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B. SCHLEIERMACHER’S RELATION TO EARLIER PROTESTANTISM
Schleiermacher takes his stand as a theologian avowedly within the position of Protestantism. A subject of religious experiences on which the Protestant spirit is nourished, he was profoundly convinced that the hope of Christendom lay in the Protestant faith. His Glaubenslehre was intended to set forth the inner meaning and wealth of Protestant Christianity. A true apprehension of the nature of the Reformation and the modifications through which it had passed in three centuries is therefore essential to a due appreciation of Schleiermacher’s views. A movement so complicated in its ramifications and so far-reaching in its effects cannot be adequately described in a mere sketch, and we shall attempt to outline only its chief features so far as they are related to our present study.
Protestantism, like all other impressive phenomena in history, sprang out of the concurrent operation of many forms of human activity. Political, ecclesiastical, social, economic, moral, and religious influences combined to produce it; but, after allowing due weight to all these forces, the secret of the great revolution it wrought is to be found in a revival of the religious spirit. It had been quietly gathering momentum for 68four centuries. The rediscovery of the gospel and the Christ who gave it through multiplied translations of the Scriptures long current among the common people, the cultivation of the spirit of piety by dissenters, monks, and mystics, and the awakening of the modern conscience produced a powerful revulsion against the government, and the worship and the doctrines of the church of Rome. It was a spiritual revolution and, like all revolutions, it swept on by its own inherent force and wrought such results as astonished, and even alarmed, the very men who were at its head. Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Cranmer, Calvin, Knox helped to make the Reformation, but even more they were made by it. They and their many fellow-laborers who organized it and gave it equipment for active resistance to the church of Rome secured a relative permanence to the forms which it then assumed, but it is now clear that in so doing they overlooked or even suppressed many of its most important elements. The Reformation as a religious movement was not produced by theologians and statesmen but by the idealist prophets and preachers who awakened the spiritual aptitudes of the people and stirred their wills to action. Such men were full of zeal, but they lacked the worldly wisdom that knows how to use human preferences and even selfishness in the interest of a higher end. In their very spirituality lay the chief danger to the cause they served. For the church of Rome, though somewhat inert at the time, was sure to arouse herself in time to crush the new movement 69unless it were supported from without. Moreover, radicalism was as much of a bugbear then as it is now, and radicals were plentiful in the days of the Reformation. Officialism was suspicious of the new movement as officialism always is of things new. The “governing classes” thought they discerned in it a kinship with certain social revolts that had often threatened the stability of existing authorities, and they were unwilling to countenance it except in so far as they saw in it a means of strengthening their own opposition to the claims of Rome. When the Reformers looked to them for support it was inevitable that the religious principles of the Reformation should be compromised.
In every country where the Reformation was finally established it was done by means of the sup port of the state but it had to take such a form as the state was willing to tolerate, namely, a modified Catholicism. This is true in respect to ecclesiastical organization and ritual and not less in respect to doctrine.
A glance at the creeds and confessions of faith put forth by the churches of the Reformation is sufficient to convince anyone of the importance attached to doctrinal statement by the Protestant parties. That correct doctrine is traditionally a matter of greater importance to Protestantism than to Catholicism needs no proof. To the latter, doctrine is indeed a matter of great concern, but it stands in a tributary relation to the higher interest, that of the church. To the Protestant truth is of supreme value. Its worth is 70in itself. The force of the Protestant polemic against the Roman church lay in its recognition of the absolute value of truth and righteousness in contrast with the shifty use of doctrine and ethics by Rome. The vigor of Protestantism is owing in no small degree to the profound conviction that salvation is dependent on the belief of true doctrine, but at the same time we are bound to say that its bigotry and intolerance are partly traceable to the same root. Under the circumstances it was natural that every Protestant state should have its formal creed and that an acceptance of it should be enforced on all its citizens.
