrasted with the orthodox catholic faith (Der Hermesianismus, 1845). In 1847 the condemnation of 1835 was confirmed by Pius IX. A sufficient account of Hermes and the dispute raised by him will be found in K. Werner, Geschichte der Katholischen Theologie, 1866, pp. 405 sqq.

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