Goethe’s Faust

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According to the Reformation Theology of 18th century Germany in which Goethe wrote his Legend of “Dr. Faust”,  any sinner who makes a pact with the Devil will suffer the “second death” and eternal damnation.

Goethe, the “enlightened humanitarian, disagreed with this conception. For him Faust was not a presumptuous sensualist, but a titanic striver after truth, a representative of humanity’s noblest aspirations, and, whatever his sins and errors might be, in the end he was to be saved” (Catholic Encyclopedia).



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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Kolbe’s Greatest Books Volume 71

Johnann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German poet, biologist and statesman.  He became a member of the German nobility in 1782 and afterward began placing the German “von” before his surname.

Among his acclaimed works is the Legend of Dr. Faust.  The old Faust legend … “is essentially a tragedy of sin and damnation, a characteristic product of the age of the Reformation. 

In older legends of great sinners like Robert the Devil, the efficacy of penitence was proclaimed, the saving power of the Church was emphasized. With the Reformation this was changed. The rigid Lutheran orthodox theology denied the redeeming powers of the ancient Church and this harsh spirit is reflected in the legend”.

Although Goethe wrote in this milieu and is thought by some to have been a “sensualist” himself,  he choose to emphasize the Mercy of God  to which all sinners can flee.



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