The true significance of the Protestant confessions is not to be apprehended apart from a comparison with the doctrines of the Catholic church on the one hand, and the views of the radicals, the Anabaptists, on the other. The additions made to the Catholic doctrines are rather meager. The substance, and some times the very statements, of the ancient Catholic creed, as set forth in the so-called Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Symbol, and the Chalcedonian Formula, are reaffirmed with vigor and their force is revived. Not only were the doctrines of the Trinity and the duality of natures in the person of Christ maintained against the Mariolatry and saint-worship of the Roman church, but they were used as the foundation of the doctrines of atonement and justification by faith. Thus the doctrines of the ancient Catholic church be came the base of the attack upon the teachings and practices of the mediaeval church. These doctrines 71were supported by references to the best of the earlier Catholic theologians and were drawn from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments by the methods of exegesis then in vogue. The whole Protestant doctrinal movement bore the appearance of a protest in the interest of conservatism against the corruptions of the early faith by the Roman church. All the more, therefore, was it necessary to take up a firm and uncompromising attitude toward the innovations of the Anabaptists.
Still more important, perhaps, was the Catholic habit of mind which was carried over into Protestant theology. The idea that Christianity is at bottom doctrine, that revelation consists in the external communication of doctrine, that it reposes on authority and miraculous attestation, that the Scriptures are an authoritative (the Protestants said, the only authoritative) legislation in matters of belief and practice; all these, as well as the method and the world-view of Catholic theologians, were taken over into Protestant orthodoxy. In saying this we do not aim to minimize the achievements of the early Protestant thinkers or the spiritual value of the great movement which they carried out. In their exegesis of Scripture they were greatly superior to their Catholic opponents; and in the deliverance of multitudes from moral thraldom by their impressive preaching of the atonement of Christ and the free justification of believers they were the ministers of a service of unspeakable worth to mankind; their devotion to their cause was of the 72 heroic type; and yet the consciousness of the debt we owe to them must not blind us to the fact that much of their theological thinking was unmistakably of the Catholic type.
PROTESTANTS AND ANABAPTISTS
Their hatred of Romanism was not less marked than their dread of the radicals who were grouped together under the common appellation of Anabaptists. The opposition between them and the radicals shaded from a moderate difference of views of doctrine to the bitterest antagonism. They were as unsparing in their denunciation of the Anabaptists and as ready to subject them to imprisonment and death as were the Roman Catholics. Whether or not their fury may have been embittered by the latent feeling that the Anabaptists were carrying out their own principles to a logical conclusion we may not be sure, but it is clear that many of the Anabaptist contentions have been widely accepted by Protestant theologians in recent times. The term Anabaptist was given to these people by their opponents because they “rebaptized” those who came to them from the Catholic and Protestant churches. It covered bodies of “heretics” extremely diverse in character and opinions but at one in their belief of the worthlessness of the Catholic baptism. When we remember that Catholics universally, and Protestants generally, admitted that regeneration was effected in baptism and that the Protestants did not deny the validity of the Catholic 73baptism, we can understand how both of them saw in Anabaptism a radical rejection of the whole traditional system.
