Why are gangs harmful to the community?

Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700 - 1760)

1. The childhood in Großhennersdorf (1700 - 1710)

Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born on May 26th, 1700 in Dresden as the first and only child of his parents, as his father died just six weeks after the birth. His family belonged to the European nobility and originally came from Austria. The little boy was to become an imperial count. When his mother Charlotte Justine von Gersdorf entered into a second marriage in Berlin in 1704, the boy was given to grandmother Henriette Katharina von Gersdorf at Großhennersdorf Castle near Zittau (today in the border triangle D-PL-CZ). She was a highly educated woman, fluent in French, Italian, and Latin, and could also speak Greek, Hebrew, Chaldean, and Syriac. The Bible was read in the original languages. At the Electoral Saxon court (the second most important in Europe, after the Habsburgs in Vienna) in Dresden, she had far-reaching influence and cultivated many contacts in the pietistic world. Spener and Francke also came to visit. Here the little "Lutz" developed a deep childlike love for Jesus, which, however, already at the age of 8 years went through a fundamental challenge as to whether God even exists. Again and again in his life Zinzendorf should go through such phases of doubt, which did not dissolve intellectually, but only because he put his trust in Jesus against all doubts.

2. The training at the pedagogy in Halle (1710-1716)

After the extremely sheltered childhood in Großhennersdorf (outside, for example, he was only carried or driven), Zinzendorf was brought to the Francke Pedagogy in Halle by his mother on August 9th, 1710. He is the first imperial count to visit the institution, making him the most famous student and therefore allowed to sit between the Francke couple at meals. Zinzendorf's character is initially judged very negatively by his educators. The time in Halle is not easy for him either. Again and again he rubs himself against the fearful and strict atmosphere. Nevertheless, he takes valuable impulses with him into his further life. He was particularly impressed by the encounter with the missionaries Plütschau and Ziegenbalg. From 1714 to 1716 he founded a solid spiritual community with some other noble boys, the Mustard Seed Order. There were conversions and a small revival, so that Francke and the head of the education department also showed him certain sympathies when he left in April 1716.

3. Studying law in Wittenberg (1716-1719)

Zinzendorf planned to enter the Saxon civil service and therefore, at the insistence of his guardians, studied law in Wittenberg, the stronghold of Lutheran orthodoxy, from August 1716. Here Zinzendorf openly acknowledged himself as a “Pietist” and, in addition to studying, dealt with theological issues as much as possible. He tried to mediate in the theological dispute between the Pietists in Halle and the Orthodox in Wittenberg, but then had to break off his studies at the instigation of his guardians in April 1719.

4. The educational journey (1719-1721)

In May 1719, Zinzendorf began an educational trip. His first stop was Frankfurt, which he wanted to see because of the bond he had with his godfather Spener (who died in 1705). In Düsseldorf he was impressed by a Passion painting by the Italian painter Domenico Feti (1589 - 1624) with the caption: “Ego pro te haec passus sum. Tu vero, quid fecisti pro me? ”(I suffered this for you - what are you really doing for me?), On the basis of which he gives his life to Jesus anew. In Utrecht in the Netherlands and in Paris, Zinzendorf got to know many different Christian groups and he discovered that there were Christians in all denominations who were founded in the Bible in a deep love for Jesus and with whom he could have warm spiritual fellowship.

5.Justizrat at the Dresdener Hof (1721 - 1726)

In October 1721, Zinzendorf accepted an unpaid position in the civil service as a judicial advisor at the Dresden court. He saw it as a pre-school for a later government office. On September 7th, 1722 he married Erdmuthe Dorothea Countess von Reuss-Ebersdorf (1700 - 1756) from Thuringia. His understanding of marriage was very sober and practical. Before the wedding he wrote to her that he “was only looking for someone who could have a husband as if she had no one, and who loved Jesus Christ above all else.” Erdmuthe was very talented in practice and became a competent manager for the various areas of work that followed her husband.

