Friedrich Wilhelm Graf

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Friedrich Wilhelm Graf (2015)

Friedrich Wilhelm Graf (born December 19, 1948 in Wuppertal ) is a Protestant theologian and professor emeritus for systematic theology and ethics at the University of Munich (LMU).


After graduating from the Evangelical-Stiftisches Gymnasium in Gütersloh, Westphalia, in 1969 and a stay of several months in Japan, Graf studied Protestant theology, philosophy and history in Wuppertal , Tübingen and Munich . In 1978 he was promoted to Dr. Falk Wagner, the most influential Hegelian in Protestant theology of the late 20th century, on David Friedrich Strauss as a dogmatician and critic of Christianity in Munich. theol. PhD. In the same year he published a well-received book about “liberal religious” Catholic reform movements in the German Vormärz. The habilitation followed in 1986 with a study of theology and history of theonomy . Case studies on the integration requirements of modern theology. From 1986 to 1988 Graf Heisenberg was a fellow of the German Research Foundation . In 1988 he was appointed professor for systematic theology and recent history of theology at the University of Augsburg . From 1992 to 1996 he taught as full professor for Protestant theology and social ethics at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg. After declining an offer at the University of Würzburg, he returned to the University of Augsburg in 1996 as full professor for systematic theology and contemporary theological issues. He turned down offers at universities in the USA and Great Britain as well as offers to join the research department of the "Lutheran World Federation" in Geneva. From 1999 to the 2013/14 winter semester, he was Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, succeeding his academic teacher Trutz Rendtorff . From 1997 to 1999, as a founding fellow , he helped set up the Max Weber College at the newly founded University of Erfurt.

Graf was the first theologian to be awarded the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation in 1999. He has also been a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences since 2001 . Here the theologian, who also publishes on the history of ideas and ideas of modernity, is both chairman of the commission for the history of theology, founded on his initiative, and chairman of the commission for social and economic history, on whose behalf the large Max Weber Complete Edition is edited. In 1983 Graf became a member of the board of the Ernst Troeltsch Society and was its president from 1994 to 2015. He is thus largely responsible for the critical complete edition of Ernst Troeltsch's works . Since 1998 he has been a member of the working group for modern social history, of which he was vice chairman for several years.

From 2003 to 2007 Graf was first chairman of the sponsoring association of the TTN Institute (Technology-Theology-Natural Sciences) at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich . After turning down an appointment as a permanent fellow, he spent the 2006/07 academic year as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin .

He did not accept a call as founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Multi-Religious and Polyethnic Societies in Göttingen. From 2009 to 2012 he held a research professorship financed by the Excellence Initiative as part of the LMU's elite program.

Graf has taught at universities in the USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Great Britain, India, South Korea, Japan, Egypt and South Africa. He is Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria and since 2001 also Visiting Professor at Seigakuin University in Tokyo. His lectures in Tokyo and Kyoto as well as translations of his works achieved high editions on the Japanese market.

Topics and media presence

Graf has a diverse presence in the media and his writings and statements have caused quite a stir and disputes. The Return of the Gods (3rd edition 2004, expanded paperback edition 2007) was his most successful publication to date. Graf also frequently gives lectures on his research results. He is a regular freelance columnist for the NZZ , the FAZ and also writes for Die Zeit , Die Welt and the Süddeutsche Zeitung . In Mercury . In the period from 2014 to 2017, he published a religious column twice a year in the magazine for European thought . Friedrich Schleiermacher's double question: “Should the knot of history diverge like this? Christianity with barbarism, and science with unbelief? ”From the letter on the doctrine of faith (1829), one of the most famous texts of theological modernity, he cites as a central question. The decidedly liberal intellectual advocates an understanding of Christianity as a “thinking religion” that is supposed to promote self-determined reflexivity.

On ecumenism and the history of the Reformation

In a review of the Reformation history of Thomas Kaufmann , he saw him describe the “Reformation as a process of theological questioning, journalistic combat and the creative changes in the traditional church”, at the end of which, against the intention of important actors, three independent denominational cultures had emerged.

The power of the Christian religion, which permeates all dimensions of the conduct of life and of the community, was able to change the political institutional structure through an essentially religious, ecclesiastical process.

