Those who have heard of Albert Schweitzer have a number of images come to mind.
That’s understandable. In his 90 years, Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was a brilliant philosopher, physician, musician, clergyman and theological writer. Before he was 30 he won an international reputation as a writer, organist and organ builder. He was also an authority on the works of the great Lutheran composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. Many remember his medical mission in French Equatorial Africa, his founding of a hospital and leper colony. For his humanitarian work he was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize.
But sadly, for all his gifted brilliance and “civic” righteousness, Schweitzer was also a very liberal “theologian” who denied the very foundations of the true Christian faith.
In 1906 he wrote what became one of his most famous works, The Quest For The Historical Jesus. After 400 pages of scholarly analysis, Dr. Schweitzer concluded that there was no evidence to prove that Jesus was a real historical person. Unlike other liberal scholars, Schweitzer didn’t even bother to question the miracles of Christ or his bodily resurrection. He simply said that there was no Jesus who existed to do these things in the first place, so it just didn’t matter.
This is what he wrote: “Jesus means something to our world because a mighty spiritual force streams forth from him and flows through our time also…The mistake was to suppose that Jesus could mean more to our time by entering into it as a man like ourselves. That is not possible. First because such a Jesus never existed…”
Schweitzer’s book played a key role in the thinking that led 45 Missouri Synod professors and 450 of their students to walk out of their St. Louis seminary in 1974 to establish their own ultra-liberal Seminex (“Seminary in Exile”). Later, the ELCA’s Lutheran Book of Worship dedicated an entire saint’s day to Albert Schweitzer!
“The world through its wisdom did not know God” (1 Cor. 1:21 EHV). “Although they claim to be wise, they have become fools” (Rom. 1:22 EHV).
Truth, according to Dr. Schweitzer, was whatever he could know from his own experience. Did Noah, Abraham, Moses or Jesus really exist? Not unless Schweitzer had experienced them or met them! By that line of thinking, was there ever really a Shakespeare or Lincoln? Not unless one knew from one’s own experience, I suppose.
Was there ever really an Albert Schweitzer? I, for one, have never met him.