A Pastor's Revolutionary Vision
What do Bible translations, orphan schools, and science laboratories have in common? For a German pastor and professor named August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), they were all part of fulfilling the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations." Every man, woman, and child in the world, Francke believed, should be able to read and understand the Word of God in his or her own language. This meant that translation and education should go hand in hand. For over 30 years, Francke strove to provide basic literacy and access to Scripture in the "mother tongue" for as much of the world as possible, and his pioneering efforts became the model for all Protestant missionary translation and education projects after him.
Francke was one of the leading figures of Pietism, a movement of spiritual and moral renewal within the Protestant churches of Europe in the late 1600s and 1700s. While teaching students about the Bible, he had a profound spiritual crisis that prompted him to become a "true child of God." In December 1691, Francke became a pastor in Glaucha, a suburb of Halle, Germany, and a professor of oriental languages and theology in the new University of Halle, where he remained until his death.
Francke stressed the need for absolute and "childlike" faith in God, a "new birth," and "a true and thorough reformation of life." His goal was "the transformation of the world through the transformation of man." Like Johann Arndt and Philipp Spener, whose Pietism inspired him, he believed that God uses both the "Book of Grace" (revealed Scripture) and the "Book of Nature" (natural science) to teach people about Himself. And so, he argued, proper belief in God requires an understanding of the Bible; understanding the Bible requires ...