Graf polemicized against the "ecumenical crazy idea" of inviting the Pope to Wittenberg or the Wartburg in 2017 . This could only have occurred to church officials with a very manageable education in the history of the Reformation. The Protestants therefore need and do not want a Pope. The " freedom of a Christian " excludes clerical authority cult.

According to a spontaneous oral vote by Graf for a conference of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Alfred Herrhausen Society in 2011, the Protestant Church is increasingly being shaped by “young women, mostly with a petty-bourgeois socialization background, more mothers than real intellectuals”. Their form of religiosity threatens to associate “a cuddly god with bad taste”. Graf linked his description of the accelerating "feminization" of the evangelical pastor's profession, which he by no means rejected, but described as highly desirable, with a thesis from a religious analysis: sociologically, the two large national churches in the country were increasingly drifting apart despite all the forced ecumenical rhetoric as long as the office of the ordained (and should live celibate) priest remains limited to men.

Debate about structural reform in Bavaria

On May 3, 2003 an article by Graf was published in the SZ in which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria in general and its training concept in particular was questioned ("Unculture Protestantism - The Bavarian State Church is on the way to becoming a sect") . The very polemical article sparked a public debate that lasted for months.

According to Graf's pointed formulations, the level of skill in the Bavarian scholarship league ranges from the level of performance of the professionals of FC Bayern Munich to recreational footballers in Franconian villages. Studying with professors who played in the top positions of the academic Bundesliga or who brought home the trophies of the scientific Champions League is much more intellectually demanding than training with teachers who, literally, consider the clerical league south to be the world of the mind. 64% of the Bavarian Protestant theology students took their intermediate exams in Neuendettelsau and some of them would never have seen a university from the inside. The regional church wanders in the dark valley if it damages the faculties, but at the same time subsidizes its own "university" with only a meager range of courses and has it supported with state funds.

A Protestant church, which in the knowledge society pursues the de-academization of its future functional elite, reveals its corporate identity and will lose further market shares in competitive religious markets that are booming. Even meaningful companies would have to avoid management mistakes.

Graf therefore demanded the dissolution of the Augustana University in Neuendettelsau in order to strengthen the theological faculty of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, the old Bavarian 'state faculty'. He saw the fact that this was abolished in 2007 with the consent of the Bavarian regional church and her professorships were transferred to the Philosophical Faculty as confirmation of his worries about a self-chosen, but intellectually impoverished emigration of Protestant theology from the state academic institutions and the learned world.

Dawkins and Hitchens

Graf dealt with the new atheism in the form of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens .

Graf thinks that Dawkins does not repeat anything original. It has been known for a good 300 years that it was not God who wrote the Bible, but that the Holy Scriptures brought together contradicting texts from different author collectives and pious individuals. In his critique of the old metaphysical proofs of God, Dawkins remains far below the level of reflection of David Hume or Immanuel Kant , who he considers tough atheists thanks to a lack of knowledge of the sources.

When it comes to criticizing religion, Dawkins sometimes makes common cause with his worst enemies, the creationists. Against all those religious analysts who strictly differentiate between the production of religious symbols and the formation of scientific theories and who therefore consider the feuds between creation believers and neo-Darwinists to be objective, he knows that they are one with the creationists in that belief and knowledge raise the same claim to interpretation.

Hitchens lacked the analytical means and the understanding to recognize the elementary ambivalence of all religious symbolic languages ​​and their high degree of openness to interpretation. He is not in a position to offer explanations as to why in beliefs there are tendencies towards self-absolutization through alignment with God as well as a wholesome and humble self-limitation is possible.

Criticism of Margot Käßmann

Graf published a critical article about her in February 2011 after Margot Käßmann resigned from the EKD Council Presidency and State Bishopric. Käßmann comes from a "petty bourgeois" background and because of her rhetoric and her ability to present herself quickly rose to the highest church offices. Your statements on the Federal Armed Forces deployment in Afghanistan from 2009 are "pacifism of attitudes". She implicitly declared her own political opinion to be the only valid Christian position by frequently saying “I”. In doing so, she promoted a new “clericalism” that contradicts the Reformation priesthood of all believers . She hardly differentiates between religion and morality and relies primarily on moral communication in the preaching of the gospel. Her resignation was consistent because she had previously publicly staged her own "pre-reflective immediacy", the correspondence between her proclaimed morality and her own self.

