What is Christianity? Lectures Delivered in the University of Berlin during the Winter-Term 1899-1900.
by Adolf Harnack
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Harnack’s lectures sought to answer the question, “What is Christianity?” in a purely
historical way. In the centuries before, scholars, clergy, and laypersons turned to their
Bibles or their church’s creeds for the answer. For Harnack, examining Christianity with
the tools of historical criticism signified a return to true Christianity, which had become
mired in unnecessary and even damaging creeds and dogmas. Learning the raw historical
facts, for him, was one way to strip away all but the foundations of the faith. In his
lectures, then, Harnack spoke in terms of facts rather than tradition. Instead of looking to
evangelize his audience, he looks to build up their understanding of the Christian religion
as an historical force, moving through and shaping the times.