AKA Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher
Birthplace: Breslau, Silesia, Prussia, Germany
Location of death: Berlin, Germany
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: A founder of Protestant theology
Important German theologian and philosopher, the son of a Prussian army chaplain of the Reformed confession, born on the 21st of November 1768 at Breslau. He was educated in a Moravian school at Niesky in upper Lusatia, and at Barby near Halle. Moravian theology, however, soon ceased to satisfy him, and his doubts rapidly took definite shape. Reluctantly his father gave him permission to leave Barby for the University of Halle, which had already (1787) abandoned pietism and adopted the rationalist spirit of Wolf and Semler. As a student he pursued an independent course of reading and neglected to his permanent loss the study of the Old Testament and the Oriental languages. But he frequented the lectures of Semler and of Johann Augustus Eberhard, acquiring from the former the principles of an independent criticism of the New Testament and from the latter his love of Plato and Aristotle. At the same time he studied with great earnestness the writings of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi. He acquired thus early his characteristic habit of forming his opinions by the process of patiently examining and weighing the positions of all thinkers and parties. But with the receptivity of a great eclectic he combined the reconstructive power of a profoundly original thinker. While yet a student he began to apply ideas gathered from the Greek philosophers in a reconstruction of Kant's system. At the completion of his three years course at Halle he was for two years private tutor in the family of Count Dohna-Schlobitten, developing in a cultivated and aristocratic household his deep love of family and social life. In 1796 he became chaplain to the Charité Hospital in Berlin. Having no scope for the development of his powers as a preacher, he sought mental and spiritual satisfaction in the cultivated society of Berlin, and in profound philosophical studies. This was the period in which he was constructing the framework of his philosophical and religious system. It was the period, too, when he made himself widely acquainted with art, literature, science and general culture. He was at that time profoundly affected by German Romanticism, as represented by his friend Friedrich von Schlegel. Of this his Confidential Letters on Schlegel's Lucinde (Vertrauten Briefe über Schlegel's "Lucinde", 1801), as well as his perilous relation to Eleonore Grunow, the wife of a Berlin clergyman, are proof and illustration. Though his ultimate principles were unchanged he gained much from the struggle. It showed him much of the inner truth of human feeling and emotion, and enriched his imagination and life with ideals ancient and modern, which gave elevation, depth and color to all his thought. Meantime he studied Baruch de Spinoza and Plato, and was profoundly influenced by both, though he was never a Spinozist; he made Kant more and more his master, though he departed on fundamental points from him, and finally remodeled his philosophy; with some of Jacobi's positions he was in sympathy, and from Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Schelling he accepted ideas, which in their place in his system, however, received another value and import. The literary fruit of this period of intense fermentation and of rapid development was his epoch-making book, Reden über die Religion (1799), and his "new year's gift" to the new century, the Monologen (1800). In the first book he vindicated for religion an eternal place amongst the divine mysteries of human nature, distinguished it from all current caricatures of it and allied phenomena, and described the perennial forms of its manifestation and life in men and society, giving thereby the program of his subsequent theological system. In the Monologen he threw out his ethical manifesto, in which he proclaimed his ideas as to the freedom and independence of the spirit, and as to the relation of the mind to the world of sense and imperfect social organizations, and sketched his ideal of the future of the individual and society.
