The legacies of Albert Schweitzer reconsidered

Volume editor
Izak JJ Spangenberg
Volume editor
Christina Landman


This book on the legacy of Albert Schweitzer contextualises this remarkable intellectualist, humanist, medicine-man, theologian and Nobel Prize winner. The publication engages with peers on the relevance of Schweitzer’s work for humanitarian values in Africa, and the essays in the book seek to stimulate further research in the various fields in which Schweitzer excelled. Its academic contribution is its focus on the post-colonial discourse in contemporary discussions in South Africa and Africa. The book emphasises Schweitzer’s reverence for life philosophy. It demonstrates how this impacts moral values and points to the possibility that Schweitzer’s reverence for life philosophy is embedded in a typically European appreciation of ‘mysticism’ that is not commensurate with African indigenous religious values. From an African academic perspective, the book advocates the view that Schweitzer’s concept of the reverence for life supports not only the Biblical notion of imago Dei but also the African humanist values of the preservation and protection of life, criticising the exploitation of the environment by warring factions and large companies, especially in oil-producing African countries. This book also argues that Schweitzer’s disposition on ethics was influenced by the Second World War, seen in his sentiments against nuclear weapons and his resistance to the Enlightenment view of ‘civilisation’.

Concerning Jesus studies, the book elucidates values promoted by Schweitzer by following Jesus’ steps and portraying Jesus’ message within a modern worldview. Taken over from Schweitzer, the book argues that Jesus’ moral authority resides in his display of love and his interaction with the poor and marginalised. The book demonstrates Schweitzer’s understanding of Jesus as the one who sacrifices his own life to bring the Kingdom of God to realisation in this world, and it commends Schweitzer’s insight that we know Jesus through his toils on the one hand and through our own experiences on the other. It is in a mixture between the two that the hermeneutical gap between then and now is bridged. In bridging this gap, Schweitzer sees himself as an instrument of God’s healing. It defines Schweitzer as the embodiment of a healer, educationalist and herald of the greening of Christianity. His philosophy on the reverence for life prepares a foundation for Christians to think ‘green’ about human life within a more extraordinary environment. He advocates aspects of education such as lifelong learning, holistic education and a problem-based approach to education. Finally, the book critically and appreciatively analyses Albert Schweitzer’s contribution to the concepts of religious healing prevalent in African Christianity today.


  • Chapter 1
    Post-colonialism and the deconstruction of moral imperialism: The case of Albert Schweitzer and his ethics of reverence for life
    Cornel du Toit
  • Chapter 2
    Considering Albert Schweitzer’s legacy: Ethical mysticism and colonialism
    Pieter Botha
  • Chapter 3
    Colonisation as an obstacle to Civilisation: a critical evaluation of Albert Schweitzer’s Experiences and Observations
    Menard Musendekwa
  • Chapter 4
    Imago Dei: Albert Schweitzer’s ‘reverence for Life’ in dialogue with African Humanism
    Amadi Enoch Ahiamadu
  • Chapter 5
    Mysticism of the heart and life: Schweitzer’s reverence for life as autobiographical philosophy
    Garth Mason
  • Chapter 6
    Albert Schweitzer and the study of the New Testament: his legacies in African Biblical Interpretation
    Lovemore Togarasei
  • Chapter 7
    Albert Schweitzer and the historical Jesus: Reflecting on some misconceptions
    Eben Scheffler
  • Chapter 8
    The ‘myth’ of the ‘no quest’: Albert Schweitzer, Jesus of Nazareth, and Africa
    Andries van Aarde
  • Chapter 9
    Albert Schweitzer, herald of the ‘greening’ of Christianity?
    Izak JJ Spangenberg
  • Chapter 10
    The educational legacy of Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)
    Johan Booyse
  • Chapter 11
    Views on religious healing: Albert Schweitzer and Africa
    Christina Landman


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