KAFTAN, kaf'tan, JULIUS WILHELM MARTIN: German Protestant; b. at Loit (a village
near Apenrade, 35 m. n. of Schleswig), Schleswig-Holstein,
Sept. 30, 1848. He was educated at the
universities of Erlangen, Berlin, and Kiel from
1866 to 1871, and in 1873 was appointed associate
professor of systematic theology at Basel where
he was promoted to a full professorship in the same
subject in 1881. Since 1883 he has been professor
of apologetics and the philosophy of religion at
Berlin, He has written Sollen und Sein in ihrem
Verhältnis zu einander (Leipsic, 1872); . Die Predigt
des Evangeliums im modernen Geistesleben (Basel,
1879); Das Evangelium des Apostels Paulus in Predigten
der Gemeinde dargelegt (1879); Das Wesen der
christlichen Religion (1881); Das Leben in Christo
(sermons, 1883); Die Wahrheit der christlichen Religion
(1888); and Dogmatik (Tübingen, 1897).
After the revolution of 1848, in which Kahnis supported the king and the established order, he came to believe that the safest defense against irreligion was in rigid orthodoxy, and gradually drifted into an attitude of opposition to the Union (the consolidation of the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia effected by a royal decree in 1817). He strove to preserve the integrity of the Lutheran creed. Convinced at last that the Lutheran confession possessed neither a logical nor a legal basis under the Union, he joined the old Lutheran party in Nov., 1848, a step by which his academic activity at Breslau became still more difficult. In 1850, therefore, he gladly accepted a call to Leipsic, where he succeeded Harless in the chair of dogmatics, to which he later united that of church history. In the following year the University of Erlangen gave him the degree of D.D., and he acknowledged this honor by his Lehre vom Abendmahle (Leipsic, 1851), one of the best formulations of the type of Lutheranism taught at Erlangen. His professorial work at Leipsic was attended with success, but, feeling himself out of sympathy with the prevailing tone in the faculty, he would have accepted a call to Erlangen in 1856 had not the authorities promised to fill the first vacancy in the faculty by a theologian entirely in agreement with his own views. In the same year, Luthardt was called from Marburg, and he and Kahnis, together with Delitzsch, who came to Leipsic from Erlangen in 1867, constituted a triumvirate which raised the university to an unrivaled eminence in the realm of theology. In addition to his academic duties, Kahnis found time for much useful labor in the field of practical Christianity. From 1851 to 1857 he was a member of the board of missions, from 1853 to 1857 edited the Sächsische Kirchen- und Schulblatt, and from 1866 to 1875 was one of the editors of the Niednersche Zeitschrift für historische Theologie. At Leipsic in 1854 he published Der innere Gang des deutschen Protestantismus seit Mitte des vorigen Jahrhunderts (Eng. transl. by T. Meyer, Internal History of German Protestantism since the Middle of Last Century, Edinburgh, 1856), expanded in the second edition (1860) so as to include the entire period from the Reformation. These same years witnessed a literary controversy with Nitzsch over the question of the Union and confessional latitudinarianism, a controversy in which Kahnis sought to demonstrate the lack of doctrinal unity prevailing among the supporters of the movement.
In 1860 Kahnis became canon of the cathedral at Meissen and in 1864-65 he was rector of Leipsic University. Before that time, however, his religious views had undergone the change which found expression in his Lutherische Dogmatik (3 vols., Leipsic, 1861-68). The character of the work was foreshadowed in the second edition of Der Innere Gang, which revealed an approximation to rationalism, the abandonment of his old belief in inspiration, a readiness to admit the necessity of progress in doctrine, and an insistence upon the importance of recognizing the facts of human nature and natural morality. The five divisions of the Dogmatik deal with the history of Lutheran dogmatics, religion, revelation, creed, and system. The problem which Kahnis set himself was the derivation of the doctrines of the Lutheran Church from the basic principle of justification by faith, and the proof of their verity by the sole authority of the Scriptures. He found the nature of Christianity in the community of salvation between man and God through Christ in the Holy Spirit, seeking his proof in history, philosophy, and the common facts of life. It was not the system he advanced that aroused opposition, but the liberal attitude assumed by him toward the higher critics of the New Testament, his readiness to adopt the most of their theories, and his consequent modification of the doctrine of inspiration, as well as his dissent from the dogma of the Church
BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. J. Winter, Karl Friedrich August Kahnis, Leipsic, 1896; C. Schwarz, Zur Geschichte der neuesten Theologie, pp. 311-317, Leipsic, 1864.
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