This is the point of chief importance. For whether these people were mystics--such as Caspar Schwenkfeldt, the precursor of Quakerism--who subordinated the “outer word” of the Scriptures to the “inner word” of the heart; or children of the Renaissance--such as the Socini, the precursors of the eighteenth-century Rationalism--who emphasized the intellectual side of religion and rejected all mysticism; or men of the central group--such as Balthazar Hubmaier and his followers, the forerunners of the modern Baptists--who united with the recognition of the inwardness of true religion as a heart-experience a deep reverence for the Scriptures, especially the New Testament: their common rejection of infant baptism carried with it the renunciation of the whole Catholic system and, of course, that portion of it which was retained as authoritative by the Protestants. This was the head and front of their offending. Their demands were for a complete abandonment of Catholicism and a reinstitution of the churches of the primitive Christian times. Inasmuch as all the states of western Europe were professedly Christian, the Catholic baptism having been accepted everywhere, the radicalism of the Anabaptists was somewhat naturally interpreted as involving the disruption of all existing Christian governments. Nay, by their insistence on the prerogative of the individual, they often appeared to others in the light of anarchists.74
We see, therefore, that the practice of rebaptism which gave the Anabaptists their name was in itself a comparatively unimportant thing with them; its importance lies in its signification of deeper things. They held to the prerogative of the individual with God; the immediacy of the relation of the soul to God; the apprehension and ministration of the Christian gospel by the common man; personal obedience as the essence of Christian faith; Christian churches as free associations on the basis of a common spiritual experience; the spiritual equality and freedom of all believers. The practical issue of these views was the rejection of the entire Catholic conception of the church--apostolic succession a worthless figment, priestly mediation a vain pretense, the sacraments impotent and useless. Along with these went the negation of the church’s authority, of the blindingness of its creed or its canon of Scripture, and of its right to call in the secular arm to support its teachings. It is plain that the Anabaptist principles were opposed not only to the Catholic church but to the program of the Reformers as well, and that they could be tolerated as little by one as by the other. In consequence these people were ruthlessly suppressed by both of these opposing parties and were finally almost exterminated. And yet, I have no doubt, they were the nearest representatives of the revived religious spirit that made the Reformation a possibility, and in the end Protestantism had to pay a heavy penalty for their suppression.75
Instead, then, of a radical reconstruction of the forms of Christian self-expression we see in Protestantism, as then established, a conservative reform. The idea of the Catholic church was retained, separatism was condemned, and the one church was supposedly continued in the various Protestant state churches. The church’s sacraments were still maintained as necessary to salvation but they were reduced to two in number. Submission to external authority in religion was compulsorily enforced with respect both to creed and ritual. The Catholic canon of Scripture was adopted and exalted above the authority of the church that made it.
Established Protestantism was a compromise. It represents an inconsistent combination of Catholicism with Christian radicalism. In nothing is this more evident than with respect to doctrine. The consciousness of the immediacy of human relationships with God, of the spiritual character of that relationship, and of the freedom that springs from it, was the moving impulse of the Reformation, but it was fettered by being bound to creeds that reposed on outworn scientific, philosophical, and ecclesiastical assumptions. Time brought the inevitable nemesis. The course of events by which the Protestant systems, and particularly the doctrinal systems, were undermined cannot be described here at length; the main facts alone can be mentioned.76
RESULTS OF THE COMPROMISE
The identification of formal doctrine with Christian faith soon bore its natural fruit. The warm evangelicism of the early days of the Reformation gave place to theological controversy that was mostly barren of good. The effort to reach a minute determination of the limits of truth led to theological hair splitting and fruitless logomachies that threatened to tear both the Lutheran and the Calvinist churches to pieces. Controversies over the relation of faith to good works and of justification to sanctification, free will and the irresistibility of grace, election and reprobation, the nature and efficacy of the sacraments, have left their monuments in such documents as the Formula of Concord, the Lambeth Articles, and the Articles of the Synod of Dort. Lutheranism degenerated into Antinomianism, Arminianism sprang up as a reaction against Calvinism, while Socinianism alarmed orthodoxy in general. For generations the bitter strife went on. The evil condition of the churches was aggravated by the connection of church and state. Theological terms became the watchwords of political parties, and political discord was intensified by religious strife. We have only to recall the legislation in England against non-conformity and dissent from the time of Elizabeth to James II--and it was by no means a dead letter--and the civil wars of the Stuart days in order to understand the demoralizing effect of the Protestant establishment of religion by law. The attempt to make the boundaries of the 77church coextensive with the state was blighting, not merely in that it subjected ecclesiastical offices to party exigencies, but it became a serious bar to missionary effort abroad. While Catholic missions to the heathen were stretching over vast regions, Protestant foreign missions were virtually non-existent for three hundred years. The very assumption that all the in habitants of a country, having been baptized, were regenerated, benumbed the spirit of piety. Protestant ism enjoyed a good measure of success politically, but judged by religious standards it must be pronounced at that time largely a failure.