In May 1722, Zinzendorf bought the farming village of Berthelsdorf near Zittau from his grandmother. The newlyweds move into the Berthelsdorf Castle, they employ a Lutheran pastor for their church and the imperial count is now one of 300 imperial rulers in Germany. Over time, Zinzendorf fills the office at Dresdener Hof less and less, so that he spends more and more time in Berthelsdorf, which is mainly due to the many people who are now moving to Berthelsdorf.

6. The origin of the Moravian Brethren

A month after Zinzendorf had acquired the Berthelsdorf estate, several Moravian religious refugees asked him for asylum. Zinzendorf allows them to settle on the Hutberg (the mountain on which animals were guarded) west of Berthelsdorf. Soon this was interpreted as a place that is "under the hat of the Lord". After five years, the "Herrnhut" settlement already consisted of 30 houses with over 200 residents from many different areas and denominations. This soon led to profound tensions, so that from 1724 Zinzendorf cared less and less about his office in Dresden and more and more about his community. In 1727 there was a profound crisis in Herrnhut because some groups wanted to separate from the Berthelsdorf community. The breakthrough finally took place on August 13, 1727. At a communion service in the Berthelsdorf Church, the contending parties are reconciled and form the Moravian Brethren. On the basis of Lutheran theology, the Moravian settlement and the old village community tried to develop new forms of spiritual life together.

7. The forms of community of the fraternal community

The Protestant churches after the Reformation became largely one-sided pastor churches. In contrast, Zinzendorf and his employees have now developed a number of revolutionary innovations. In the beginning, various so-called gangs were introduced into the community. These were small groups of 3-8 people based on sympathy and voluntariness, in which one strengthened each other on the path of succession. The gang leaders of these "confessional communities" exchanged views in weekly gang conferences.

In addition to these voluntary groups, other community-building groups have also been set up. First, Zinzendorf tried to divide the congregation into classes, which should be sorted according to spiritual maturity and experience. But this experiment was soon discarded. It was too tempting to constantly censor yourself and others. The choirs then finally became the dominant principle of structure. Here people were divided into natural groups, such as unmarried brothers or sisters, young married couples. i.a. Here the opportunity for open discussion and pastoral care was given. Above all, the single choirs living together (separated by sex) saw themselves as intensive service communities in diakonia and mission. Zinzendorf had the goal that his village should be a light shining all over the world in the form of a large collegium pietatis.

8. The office structure in Herrnhut

In addition to these groupings, Herrnhut soon gave rise to a large number of offices. All gifts and abilities in the community should also be used. But so that nobody gets the reputation of just wanting to stand out, he was given an office whenever possible. There were no limits to the imagination. There were elders, teachers, helpers, overseers, admonishers, servants, nurses, alms attendants, economic overseers, etc. This democratization of the concept of office bound many Christians responsibly in the common service. For a long time Zinzendorf held the office of the head of state, until it was solemnly entrusted to Jesus Christ as head and elder in 1741. This is where the custom stems from always leaving a place free for Jesus at mealtimes.

9. The creativity of Herrnhut

Not only with offices, but also with the establishment of new customs and celebrations, creativity was given free space. Fasting days and a 24-hour prayer were established. People began to visit each other's houses every day and, since 1728, to pass on a daily motto. From 1729 these slogans are recorded in writing and printed since 1731 in order to include traveling siblings (today the slogans appear in 46 languages ​​in millions of copies). Another well-known institution was the singing lessons, in which people did not come together to teach but to worship and praise the Lord. Zinzendorf himself composed over two thousand songs, often spontaneously during such singing lessons. As on such occasions, artistic talents were cultivated and efforts were made to make them serviceable to Jesus. Further celebrations were introduced. So the old church custom of the love feasts was reintroduced, at which the whole congregation came together for a festive meal with a lot of singing and prayer. Various anniversaries of the Brethren became feast days, and customs such as the washing of feet were also regularly practiced. Overall, Zinzendorf had the ideal of a liturgical lifestyle. All false separations of spiritual and worldly life should be avoided, instead as many aspects of life as possible should be embedded in a spiritual perspective. For Zinzendorf, liturgical means something like constantly looking up at Jesus. Of all things, they have names as they want, I wish that a liturgical spirit would appear. It was consistently related to the world of work, to marriage (with some questionable expressions), to liturgical falling asleep and waking up.