Assisted suicide

Graf published a highly regarded essay in Merkur in May 2015 , in which he intervened in the then ongoing debate about assisted suicide . Contrary to traditional church beliefs, he argued in favor of medically assisted suicide. This is a legitimate exercise of the individual's freedom rights , which are due to man as a consequence of the gift of free life through God. The churches should therefore not advocate tightening legislation against medically assisted suicide. He praised the bill by MPs Peter Hintze (CDU), Carola Reimann (SPD), Karl Lauterbach (SPD) et al.



Alf Christophersen, Astrid Reuter and Friedemann Voigt are among Friedrich Wilhelm Graf's important students .

Publications (selection)

Monographs and edited volumes
  • The politicization of religious consciousness. The bourgeois religious parties in the German Vormärz. The example of German Catholicism (= modern times under construction. Representation and documentation. Volume 5), Stuttgart / Bad Cannstatt 1978.
  • Criticism and pseudo-speculation. David Friedrich Strauss as a dogmatist in the context of positional theology of his time (= Munich monographs on historical and systematic theology. Volume 7), Munich 1982.
  • (together with Hartmut Ruddies ) Ernst Troeltsch Bibliography , Tübingen 1982.
  • (together with Sieglinde Graf) Martin Luther. An attempt to understand him from his time (= information paper of the Central Work and Study Office of the German Evangelical Working Group for Adult Education. Volume 46), Karlsruhe 1982, 3rd edition 1993.
  • Theonomy. Case studies on the integration requirements of modern theology , Gütersloh 1987.
  • toreruchi to doitsu-bunka-purotesutantizumu [German: Troeltsch and German cultural Protestantism ; Troeltsch lectures in Tokyo 2000], trans. and ed. by Tomoaki Fukai and Toshimasa Yasukata, Tokyo 2001.
  • The return of the gods. Religion in der Moderne Kultur , Munich 2004, 2nd edition 2004, 3rd edition 2005, licensed edition BpB 2004, 2nd edition 2005., new edition 2007.
  • Medicines and Health - ›Stuttgart Declaration‹ , Eschborn 2004.
  • Moses legacy. About divine and human laws , Munich 2006, 2nd edition 2006, 3rd edition 2006.
  • as ed. with Johannes Müller, Michael Reder and Tobias Karcher: Religionen und Globalisierung. (= Global Solidarity - Steps to a New World Culture. Volume 16). Kohlhammer, 2007, ISBN 978-3-17-019878-4 .
  • Protestantism. Past and present , Munich 2006, licensed edition BpB 2008, 2nd edition 2010, 3rd edition 2017, Japanese translation: 2008, 2nd edition 2008.
  • Harnack to Troeltsch [German: Troeltsch and Harnack ; Troeltsch lectures in Tokyo 2005], trans. and ed. by Masaomi Kondo and Tomoaki Fukai, Tokyo 2007.
  • Abused gods. On the controversy with images of man in modern times , Munich 2009.
  • Church twilight. How the churches gamble away our trust , Munich 2011, 2nd edition 2011, 3rd edition 2013.
  • The holy zeitgeist. Studies on the history of ideas in Protestant theology in the Weimar Republic , Tübingen 2011.
  • Gods Global. How the world becomes a supermarket of religions , Munich 2014, licensed edition BpB 2014.
  • Professional friendship. Studies on Troeltsch and Weber . Berlin / Boston 2014.
  • (together with Horst Renz) Troeltsch studies. Studies on biography and work history. With the unpublished doctoral theses of the “Little Göttingen Faculty” 1888–1893 , Gütersloh 1982, 2nd edition 1985.
  • (together with Falk Wagner) Escape into the term. Materials on Hegel's philosophy of religion (= German idealism. Philosophy and impact history in sources and studies. Volume 6), Stuttgart 1982.
  • (together with Horst Renz) Protestantism and Modern Times (= Troeltsch Studies. Volume 3), Gütersloh 1984.
  • (together with Horst Renz) Controversial modernity. The future of modern times in the judgment of Ernst Troeltsch's epoch (Troeltsch studies 4), Gütersloh 1987.
  • (together with Rüdiger vom Bruch and Gangolf Hübinger) Culture and cultural studies around 1900. Crisis of modernity and belief in science , Stuttgart 1989.
  • Profiles of Modern Protestantism , Volume 1: Enlightenment, Idealism, Vormärz , Gütersloh 1990.
  • Profiles of modern Protestantism , Volume 2/1: Das Kaiserreich. Part 1 , Gütersloh 1992.
  • Profiles of Modern Protestantism , Volume 2/2: Das Kaiserreich. Part 2 , Gütersloh 1993.
  • (together with Klaus Tanner) Protestant identity today , Gütersloh 1992.
  • (together with Trutz Rendtorff) Ernst Troeltsch's social teachings. Studies on their interpretation (= Troeltsch studies. Volume 6), Gütersloh 1993.
  • Liberal theology. A determination of the location (= Troeltsch studies. Volume 7), Gütersloh 1993.
  • (together with Hans Martin Müller) German Protestantism around 1900 (= publications of the Scientific Society for Theology. Volume 9), Gütersloh 1996.
  • Martin Dibelius. Self-reflection of the German , Tübingen 1997
  • (together with Andreas Platthaus and Stephan Schleissing) Social capital in civil society , Stuttgart / Berlin / Cologne 1999.
  • Ernst Troeltsch's "Historicism" (= Troeltsch studies. Volume 11), Gütersloh 2000, 2nd edition 2003.
  • (together with Dietrich Korsch) Beyond unity. Protestant views of ecumenism , Hanover 2001.
  • (together with Tomoaki Fukai) Heidelberg ni okeru angrosakuson kenkyu no Dentou , Tokyo 2001.