THE INTELLECTUAL REVOLT IN ENGLAND
We are here concerned mostly with the undermining of Protestant orthodoxy through the operation of forces resident within itself. Protestantism was, in part, an affirmation of the right of the human mind to freedom of thought. Its main polemic was naturally directed against the usurped authority of the Roman church and the papacy, but it was equally op posed in principle to many ideas and usages which it had inherited from the distant past but which were not discontinued by its leaders. It owes its very existence to the sense of the imperishable worth of the individual human spirit and its unimpeachable freedom of action. It was natural that the Reformation should let loose the pent-up energies of the western European mind. The buoyant consciousness of freedom that led men to explore new realms of earth and sky 78 and to defy traditional ideas of geography and astronomy need not be expected to bow in submission to inherited ideas of religion. To bring to the bar of reason all the claims of church, creed, and scripture was more than a privilege--it was a duty.
An inkling of what was in store for orthodoxy was given by the Socinians. Developing Calvin’s view of the capacity of the human mind to discover the natural truths of religion for itself and denying the original depravity which he charged with vitiating the natural processes of the mind in matters of morality and religion, they proceeded to prove in a rationalistic way the divine origin of the Scriptures, with special emphasis on the New Testament, and went on to disprove the orthodox teachings as to the Trinity, the essential deity of Christ, foreordination, penal atonement, and the saving efficacy of the sacraments. Socinianism spread far in England and Germany and its influence was much felt as late as the eighteenth century. But it was superficial. The strength of the attack that shook the foundations of accepted doctrine came from developments in science and philosophy that were native to Protestantism and that continue in force to the present day, but with greatly augmented power.
Two realms of exploration here call for special attention. Protestantism stands for the worth fulness and the sanctity of the natural. Nature may therefore be interrogated and may be trusted to reveal faith fully her secrets. The human mind may also be 79trusted not to mislead us if we attend to its natural processes. Both of these regions invited new exploration. The truth about Nature was to be found in Nature and the truth about the human mind was to be found in the human mind. Nay, since these are open to all mankind, might it not be that the basic truth of all truth was to be found there? The facts of objective nature and the facts of inner experience promised great rewards to the unprejudiced student. Might not “natural science” and “mental science,” rather than external miraculous communications, be trusted to yield us the truth about the world and man?
a) Bacon and Locke.--With the publication of Lord Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum and John Locke’s Essay concerning the Human Understanding there began in England a new movement that culminated in the attempt to bring the whole complex of facts in the universe within a unitary system of (natural) laws. The significant thing about both was the method. Bacon’s work was aimed at displacing the traditional method of reaching objective knowledge by the acceptance of universal principles and the use of the syllogism, in favor of the method of induction by observation and experience. The product of the method as applied to the facts of Nature was a natural philosophy and a natural theology which a religious mind like Bacon’s found to be the noblest utterance of the universe. Bacon’s regard for Christianity as a revealed religion led him to an acknowledgment of a “supernatural theology” to which he assigned a 80separate realm and a different set of forces. If from this point we glance forward a hundred years to the time of the great Isaac Newton we shall see that with the establishment of his Principia the whole of man’s being was regarded as under the control of natural laws and Nature itself as the revelation of the Supreme Being. The grandeur of this conception profoundly impressed noble minds like Newton and inspired much of the best thought and the finest preaching of the eighteenth century in England. The tendency, however, was to discredit the value and the claims of special revelation.
