Sects, Cults and Churches

Sects, Cults and Churches

  • Submitted By: gabriellak
  • Date Submitted: 12/16/2008 5:43 AM
  • Category: Religion
  • Words: 4264
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Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) was a German Protestant theologian and scholar, whose historical and sociological approach to the philosophy of religion became a major influence in 20th-century theology. He studied theology at the universities of Erlangen, Göttingen and Berlin. He taught theology at Göttingen and at the universities of Bonn and Heidelberg before becoming professor of the history of philosophy and civilization at the University of Berlin in 1915. In his work he tried to reconcile historical relativism with his belief in permanent and universal ethical values. Troeltsch was actively concerned with political and social issues, and after World War I he criticized the German tendency to idolize the state. His most important work is The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, 1912; translated into English in 1931, a historical and cultural analysis of Christian social ethics.

Sects, Cults and Churches
Troeltsch described the characteristics of the sect and sought to distinguish it not only from the church but also from the cult. He depicted the sect as a small group, composed in the main of the poor who, having renounced worldliness, went in search of direct personal fellowship; whereas, he suggested, a cult was more free-thinking and less systematic and less regulated in its practices and in the pursuit of its goals. Contemporary scholars describe a cult as more of a network than an established institution with a fixed set of rules. In the cult the individual is the final judge of what constitutes the "Truth”, deciding what to believe and practise on the basis of personal experience.

Ernst Troeltsch

Extract from The Social Teaching of the Christian Church and taken from Robin Gill (ed) (1987) Theology and Sociology: a reader, London Geoffrey Chapman, p67,68. The book is in the Main Arts Library.

Thus, in reality we are faced with two different sociological types. This is true in spite of the fact (which is quite immaterial)...

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