From 1802 to 1804, Schleiermacher was pastor in the little Pomeranian town of Stolpe. These years were full of literary work, as well as rich in personal and moral progress. He relieved Friedrich von Schlegel entirely of his nominal responsibility for the translation of Plato, which they had together undertaken (vols. 1-5, 1804-10; vol. 6, Republic 1828). At the same time another work, Grundlinien einer Kritik der bisherigen Sittenlehre (1803), the first of his strictly critical and philosophical productions, occupied him. This work is a severe criticism of all previous moral systems, especially those of Kant and Fichte, Plato's and Spinoza's finding most favor; its leading principles are that the tests of the soundness of a moral system are the completeness of its view of the laws and ends of human life as a whole and the harmonious arrangement of its subject matter under one fundamental principle; and, though it is almost exclusively critical and negative, the book announces clearly the division and scope of moral science which Schleiermacher subsequently adopted, attaching prime importance to a "Güterlehre", or doctrine of the ends to be obtained by moral action. But the obscurity of the style of the book as well as its almost purely negative results proved fatal to its immediate success. In 1804 Schleiermacher removed as university preacher and professor of theology to Halle, where he remained until 1807, and where he quickly obtained a reputation as professor and preacher, and exercised a powerful influence in spite of the contradictory charges of his being atheist, Spinozist and pietist. In this period he wrote his dialogue the Weihnachtsfeier (1806), a charming production, which holds a place midway between his Reden and his great dogmatic work, Der christliche Glaube, and presents in the persons of its speakers phases of his growing appreciation of Christianity as well as the conflicting elements of the theology of the period. After the battle of Jena he returned to Berlin (1807), was soon appointed pastor of the Trinity Church there, and the next year married the widow of his friend Willich. At the foundation of the Berlin university (1810), in which he took a prominent part, he was called to a theological chair, and soon became secretary to the Academy of Sciences. He was thus placed in a position suited to his powers and in domestic and social surroundings adapted to meet the wants of his rich nature. At the same time he approved himself in the pulpit and elsewhere as a large-hearted and fearless patriot in that time of national calamity and humiliation, acquiring a name and place in his country's annals with Arndt, Fichte, Stein and Scharnhorst. He took a prominent part too in the reorganization of the Prussian church, and became the most powerful advocate of the union of the Lutheran and Reformed divisions of German Protestantism. The twenty-four years of his professional career in Berlin were opened with his short but important outline of theological study (Kurze Darstellung des theologischen Studiums, 1811), in which he sought to do for theology what he had done for religion in his Reden. While he preached every Sunday, he also gradually took up in his lectures in the university almost every branch of theology and philosophy -- New Testament exegesis, introduction to and interpretation of the New Testament, ethics (both philosophic and Christian), dogmatic and practical theology, church history, history of philosophy, psychology, dialectics (logic and metaphysics), politics, pedagogy and aesthetics. His own materials for these lectures and his students notes and reports of them are the only form in which the larger proportion of his works exist -- a circumstance which has greatly increased the difficulty of getting a clear and harmonious view of fundamental portions of his philosophical and ethical system, while it has effectually deterred all but the most courageous and patient students from reading these posthumous collections. As a preacher he produced a powerful effect, yet not at all by the force of his oratory but by his intellectual strength, his devotional spirit and the philosophical breadth and unity of his thought. In politics he was an earnest friend of liberty and progress, and in the period of reaction which followed the overthrow of Napoleon Bonaparte he was charged by the Prussian government with "demagogic agitation" in conjunction with the great patriot Arndt. At the same time he prepared for the press his chief theological work Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche (1821-22). The fundamental principle of this classical work is, that religious feeling, the sense of absolute dependence on God as communicated by Jesus Christ through the church, and not the creeds or the letter of Scripture or the rationalistic understanding, is the source and law of dogmatic theology. The work is therefore simply a description of the facts of religious feeling, or of the inner life of the soul in its relations to God, and these inward facts are looked at in the various stages of their development and presented in their systematic connection. The aim of the work was to reform Protestant theology by means of the fundamental ideas of the Reden, to put an end to the unreason and superficiality of both supernaturalism and rationalism, and to deliver religion and theology from a relation of dependence on perpetually changing systems of philosophy. Though the work added to the reputation of its author, it naturally aroused the increased opposition of the theological schools it was intended to overthrow, and at the same time Schleiermacher's defense of the right of the church to frame its own liturgy in opposition to the arbitrary dictation of the monarch or his ministers brought upon him fresh troubles. He felt himself in Berlin more and more isolated, although his church and his lecture-room continued to be largely attended. But he prosecuted his translation of Plato and prepared a new and greatly altered edition of his Christliche Glaube, anticipating the latter in two letters to his friend Lücke (in the Studien und Kritiken, 1829), ih which he defended with a masterly hand his theological position generally and his book in particular against opponents on the right and the left. The same year he lost his only son -- a blow which, he said, "drove the nails into his own coffin." But he continued to defend his theological position against Hengstenberg's party on the one hand and the rationalists von Cölln and D. Schulz on the other, protesting against both subscription to the ancient creeds and the imposition of a new rationalistic formulary. In the midst of such labors, and enjoying still full bodily and mental vigor, he was carried off after a few days illness by inflammation of the lungs, on the 12th of February 1834.