  • (together with Heinrich Meier) Death in life. A symposium , Munich / Zurich 2004, 2nd edition 2008, 3rd edition 2009.
  • Classics of Theology , Volume 1: From Tertullian to Calvin , Munich 2005, Dutch translation Amsterdam 2008.
  • Classics of Theology , Volume 2: From Richard Simon to Karl Rahner , Munich 2005, Dutch translation Amsterdam 2009.
  • (together with Wolfgang Schluchter) Ascetic Protestantism and the “spirit” of modern capitalism , Tübingen 2005.
  • “Overcoming history through history” - Ernst Troeltsch in Berlin (= Troeltsch studies. NF Volume 1), Gütersloh 2006.
  • (together with Klaus Große Kracht ) Religion and Society. Europe in the 20th Century (= Industrial World. Series of publications by the Working Group for Modern Social History. Volume 73), Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2007.
  • (together with Klaus Wiegandt) The Beginnings of Christianity , Frankfurt a. M. 2009, 2nd edition 2009.
  • (together with Elisabeth Müller-Luckner) intellectual gods. The religious laboratory of classical modernism (= writings of the historical college. Colloquia. Volume 66), Munich 2009.
  • On the happiness and unhappiness of old age , Munich 2010.
  • (in accordance with Friedemann Voigt) Interpret religion (s). Transformations of Religious Research (= Troeltsch-Sudien. NF Volume 2), Berlin / New York 2010.
  • (together with Horst Dreier and Joachim Jens Hesse) Political Science and State Practice , Baden-Baden 2011.
  • (together with Ulrich Barth, Christian Danz and Wilhelm Gräb) Enlightened religion and its problems. Schleiermacher - Troeltsch - Tillich (= Theological Library Töpelmann. Volume 165), Berlin / Boston 2013.
  • (together with Heinrich Meier) Politics and religion. On the diagnosis of the present , Munich 2013, 2nd edition 2017.
  • Turning points. Studies on the history of science of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences (= contributions to the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. Volume 2), Regensburg 2013.
  • (together with Edith Hanke and Barbara Picht) History of the intellectual. Theory-historical perspectives , Tübingen 2015.
  • (together with Heinrich Meier) The future of democracy. Criticism and plea , Munich 2018.
Series and magazine editorships
  • (together with Horst Renz) Troeltsch studies , volumes 1–12, Gütersloh 1982–2004.
  • New Athenaeum. A Scholarly Journal Specializing in Schleiermacher Research and Nineteenth Century Studies / Neues Athenaeum. Journal for Schleiermacher Research and Studies on the 19th Century , Volumes 1 (1989) -3 (1993) [Member of the Editorial Board].
  • (together with Gangolf Hübinger) Religious Cultures of Modern Age , Volumes 1–13, Gütersloh 1996–2006.
  • (together with Gangolf Hübinger) Ernst Troeltsch. Critical Complete Edition , ed. on behalf of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, Berlin / New York 1998ff .; since 2004ff. ed. on behalf of the Commission for Theological History Research of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
  • Communications from the Ernst Troeltsch Society , ed. on behalf of the Ernst Troeltsch Society eV, volumes 5–13, Augsburg 1990–2000, volumes 14–22, Munich 2001–2011.
  • (together with Ted Vial and Mark Chapman) Journal for the History of Modern Theology / Zeitschrift für Neuere Theologiegeschichte , Volumes 1–19, Berlin / New York 1994–2012.
  • (together with Wolfgang Schieder, later Lutz Raphael) Industrielle Welt (= series of publications of the working group for modern social history ), Volumes 60–73, Cologne / Weimar 2000–2008.
  • (together with Reiner Anselm, Jörg Dierken and Georg Pfleiderer) Troeltsch studies. New episode , Gütersloh 2006ff.
  • (together with Joachim Jens Hesse) Zeitschrift für Staats- und Europawwissenschaften / Journal für Comparative Gouvernment and European Policy , Berlin 2006ff.
Editing of the critical complete edition of the works of Ernst Troeltsch
  • Ernst Troeltsch: Reviews and Critiques (1901–1914) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 4), ed. in collaboration with Gabriele von Bassermann-Jordan, Berlin / New York 2004.
  • Ernst Troeltsch: Reviews and Critiques (1894–1900) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 2), ed. in collaboration with Dina Brandt, Berlin / New York 2007.
  • Ernst Troeltsch: The historicism and its problems (1922) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 16.1 and 16.2), ed. in collaboration with Matthias Schloßberger, Berlin / New York 2008.
  • Ernst Troeltsch: Reviews and Critiques (1915–1923) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 13), ed. in collaboration with Diana Feßl, Harald Haury and Alexander Seelos, Berlin / New York 2010.
  • Ernst Troeltsch: Letters I (1884–1894) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 18), ed. in collaboration with Volker Bendig, Harald Haury and Alexander Seelos, Berlin / Boston 2013.
  • Ernst Troeltsch: Letters II (1894–1904) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 19), ed. in collaboration with Harald Haury, Berlin / Boston 2015.
  • Ernst Troeltsch: Letters III (1905–1915) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 20), ed. in collaboration with Harald Haury, Berlin / Boston 2016.
  • Ernst Troeltsch: Briefe IV (1915–1918) (= Ernst Troeltsch Critical Complete Edition. Volume 21), ed. in collaboration with Harald Haury, Berlin / Boston 2018.