10. From Herrnhut to Herrnhag

From 1731 the state resistance to the developments in Berthelsdorf increased. Mainly because of the admission of non-religious refugees, Zinzendorf got into legal conflicts that led to his expulsion from Saxony in March 1736. Zinzendorf had to transfer his property to his wife. The Moravian Brethren itself was checked and was allowed to remain, but not spread beyond Herrnhut. During this time, Zinzendorf passed a theological exam and was approved for the spiritual office in Tübingen. Zinzendorf saw himself as a wandering pilgrim until he was finally able to found the parishes Marienborn (1736) and Herrnhag (1738) in the Hessian Wetterau, which over time became larger than Herrnhut himself. In Marienborn he also became bishop of the Brothers Unity in 1737 ordained.

11. Missionary work

From the beginning, Zinzendorf emphasized the mission aspect of his work. The communion in the Holy Spirit experienced in Herrnhut should be carried into all the world. Brothers were sent to Jena and Denmark as early as 1727, and to London in 1728. In 1732 the first pagan missionaries were sent to the Caribbean island of St. Thomas to bring the Gospel to black slaves. Moravians evangelize among slaves, Eskimos, Hottentots and Indians. Often determined by lot, the Moravian brothers and sisters, mostly poorly trained, go to 28 mission areas. 200 Moravian missionaries were sent out by 1760; their number soon exceeded the Halle missionaries many times over. By renouncing a denominational character and independence from colonial powers, the founding of the Moravian missions had a great impact. Zinzendorf himself spent many years on the mission fields, where he often caused a stir. As an imperial count, he greeted a black slave who had become Christian with a kiss on the hand. He lived with Indians and was deeply impressed by the originality of their life. At the beginning of the forties, Zinzendorf tried to bring back many of the manifestations of an original way of life that impressed him in his communities again, with which he largely ushered in the exuberance of the sighting period. But here it becomes clear that the missionary practice did not become a one-way street, but also brought ideas to Germany. Missionary work has resulted in the Brothers Union today numbering 762,000 members in 30 countries.

12. The sighting time in Herrnhag and the last years of life

Zinzendorf saw the future in the new English colonies of North America, because there was freedom of belief and conscience. He visited St. Thomas in 1738 and Pennsylvania in 1741. The local brother settlement in Bethlehem became a strong base for the Moravians. After his return from America, he laid off older employees and put young people in management positions. In deliberate contrast to the rational Enlightenment and the strict Halle pietism, Zinzendorf now tried to focus on the child's immediate joy in redemption. To this end, he introduced many diminutive forms into language usage (little lamb, little sinner, etc.). The love of Jesus was combined with a focus on the wounds of Jesus, so that there was a real cult around "Jesus' side cave" into which the Christian creeps lovingly in faith. Example: “For wounds-Würmelein in love with his four nails, for cross-air-birds, ailing from the agony of love after Jesus' side shrine. Are you a cross-air bird and a little diver, go into the hole that the spear scratched for you? ”(Brothers' hymn book, 1746).

After Zinzendorf set out on a trip from Herrnhag in the spring of 1748, the community slipped into ever more bizarre extremes under the leadership of his son. In some cases, the 1000-year-old Reich was considered to have been realized, so that Zinzendorf had to intervene in February 1749. However, this could no longer prevent that in 1750 all of the almost 1000 residents of Herrnhag were expelled. Zinzendorf later interpreted these years in Herrnhag as a "sighting of Satan". Zinzendorf itself has been allowed to re-enter Herrnhut since 1747. He continued to travel a lot, however, and from 1750 lived mostly in London, from 1755 again in Herrnhut. After the death of his wife in 1756, he married his long-time colleague Anna Nitschmann before he died on 9 May 1760 in Herrnhut.