Philosophical System. A great antithesis lies at the basis of all thought and life -- that of the real and the ideal, of organism, or sense, and intellect. But the antithesis is not absolute, for in life and being both elements are united -- though without its presence life and thought would be impossible. In the actual world the antithesis appears as reason and nature, in each of which, however, there is a combination of its two elements -- the ideal and the real -- the reason having a preponderance of the first and nature a preponderance of the second. At the basis of nature lies universal reason as its organizing principle, and when reason becomes a conscious power in man it finds itself in conflict as well as in harmony with external nature. The whole effort and end of human thought and action is the gradual reduction of the realm and the power of this antithesis in the individual, the race and the world. Though the antithesis is real and deep, the human mind cannot admit its absolute nature; we are compelled to suppose a transcendental reality or entity in which the real and the ideal, being and thought, subject and object, are one. Consciousness itself involves the union of the antithetic elements, and prior to moral action nature is found organized and reason manifested or symbolized therein. We are ourselves proofs of the unity of the real and the ideal, of thought and being, for we are both, our self-consciousness supplying the expression of the fact. As we have in ourselves an instance of the identity of thought and being, we must suppose a universal identity of the ideal and real behind the antithesis which constitutes the world. This supposition is the basis of all knowledge, for thought becomes knowledge only when it corresponds to being. The supposition may be called a belief, but it is so only in the sense in which belief appears in the religious department, where it is the ultimate ground of all action. The supposition is the basis of all ethics, for without the conviction of the correspondence of thought and reality action would be fruitless and in the end impossible. It is above all the substance of religious feeling, which is the immediate consciousness of the unity of the world, of the absolute oneness behind the infinite multiplicity of contrasts: indeed, it is the religious conviction of the unity which is the best guarantee of the truth of the suppositions of philosophy. It is "the religious consciousness of the unity of the intellectual and physical world in God" which is to overcome the skepticism of the critical philosophy. But, though this unity must be laid down as the basis of knowledge, it is absolute and transcendental. In contrast with the "world", as the totality of being in its differentiation, this absolute unity, or God, in whom the real as manifold, and the spirit as one, find their unifying base, by its very nature is unphenomenal, indefinable and inconceivable. The idea is outside the boundary of thought, though its necessary postulate, and it is no less inaccessible to religious feeling, though it is its life and soul. Neither member of the antithesis of the real and the ideal must be conceived as producing the other; they are both equally existent and equally constituent elements of the world; but in God they are one, and therefore the world must not be identified with Him. The world and God are distinct, but correlative, and neither can be conceived without the other. The world without God would be "chaos", and God without the world an empty "phantasm." But though God is transcendent and unknowable He is immanent in the world. In self-consciousness God is present as the basis of the unity of our nature in every transition from an act of knowledge to an act of will, and vice versa. As far as man is the unity of the real and the ideal, God is in him. He is also in all things, inasmuch as in everything the totality of the world and its transcendental basis is presupposed by virtue of their being and correlation. The unity of our personal life amidst the multiplicity of its functions is the symbol of God's immanence in the world, though we may not conceive of the Absolute as a person. The idea of the world as the totality of being is, like the correlative idea of God, only of regulative value; it is transcendent, as we never do more than make approaches to a knowledge of the sum of being. The one idea is the transcendental terminus a quo and the other the transcendental terminus ad quem of all knowledge. But though the world cannot be exhaustively known it can be known very extensively, and though the positive idea of God must always remain unattainable we are able to reject those ideas which involve a contradiction of the postulate of the Absolute. Thus the pantheistic and the theistic conceptions of God as the supreme power, as the first cause, as a person, are alike unallowable, since they all bring God within the sphere of antithesis and preclude His absolute unity. On the other hand, the world can be known as the realm of antithesis, and it is the correlative of God. Though He may not be conceived as the absolute cause of the world, the idea of absolute causality as symbolized in it may be taken as the best approximate expression of the contents of the religious consciousness. The unbroken connection of cause and effect throughout the world becomes thus a manifestation of God. God is to be sought only in ourselves and in the world. He is completely immanent in the universe. It is impossible that His causality should have any other sphere than the world, which is the totality of being. "No God without a world, and no world without God." The divine omnipotence is quantitatively represented by the sum of the forces of nature, and qualitatively distinguished from them only as the unity of infinite causality from the multiplicity of its finite phenomena. Throughout the world -- not excepting the realm of mind -- absolute necessity prevails. As a whole the world is as good and perfect as a world could possibly be, and everything in it, as occupying its necessary place in the whole, is also good, evil being only the necessary limitation of individual being.
