Nobel Laureate in Literature Rudolf Eucken on Christianity

Author/Compiler: Tihomir Dimitrov (; also see


Nobel Prize: Rudolf Eucken (1846-1926) was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in Literature “in recognition of his Idealistic philosophy of life, his penetrating power of thought, and his earnest search for truth”. Eucken was an Idealist philosopher, interpreter of Aristotle, author of works in ethics and religion, and founder of Ethical activism.

Nationality: German

Education: He studied philosophy at Goettingen University and Berlin University

Occupation: Professor of Philosophy at the University of Basel, Switzerland (1871-1874) and the University of Jena, Germany (1874-1920)


1. “Christianity is a religion of redemption, not a religion of law; that is to say, it makes the critical turning-point, the winning of the new world, depend not on man’s resolve or exertions, but on divine grace meeting him and lifting him upwards, grace that does not merely second his own effort, but implants within him fresh springs of action and makes his relationship to God the source of a new life, a new creature.

For man as we find him has wandered too far from goodness and become too weak in spiritual capacity to be capable of bringing about his own conversion; all his hope of salvation depends on God and from Him must he receive everything. Thus deep humility and joyous gratitude become, as it were, pillars of the new life; but they are genuine only when they are the result of a great upheaval and an inward transformation.” (Eucken 1914, 7).

2. “Christianity still remains to countless souls an anchorage in the storms of life and a comfort in its trials; it is still a prolific source of self-sacrificing love and loyal devotion to duty; it still finds many who are ready to live and die in its service.” (Eucken 1914, 1).

3. “The union of the Divine and human nature is the fundamental truth of religion, and its deepest mystery consists in the fact that the Divine enters into the compass of the Human without impairing its Divinity. With this new phase, life is completely renewed and elevated. Man becomes immediately conscious of the infinite and eternal, of that within him which transcends the world. For the first time the love of God becomes the ruling motive of his life, and brings him into an inner relation with the whole scope of reality.” (Eucken, as cited in Trine 1936, ch. 5).

4. “The world’s history fulfils itself in great deeds; this indeed is what transmutes it from a mere process into a genuine history. And inasmuch as these deeds are interconnected, and unite in mutual interplay to form a complete whole, reality becomes transformed into an ethical drama. This drama, moreover, extends its action right into the soul of the individual, which has its own private struggles to undergo, its own experiences of renewal; thus alone does each soul acquire a distinctive history of its own.

It was Christianity that first made this history possible. Otherwise it could never have degraded all outward events into mere secondary trifles in comparison with care for the soul, even as Jesus Himself said: ‘What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ ” (Eucken 1914, 9).