Reinhold Seeberg (24 March 1859 – 23 October 1935) was a German Protestant theologian. He was a professor or theology at Erlangen, where he had studied, and then in 1893 a Professor of dogmatic theology at the Friedrich-Wilhelm University (founded as the University of Berlin in 1810). A staunch German nationalist, he affirmed the divinely appointed role of Germany in the salvation of the world, and did not support the Weimar republic. Seeberg was part of the movement for the modern revival of Luther and Reformation studies, including the repositioning of Martin Bucer as a mediating theologian between Lutheran and Reformed thought. His son, Erich Seeberg went on to become a significant theologian in his own right at the University of Berlin.
Scholarship and Influence
R. Seeberg authored over two dozen books and many articles, covering a range of issues in historical theology' including the early church, Luther, the essence of Christianity, and Duns Scotus. His most famous text was the widely published and translated "Textbook of the History of Doctrines," in five volumes. The latter work offered an encyclopedic understanding of the development of Christian doctrine, from the New Testament period into the 17th century, according to modern historical-critical methods. In it, Seeberg offers a more traditional assessment of the essentials of Christian teachings, in contrast to his colleague Adolph von Harnack, the elder historian of dogma at Berlin. Seeberg also emphasized the social nature of the Church, a teaching which became important to his students.
Seeberg had a number of important students, including Werner Elert in church history and dogma, Hermann Sasse in Lutheran studies, and most famously Dietrich Bonhoeffer in theology and ethics. Bonhoeffer, in particular, adopted Seeberg's emphasis on the social nature of the Church, the epistemological and ethical dimensions of doctrines, and an anti-metaphysical emphasis in his own thought. Even when Bonhoeffer turned to a stronger Barthian view of revelation over religion, Bonhoeffer maintained a social emphasis in theology and ethics, which marked Seeberg's lasting influence.