The purpose of Locke’s philosophical inquiry was to test the validity of our ideas by an examination of the manner in which we come into possession of them. The reality of our knowledge was to be decided by a critical examination of the knowing process. The individual mind was the realm of exploration and the means of discovery was introspection. Locke found that all our ideas arise originally or by combination from impression and reflection. This is the simple source of all those so-called “innate ideas,” such as God and the World, on which the older philosophers and theologians had relied for the demonstration of their fundamental beliefs. Like Bacon, Locke sought to limit the application of his philosophy in the case of Christianity. He claimed that faith is distinct from reason and that in addition to natural propositions there are also supernatural propositions that supply truth for faith, and yet he held that all professed revelations 81are to be tested by the canons of reason. His words in this connection are worth quoting:
Reason is natural revelation whereby the eternal Father of light and fountain of all knowledge communicates to mankind that portion of truth which he has laid within reach of their natural faculties; revelation is natural reason enlarged by a new set of discoveries communicated by God immediately, which reason vouches the truth of, by the testimony and proofs it gives that they come from God.
He identified this supernatural religion with true Christianity and urged that the original Christianity was in harmony with natural religion. In this way Locke supplied to both the assailants and the defenders of orthodoxy their weapons.
b) Deists and Apologists.--Some of the results of the investigations of these great thinkers were very different from what they had intended. The supreme reverence for the Christian religion that had prevented men like Bacon and Locke from drawing from their premises conclusions detrimental to Christian faith appears in lessening degree in the long line of their inferior successors, till in the later deists it entirely disappeared. The earlier deists, beginning with Lord Herbert of Cherbury, extolled the worth of “natural religion” and sought to identify the true Christianity with it, whereas in the course of the struggle the two came to be opposed. Here was the opportunity for the friends of Christianity to institute a frank inquiry into its essence, but unfortunately, discussion turned rather on the evidences of Christianity and the outcome of the long controversy was mostly negative.82
The apologists for the accepted forms of Christianity were much to blame for this result. They subscribed to natural religion on what seemed to them rational grounds, but when they sought to show that natural religion had been supplemented by supernatural revelation they were driven to say that the existence of sin had rendered natural religion insufficient for human need. This meant that revelation, as they understood it, was contingent on human conduct, which was tantamount to saying that it rested on an inferior basis. Then to prove that supplementary revelation had really been given they were forced to rely on the evidence of miracle (non-natural occurrence) and prophecy (non-natural knowledge), prediction. They were driven to try to prove the genuineness of the miracles and predictions in the Scriptures, which, in the state of knowledge at the time, they were as little capable of doing as their opponents were of the contrary. There was little more than mere assertion on the one side, answered by little more than mere denial, often accompanied by ridicule, on the other. The degeneration of the character of the controversies can be traced in the gradually lowered tone of the deistical attacks. There was a good deal of buffoonery and ribaldry on both sides. The later deists did not hesitate to ascribe the miracles, predictions, and institutions peculiar to Judaism or Christianity to superstition, fanaticism, or the scheming of interested priests. The issue of Deism is seen at its worst in France, where no warm evangelical piety appeared to 83put to shame the scoffing of Voltaire or the coarse materialism of De la Mettrie and Denis Diderot.
The works of the deists were widely circulated in England and Germany and even in America. They were in accord with the prevailing temper of the times and the impression they made may be gauged by the efforts made to meet their arguments. It seems as if al most all the orthodox divines were drawn into the controversy. Toland’s Christianity not Mysterious is said to have called forth one hundred and fifteen replies. Among the many famous names that may be mentioned are Samuel Clarke, Nathaniel Lardner, Bishop George Berkeley, William Warburton, John Leland, and Joseph Butler, bishop of Durham. The last of these is commonly regarded as the greatest of the English apologists and his Analogy of Natural and Revealed Religion is regarded as a masterpiece. I do not find in it any thing that had not been said by earlier apologists, but the succinctness and clearness of statement and the carefulness and orderly manner with which his arguments are marshaled have been rarely equaled. It is fair to treat this famous work, as a summary of the whole discussion from the orthodox standpoint.