Schleiermacher's psychology takes as its basis the phenomenal dualism of the ego and the non-ego, and regards the life of man as the interaction of these elements with their interpenetration as its infinite destination. The dualism is therefore not absolute, and, though present in man's own constitution as composed of body and soul, is relative only even there. The ego is itself both body and soul -- the conjunction of both constitutes it; our "organization" or sense nature has its intellectual element, and our "intellect" its organic element. There is no such thing as "pure mind" or "pure body." The one general function of the ego, thought, becomes in relation to the non-ego either receptive or spontaneous action, and in both forms of action its organic, or sense, and its intellectual energies cooperate; and in relation to man, nature and the universe the ego gradually finds its true individuality by becoming a part of them, "every extension of consciousness being higher life." The specific functions of the ego, as determined by the relative predominance of sense or intellect, are either functions of the senses (or organism) or functions of the intellect. The former fall into the two classes of feelings (subjective) and perceptions (objective); the latter, according as the receptive or the spontaneous element predominates, into cognition and volition. In cognition being is the object and in volition it is the purpose of thought: in the first case we receive (in our fashion) the object of thought into ourselves; in the latter we plant it out into the world. Both cognition and volition are functions of thought as well as forms of moral action. It is in those two functions that the real life of the ego is manifested, but behind them is self-consciousness permanently present, which is always both subjective and objective -- consciousness of ourselves and of the non-ego. This self-consciousness is the third special form or function of thought -- which is also called feeling and immediate knowledge. In it we cognize our own inner life as affected by the non-ego. As the non-ego helps or hinders, enlarges or limits, our inner life, we feel pleasure or pain. Aesthetic, moral and religious feelings are respectively produced by the reception into consciousness of large ideas -- nature, mankind and the world; those feelings are the sense of being one with these vast objects. Religious feeling therefore is the highest form of thought and of life; in it we are conscious of our unity with the world and God; it is thus the sense of absolute dependence. Schleiermacher's doctrine of knowledge accepts the fundamental principle of Kant that knowledge is bounded by experience, but it seeks to remove Kant's skepticism as to knowledge of the Ding an sich, or Sein, as Schleiermacher's term is. The idea of knowledge or scientific thought as distinguished from the passive form of thought -- of aesthetics and religion -- is thought which is produced by all thinkers in the same form and which corresponds to being. All knowledge takes the form of the concept (Begriff) or the judgment (Urtheil), the former conceiving the variety of being as a definite unity and plurality, and the latter simply connecting the concept with certain individual objects. In the concept therefore the intellectual and in the judgment the organic or sense element predominates. The universal uniformity of the production of judgments presupposes the uniformity of our relations to the outward world, and the uniformity of concepts rests similarly on the likeness of our inward nature. This uniformity is not based on the sameness of either the intellectual or the organic functions alone, but on the correspondence of the forms of thought and sensation with the forms of being. The essential nature of the concept is that it combines the general and the special, and the same combination recurs in being; in being the system of substantial or permanent forms answers to the system of concepts and the relation of cause and effect to the system of judgments, the higher concept answering to "force" and the lower to the phenomena of force, and the judgment to the contingent interaction of things. The sum of being consists of the two systems of substantial forms and interactional relations, and it reappears in the form of concept and judgment, the concept representing being and the judgment being in action. Knowledge has under both forms the same object, the relative difference of the two being that when the conceptual form predominates we have speculative science and when the form of judgment prevails we have empirical or historical science. Throughout the domain of knowledge the two forms are found in constant mutual relations, another proof of the fundamental unity of thought and being or of the objectivity of knowledge. It is obvious that Plato, Spinoza and Kant had contributed characteristic elements of their thought to this system, and directly or indirectly it was largely indebted to Schelling for fundamental conceptions.
