For over four hundred years historians and theologians have been unable to come to a consensus as to where Johann Arndt (1555-1621) fits on the spectrum of orthodoxy in the Lutheran church, what age he best represented, and how he should be understood. Arndt has been credited with reviving medieval mysticism, as being a subversive innovator within the Lutheran church, and as being the father of Pietism.
All of this confusion seems to come from the variegated nature of his work.
Arndt was willing and able to borrow from a variety of traditions as he sought to revive the church of the Reformation on the eve of the Thirty Years’ War. This work is an investigation into the private world of Arndt through his correspondence as he wrote to individuals with varying theological temperaments. In a sense this book follows the pioneering work of Friedrich Arndt, who attempted in 1838 to investigate Arndt’s self-understanding on the basis of his correspondence; his work, however, was severely limited by the fact that only ten letters were known at the time.
The Verzeichnis der gedruckten Briefe deutscher Autoren des 17. Jahrhunderts published in 2002 listed twenty-three known letters of Arndt. For my research and using the footnotes and appendices of secondary literature on Arndt and with help from the Forschungsbibliothek in Gotha, I have collected fifty-two letters written by Arndt.
This work is the first to treat the letters exhaustively and proposes to present a fuller biographical picture of Arndt and to explore his self-understanding as a prophet of spiritual renewal in the Lutheran church.