Secondary literature

  • Georg Pfleiderer: Guarding the guards. Theological diagnosis of the present by Friedrich Wilhelm Graf , in: Annunciation and Research 61 (2016), pp. 152–160.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. LMU Homepage: Offic. Curriculum Vitae ( Memento from February 18, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (Ruhr): Friedrich Wilhelm Graf gives three speeches on religion and humanism ( Memento from June 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  4. NZZ: Morality is not a religion of March 4, 2010, ab. on March 8, 2010
  5. Short biography and reviews of works by Friedrich Wilhelm Graf at
  6. a b c d e f g Documentation of the controversy at the Augustana ( Memento from April 10, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  7. a b c d Friedrich Wilhelm Graf: Religion: How freedom came into faith. In: Zeit Online . December 30, 2009, accessed August 24, 2018 .
  8. Thomas Kaufmann: History of the Reformation . Suhrkamp / Insel, 2009, ISBN 978-3-458-71024-0 ; Reviewed on September 21, 2009.
  9. Peter Richter: Conversation with Friedrich Wilhelm Graf: Ein Gott zum Kuscheln. (No longer available online.) In: . March 27, 2011, archived from the original on December 6, 2013 ; Retrieved on August 24, 2018 : "The Protestant theologian Friedrich Wilhelm Graf speaks about ecclesiastical feel-good rhetoric, the necessary equality of Islam and the importance of religious institutions for our life and our culture." Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. a b c d e f Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 11, 2007: Graf's criticism of current books by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens
  11. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Graf (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, March 4, 2010): Morality is not a religion. Protestantism, the fall of a German bishop and the loss of distinctions.
  12. Issue 05 / March 2015 on the MERKUR website , accessed on August 18, 2015.
  13. “How do you feel about dying?” - Article on , accessed on August 18, 2015.
  14. ^ Draft of a law regulating the end of life accompanied by a doctor (Document 18/5374 of June 30, 2015)