Ethics. Next to religion and theology it was to the moral world, of which, indeed, the phenomena of religion and theology were in his systems only constituent elements, that he specially devoted himself. In his earlier essays he endeavored to point out the defects of ancient, and modern ethical thinkers, particularly of Kant and Fichte, Plato and Spinoza only finding favor in his eyes. He failed to discover in previous moral systems any necessary basis in thought, any completeness as regards the phenomena of moral action, any systematic arrangement of its parts and any clear and distinct treatment of specific moral acts and relations. His own moral system is an attempt to supply these deficiencies. It connects the moral world by a deductive process with the fundamental idea of knowledge and being; it offers a view of the entire world of human action which at all events aims at being exhaustive; it presents an arrangement of the matter of the science which tabulates its constituents after the model of the physical sciences; and it supplies a sharply defined treatment of specific moral phenomena in their relation to the fundamental idea of human life as a whole. Schleiermacher defines ethics as the theory of the nature of the reason, or as the scientific treatment of the effects produced by human reason in the world of nature and man. As a theoretical or speculative science it is purely descriptive and not practical, being correlated on the one hand to physical science and on the other to history. Its method is the same as that of physical science, being distinguished from the latter only by its matter. The ontological basis of ethics is the unity of the real and the ideal, and the psychological and actual basis of the ethical process is the tendency of reason and nature to unite in the form of the complete organization of the latter by the former. The end of the ethical process is that nature (i.e. all that is not mind, the human body as well as external nature) may become the perfect symbol and organ of mind. Conscience, as the subjective expression of the presupposed identity of reason and nature in their bases, guarantees the practicability of our moral vocation. Nature is preordained or constituted to become the symbol and organ of mind, just as mind is endowed with the impulse to realize this end. But the moral law must not be conceived under the form of an "imperative" or a "Sollen"; it differs from a law of nature only as being descriptive of the fact that it ranks the mind as conscious will, or zweckdenkend, above nature. Strictly speaking, the antitheses of good and bad and of free and necessary have no place in an ethical system, but simply in history, which is obliged to compare the actual with the ideal, but as far as the terms "good" and "bad" are used in morals they express the rule or the contrary of reason, or the harmony or the contrary of the particular and the general. The idea of "free" as opposed to necessary expresses simply the fact that the mind can propose to itself ends, though a man cannot alter his own nature. In contrast to Kant and Fichte and modern moral philosophers Schleiermacher reintroduced and assigned preeminent importance to the doctrine of the summum bonum, or highest good. It represents in his system the ideal and aim of the entire life of man, supplying the ethical view of the conduct of individuals in relation to society and the universe, and therewith constituting a philosophy of history at the same time. Starting with the idea of the highest good and of its constituent elements (Güter), or the chief forms of the union of mind and nature, Schleiermacher's system divides itself into the doctrine of moral ends, the doctrine of virtue and the doctrine of duties; in other words, as a development of the idea of the subjection of nature to reason it becomes a description of the actual forms of the triumphs of reason, of the moral power manifested therein and of the specific methods employed. Every moral good or product has a fourfold character: it is individual and universal; it is an organ and symbol of the reason, that is, it is the product of the individual with relation to the community, and represents or manifests as well as classifies and rules nature. The first two characteristics provide for the functions and rights of the individual as well as those of the community or race. Though a moral action may have these four characteristics at various degrees of strength, it ceases to be moral if one of them is quite absent. All moral products may be classified according to the predominance of one or the other of these characteristics. Universal organizing action produces the forms of intercourse, and universal symbolizing action produces the various forms of science; individual organizing action yields the forms of property and individual symbolizing action the various representations of feeling, all these constituting the relations, the productive spheres, or the social conditions of moral action. Moral functions cannot be performed by the individual in isolation but only in his relation to the family, the state, the school, the church, and society -- all forms of human life which ethical science finds to its hand and leaves to the science of natural history to account for. The moral process is accomplished