Natural and revealed religion are made mutually complementary. They differ in the mode of their communication of truth and partly also in their content. The study of Nature leads to the belief in the existence of God, rewards for well-doing and punishments for ill-doing, and a future life. While these beliefs cannot be established absolutely for our human 84 minds but rest on a high degree of probability, they afford none the less a sufficient basis for moral obedience. But the truths of natural religion have been obscured and corrupted through moral error. Hence the need of a restatement of them that is accompanied by such external attestations as shall establish in the human mind a confidence in them. By this means also the corruptions of natural religion that have accrued in the course of human history are removed. This is what is accomplished by those extraordinary divine communications we call revelations. Christianity is this revealed religion and its truth is attested by miracle and prophecy. But while Christianity is thus a republication of the religion of Nature, it is more. It brings to men new truths, for example, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, with the implicated human obligations. The rejection of these truths of divine revelation involves a disregard of the implicated obligations and, consequently, belief in them is necessary in order to a truly moral character. The lack of absolute certainty in the case of revealed religion detracts no more from its value than the same lack does in the case of natural religion. The certainty is a moral certainty and involves moral obligation. As for any antecedent doubt touching the reality of prophecy and miracle, it is no greater than that which relates to any other definite fact before it is known. Thus revealed religion stands on as safe a basis as natural religion. Butler’s statutory view of the Christian religion was the view commonly held; it is a 85Protestant inheritance from Catholicism and it partly accounts for the weakness of the orthodox defense.
The apologists did not succeed in turning the tide that was running against the traditional views. Butler’s lament in the opening sentences of his Analogy--
It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted, by many persons, that Christianity is not so much a subject of inquiry, as that it is now, at length, discovered to be fictitious, and accordingly they treat it, as if, in the present age, this was an agreed point among all people of discernment; and nothing remained, but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of reprisals, for having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world
is a humiliating admission of the orthodox failure to command the confidence of the times and at the same time points to the need of deliverance from another quarter. (Thank God! the deliverance came in due time. It will be spoken of presently.) It was not that the opponents of orthodoxy were abler thinkers or better scholars than its advocates. The opposite was mostly the case. But the spirit of the times had run on in advance of the accepted canons of theological thought. Theologians were repeating the mistake of Catholic apologists of an earlier time--trying to bind the growing thoughts of men to the formulae that satisfied the spiritual demands of an earlier age but obscured the very truths they were intended to preserve when used as an established rule of faith. The apologists had not only failed to sustain confidence in those great doctrines which the Protestant creeds expressed, but the attempt to maintain them by 86 means of external evidences had fostered disbelief in revelation itself, And no wonder! The defenders of orthodoxy stood on the ground of their opponents. They gave to natural religion the primacy--there were some exceptions among them--and made revealed religion to rest upon it. According to both parties religion reposed ultimately on an intellectual basis. Its content was doctrine. In consequence revelation was conceived as the external communication of truths to be believed and faith was assent. They were also handicapped by a false view of history and a false method of studying it. To justify their contention that revelation was necessary in order to republish and re-establish the corrupted truths of natural religion they had to represent the course of earlier history as a gradual corruption of pure religion and morality--an inheritance from Calvinism. They had to subject the facts of history to dogmatical necessities. Through their statutory view of religion they were led to a legalistic treatment of the Old and New Testaments, whose accuracy on all subjects touched by those Scriptures they felt called upon to defend. For this their opponents punished them severely. The great need of the time was not a new apology so much as a renewed Christianity, a new experience of religion that should produce a new view of its nature.