13. Theological basics of Zinzendorf

a. Against the moralization of Christianity through the Enlightenment

What is the main sum of the gospel that one has to ask about above all things and base all spiritual fellowship on it? This is what I call, in my personal way of expressing myself, the personal connection with the Savior

At a time when all personal beliefs were evaporating and becoming the religion of virtue of the Enlightenment, Zinzendorf saw with the greatest passion the relationship to Jesus Christ as the center of his life and his community. He considered a purely rational knowledge of the existence of God in the sense of the Enlightenment to be dangerous: “Whoever knows God in his head becomes an atheist!”. Being a Christian is only realized in the personal relationship with Jesus: "Without Jesus I would be an atheist!"

b. Against the legality of Francke Pietism

Zinzendorf rejected the conversion methodism, which only wanted to recognize a certain type of conversion as a sign of genuine Christianity. A one-sided penitential piety was also rejected, which puts the struggle with one's own sinfulness and moral exertion at the center of faith. On the other hand, like no other important Pietist, Zinzendorf emphatically fell back on Luther and emphasized faith in Christ as the origin of new life.

c. Against the seclusion of radical pietism

In contrast to representatives of radical pietism, the slogan “Jesus alone” also led to happy actions based on faith, which must not turn into passive quietism.

d. Against the striving for perfection of methodism

Zinzendorf rejected all hope of perfection in the faithful from Luther. In the dispute with John Wesley, Zinzendorf emphasized the Lutheran simul justus et peccator. Man cannot achieve perfection and freedom from sin on earth through conscientious sanctification. Rather, let Christ alone remain the righteousness valid before God.

e. Against end-time speculations by the Württemberg people

His Christocentrism also made him keep his distance from speculations about the history of salvation, as he noticed with Johann Albrecht Bengel, for example. While the latter accused him of destroying the context of Scripture by drawing lots, Zinzendorf did not want to press the gospel of Christ into false systems.

f. For the indispensability of the community

"I do not establish Christianity without community". Just as faith can not only be lived as a gray theory, but also requires a personal relationship, so it is also dependent on the realization in a concrete community. Zinzendorf definitely affirmed the trend towards more and more individualization at the time. Faith wants to be appropriated personally, and in doing so does not suppress the personality of the Christian, but unfold it. But it is precisely for this that each individual needs the help and correction of brothers and sisters."A mean is the only evidence against unbelief".

G. For cross-denominational cooperation for all who love Jesus

Early on, Zinzendorf represented an ecumenical movement for those who follow Jesus Christ. He saw the unity of the church in the reconciliation sacrifice Jesus as already given, so that it did not first have to be brought about by external unions. He later developed his so-called tropical theory from this basic attitude. Accordingly, each denomination is just one of many different ways of upbringing (tropoi paideiav) of God. The fraternity should not become a new denomination, but rather bring about an orientation towards the center of Jesus Christ in different denominations. All major denominations have a special charisma, but also a special threat. However, Zinzendorf saw his brethren primarily rooted in the Lutheran denomination

H. For a clear distinction between the spirits

In addition to all openness to fellow Christians of all shades, there were also limits to the community. Zinzendorf tried his whole life to get all sorts of lateral thinkers, especially in dealing with the charismatic inspired community around Friedrich Rock. Here Zinzendorf encountered an enthusiastic piety that was expressed in falling, trembling, prophecies and perhaps speaking in tongues. Zinzendorf had great respect for rock and did not want to discard such phenomena unchecked. Over time, however, the Count became increasingly skeptical, until he broke with Rock. When increasingly unbiblical practices were explained with divine authority, Zinzendorf kept his distance. In the later sighting period (1743 - 1750) one finally proved that one was realistic enough to see one's own fallibility even with the best of intentions.

14. The rest of Herrnhut

After Zinzendorf's death in 1760, the congregation was continued by August Gottlieb Spangenberg. He shaped the community to what still distinguishes it today: "The quiet in the country who, through a high human culture and educational wisdom, provide an example of Christian modesty and charity and unite personal simplicity with theological depth and ecumenical breadth." (M. Schmidt, 108) The Herrnhutern succeeded in preserving the simple faith in the Bible and the deep love of Jesus through the time of the Enlightenment. In the 19th century Influential personalities like Novalis or Kierkegaard grew up in Herrnhut piety. Schleiermacher also saw himself as a “Moravian of a higher order”. The Herrnhut spirit gave important impulses to the awakening movement of the 19th century.