by the various sections of humanity in their individual spheres, and the doctrine of virtue deals with the reason as the moral power in each individual by which the totality of moral products is obtained. Schleierrnacher classifies the virtues under the two forms of Gesinnung and Fertigkeit, the first consisting of the pure ideal element in action and the second the form it assumes in relation to circumstances, each of the two classes falling respectively into the two divisions of wisdom and love and of intelligence and application. In his system the doctrine of duty is the description of the method of the attainment of ethical ends, the conception of duty as an imperative, or obligation, being excluded, as we have seen. No action fulfills the conditions of duty except as it combines the three following antitheses: reference to the moral idea in its whole extent and likewise to a definite moral sphere; connection with existing conditions and at the same time absolute personal production; the fulfillment of the entire moral vocation every moment though it can only be done in a definite sphere. Duties are divided with reference to the principle that every man make his own the entire moral problem and act at the same time in an existing moral society. This condition gives four general classes of duty: duties of general association or duties with reference to the community (Rechtspflicht), and duties of vocation (Berufspflicht) both with a universal reference, duties of the conscience (in which the individual is sole judge), and duties of love or of personal association. It was only the first of the three sections of the science of ethics -- the doctrine of moral ends -- that Schleiermacher handled with approximate completeness; the other two sections were treated very summarily. In his Christian Ethics he dealt with the subject from the basis of the Christian consciousness instead of from that of reason generally; the ethical phenomena dealt with are the same in both systems, and they throw light on each other, while the Christian system treats more at length and less aphoristically the principal ethical realities -- church, state, family, art, science and society. Rothe, amongst other moral philosophers, bases his system substantially, with important departures, on Schleiermacher's. In Beneke's moral system his fundamental idea was worked out in its psychological relations.
Religious System. From Gottfried Leibniz, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Fichte, Jacobi and the Romantic school he had imbibed a profound and mystical view of the inner depths of the human personality. The ego, the person, is an individualization of universal reason; and the primary act of self-consciousness is the first conjunction of universal and individual life, the immediate union or marriage of the universe with incarnated reason. Thus every person becomes a specific and original representation of the universe and a compendium of humanity, a microcosmos in which the world is immediately reflected. While therefore we cannot, as we have seen, attain the idea of the supreme unity of thought and being by either cognition or volition, we can find it in our own personality, in immediate self-consciousness or (which is the same in Schleiermacher's terminology) feeling. Feeling in this higher sense (as distinguished from "organic" sensibility, Empfindung), which is the minimum of distinct antithetic consciousness, the cessation of the antithesis of subject and object, constitutes likewise the unity of our being, in which the opposite functions of cognition and volition have their fundamental and permanent background of personality and their transitional link. Having its seat in this central point of our being, or indeed consisting in the essential fact of self-consciousness, religion lies at the basis of all thought and action. At various periods of his life Schleiermacher used different terms to represent the character and relation of religious feeling. In his earlier days he called it a feeling or intuition of the universe, consciousness of the unity of reason and nature, of the infinite and the eternal within the finite and the temporal. In later life he described it as the feeling of absolute dependence, or, as meaning the same thing, the consciousness of being in relation to God. In our consciousness of the world the feelings of relative dependence and relative independence are found; we are acted upon, but we also react. In our religious consciousness the latter element is excluded, and everything within and without us is referred to its absolute cause, that is, God. But, when we call this absolute cause God, the name stands solely as indicating the unknown source of our receptive and active existence; on the one hand it means that the world upon which we can react is not the source of the feeling, on the other, that the Absolute is not an object of thought or knowledge. This feeling of absolute dependence can arise only in combination with other forms of consciousness. We derive the idea of a totality by means of its parts, and the transcendental basis of being comes to us through the agency of individual phenomena. As in every affection of our being by individual phenomena we are brought into contact with the whole universe, we are brought into contact