Jean (John) Frederic Oberlin and Kingdom Vision

Jean (John) Frederic Oberlin and Kingdom Vision


Jean Frederic Oberlin (born Strasbourg, France, 1740 – d. 1826)  was an Alsatian churchman and a kingdom of God visionary.   [Alsace is an historic region of northeastern France]  He was educated at Strasbourg with the equivalent of a Ph.D. and in 1767 became pastor for a small village in the remote countryside of the nearby Vosges Mountains.  “There he spent the rest of his long life in labor for the material and spiritual improvement of his impoverished parishioners. He practiced medicine among them, founded a loan and savings bank, introduced cotton manufacture, helped the people build better roads, and brought in modern agricultural methods. His orphan asylums were the beginning of the many ‘Oberlinvereine” for the protection of children.” He established free schools, an itinerant library “…  and introduced the trades of masonry and blacksmithing throughout poor communities.”

”He was a man of rare spirituality, being frequently styled ‘a saint of the Protestant Church’, who preached each month three sermons in French and one in German.”


Oberlin’s visionary ways inspired two Americans to found a town and college in Ohio named in Oberlin’s honor.  The two friends shared a “mutual disenchantment with what they saw as the lack of strong Christian principles among the settlers of the American West. They decided to establish a college and a colony based on their religious beliefs, ‘where they would train teachers and other Christian leaders for the boundless most desolate fields in the West.’  They adopted ideas of Jean Oberlin who inspired them.  The college, founded in 1833, soon adopted the motto, “Learning and Labor.” In those days, tuition was free because students were expected to contribute by helping to build and sustain the community.   Of great social significance, the school founded by conservative evangelicals was the first American college to admit women as well as men. It also was the first college that promised to educate African-American men and women.   The college regularly admitted students of color beginning in 1835; the town and school strongly supported abolition of slavery and was a part of the “underground railroad.”   Although Oberlin would no longer likely be considered an evangelical school, its founding era is an inspiring picture of kingdom vision and values.  (sources various Oberlin education sites) LH


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