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Dieter Ising: Johann Christoph Blumhardt


Dieter Ising, Johann Christoph Blumhardt, Life and Work: A New Biography (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009), 491 pages, ISBN 9781606085394.

Ising’s scholarship makes the ministries, German-language correspondences, and theological contributions of Johann Christoph Blumhardt accessible to the non-academic English reader. In regard to twenty-first century pastoral ministry, Blumhardt’s nineteenth century experiences become a welcome companion, because he demonstrated genuine pastoral concern for the mentally, physically, or spiritually ill people who come to him for relief. In like manner, Ising’s laborious attention for detail, his academic tenacity for accuracy, and his engaging storytelling skill makes Blumhardt’s biography come alive; it is a readable account. As a historian and biographer, I tip my hat to Ising for his ability to blend exhaustive (and exhausting—as evidenced in the footnotes) research without losing the attention of his uninitiated readers.

Anyone familiar with pastoral politics will nod knowingly when reading about the quagmire of political and ecclesial jealousy that Blumhardt waded through.

The biography wends its way through the chronology of Blumhardt’s entire life, bringing the reader to comprehend the scope of his family, education, pastoral ministry, and supernatural encounters of exorcism and healing. Ising explains the twists and turns of the state and church politics that both support and encumber the nineteenth century German minister. Likewise, the biography details Blumhardt’s pivotal exorcism experience and famed proclamation “Jesus is Victor” that propelled the spiritual awakening into an ever-widening community of influence (175). The reader is drawn into the narrative concerning the seemingly spontaneous events of this spiritual revival, which attracted first the people living in his local parish, then the neighboring communities, and eventually spread beyond the borders of his native Germany. Anyone who is knowledgeable of pastoral politics will nod their head in agreement when reading about the quagmire of political and ecclesial jealousy that Blumhardt waded through; his opponents resented his successful ministry. Thus, we can appreciate the apparent providential opportunity he had to transition from the confines of parish-based pastoral ministry, to the liberty of retreat-house pastoral ministry.

Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805–1880)

Ising gently probes and massages the controversy of Blumhardt as theologian; he writes neither hagiography nor pejorative critique, leaving the reader to conclude what they will from the evenhanded evidence he has presented. For the pastoral reader, the book offers pragmatic experiences and anecdotes from Blumhardt’s familiarity with supernatural and spiritual encounters. For the sociologist, the book offers a people’s history of nineteenth century German culture. For any lover of history, the book opens and closes an intriguing look into a chapter of European history.

Reviewed by John R. Miller


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Category: Church History, Spring 2010

About the Author: John R. Miller is an ordained minister with Elim Fellowship of Lima, NY and serves as Pastor of Education with Living Word Temple of Restoration, Rochester, NY. He has a degree from Elim Bible Institute, a B.Div. (Trinity Theological Seminary), C.P.E. (University of Rochester), M.Div. (Northeastern Seminary), and Ph.D. (Regent University). He teaches at Regent University and Elim Bible Institute & College.

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