with God at the same time as its transcendental cause. This religious feeling is not knowledge in the strict sense, as it is purely subjective or immediate; but it lies at the basis of all knowledge. As immediate knowledge, however, it is no more than the consciousness of the unity of the world, a unity which can never be reached by human inquiry. Religious truths, such as the determination of all things by God, are simply the implications of the feeling of absolute dependence. While that feeling is the characteristic of religion generally, this assumes various forms as the religions of the world. The so-called natural as distinguished from positive religion, or the religion of reason, is a mere abstraction. All religions are positive, or their characteristics and value are mainly determined by the manner in which the world is conceived and imagined. But these varying conceptions with their religious meaning become religiously productive only in the souls of religious heroes, who are the authors of new religions, mediators of the religious life, founders of religious communities. For religion is essentially social. It everywhere forms churches, which are the necessary instruments and organs of its highest life. The specific feature of Christianity is its mediatorial element, its profound feeling of the striving of the finite individual to reach the unity of the infinite whole, and its conception of the way in which Deity deals with this effort by mediatorial agencies, which are both divine and human. It is the religion of mediatorial salvation, and, as Schleiermacher emphatically taught in his riper works, of salvation through the mediation of Christ; that is, its possessors are conscious of having been delivered by Jesus of Nazareth from a condition in which their religious consciousness was overridden by the sense-consciousness of the world and put into one in which it dominates, and everything is subordinated to it. The consciousness of being saved in this sense is now transmitted and mediated by the Christian church, but in the case of Jesus, its originator, it was an entirely new and original factor in the process of religious development, and in so far, like every new and higher stage of being, a supernatural revelation. It was at the same time a natural attainment, in as far as man's nature and the universe were so constituted as to involve its production. The appearance of the Saviour in human history is therefore as a divine revelation neither absolutely supernatural nor absolutely beyond reason, and the controversy of the 18th century between the rationalists and supernaturalists rests on false grounds, leads to wrong issues, and each party is right and wrong. As regards Christian theology, it is not its business to formulate and establish a system of objective truth, but simply to present in a clear and connected form a given body of Christian faith as the contents of the Christian consciousness. Dogmatic theology is a connected and accurate account of the doctrine held at a particular time in a given section of the Christian church. But such doctrines as constitute no integral part of the Christian consciousness -- e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity -- must be excluded from the theological system of the evangelical theologian. As regards the relation of theology and philosophy, it is not one of dependence or of opposition on either side, but of complete independence, equal authority, distinct functions and perfect harmony. Feeling is not a mental function subordinate to cognition or volition, but of equal rank and authority; yet feeling, cognition and volition alike conduct to faith in the unknown Absolute, though by different paths and processes.
The marked feature of Schleiermacher's thought in every department is the effort to combine and reconcile in the unity of a system the antithetic conceptions of other thinkers. He is realistic and idealistic, individualistic and universalistic, monistic and dualistic, sensationalist and intellectualist, naturalist and supernaturalist, rationalist and mystic, gnostic and agnostic. He is the prince of the Vermittler in philosophy, ethics, religion and theology. But he does not seek to reconcile the antitheses of thought and being by weakening and hiding the points of difference; on the contrary, he brings them out in their sharpest outlines. His method is to distinctly define the opposing elements and then to seek their harmonious combination by the aid of a deeper conception. Apart from the positive and permanent value of the higher unities which he succeeds in establishing, the light and suggestiveness of his discussions and treatment of the great points at issue in all the principal fields of human thought, unsatisfactory as many of his positions may be considered, make him one of the most helpful and instructive of modern thinkers. And, since the focus of his almost universal thought and inquiry and of his rich culture and varied life was religion and theology, he must be regarded as the classical representative of modern effort to reconcile science and philosophy with religion and theology, and the modern world with the Christian church.
Do you know something we don't?
Submit a correction or make a comment about this profile
Copyright ©2019 Soylent Communications