The long controversy was by no means altogether in vain. Beginnings were made in modern textual criticism of the New Testament and in the recognition of a distinction between the literal accuracy of the 87Scriptures and their religious worth. Much light was thrown upon Old Testament prophecies and improved methods of exegesis began to appear. The appeal to the course of history prepared the way for historical criticism and the great achievements of a later time in the field of the history of religions.
c) David Hume.--The chaotic state of religious thought in Great Britain at the time is reflected in the writings of the famous philosopher David Hume. Hume is often spoken of as a deist. He is better described as a skeptic, I think, an unwilling skeptic.
Hume developed the philosophical principles of Locke to their natural conclusions. Locke had traced impressions and ideas to two corresponding substances, a material substance and a spiritual substance. Bishop Berkeley had shown the untenability of material substance on these principles, and now Hume drew the same conclusion in reference to spiritual substance. The principle of causation through which substances had been posited as the sources of our ideas is discovered to be no impression at all to which something real could be said to correspond, but only a lively idea of the recurrence of certain phenomena which we are in the habit of perceiving in attendance on certain other phenomena. It is only a belief. This is all the justification we have for arguing from an idea to its cause and the only necessity that exists in the connection between cause and effect is a propensity of the mind. Hence our ideas give us no knowledge of 88 their causes beyond themselves. Accordingly there can be no proof of the existence or the attributes of God. All we have is a mere belief, a lively feeling.
Hume’s philosophy was fatal to “natural theology” and sounded the death-knell of philosophical deism. But not satisfied with this, he proceeded to attack the belief in miracles on the ground that a miracle would be in conflict with unalterable experience. The testimony to the actuality of miraculous occurrences is set aside with the affirmation that it must give way before the broader testimony of a firm experience. No sys tem of religion, he concludes, can repose on the evidence of miracles.
He next proceeded to demolish the prevailing views of the origin and history of religion. So far from arising from the activity of reason it sprang from the human emotions of hope, fear, and the like. The course of religion was the inverse of what it was commonly supposed to be--not from an original purity by corruption to lower forms, but from the lower and grosser polytheistic forms to the higher forms. Renouncing the current theology, whither orthodox or deistic, he declared that, “our most holy religion is founded on faith, not on reason.”
Here was a bold challenge to Protestant thinkers to furnish a theoretical basis of confidence in morality and religion. Kant took up the task of answering the former part of the challenge and Schleiermacher the latter. Before explaining their apprehension of the allotted task we must turn our attention for a 89short time to the concurrent philosophical and theological development on the continent.
RATIONALISM ON THE CONTINENT
Our opinion that the discredit into which the traditional beliefs had fallen in England was owing to influences that are native to Protestantism is confirmed by an examination of contemporary thought in Holland and Germany. There, too, Protestantism had accorded to reason an unimpeachable right in things natural, while also revealed religion was distinguished from natural religion. There was a similar account to that given in England of their origin, and revelation was similarly discredited. We find on the other hand less of keen analysis but more of speculation than in England.
In Holland the republican spirit favored a tolerance of dissent, and though a strict Calvinism triumphed at the Synod of Dort and stern measures of repression were sometimes employed, nevertheless the tendency to liberal thinking could not be repressed. Arminianism spread, the Mennonites and Baptists managed to live, and great thinkers like Hugo Grotius, Professor Coccejus of Leyden, and George Calixtus toned down the prevalent Calvinism. The first opposed the doctrine of penal atonement, the second rejected the doctrine of decrees and advocated such an exegesis of the New Testament as would bring out its peculiar spirit, the third sought to relate Christianity favorably to current culture and to emphasize the great central 90verities rather than the strict terms of the creeds. Their influence was far-felt.
Greater in importance were the philosophical speculations of the philosophers René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza. The former sought to satisfy the Protestant quest for certainty by an appeal to the individual self-consciousness, all external authority being rejected. All possible doubt is justified as a means of arriving at certainty. But whatever else I may doubt I cannot doubt that I think. Self-conscious thought becomes the basis of all certainty. In my thinking I am aware of my own existence. I am thus the (mathematical) cause of my thought. From the idea of God he argues to the certainty of the existence of God as the necessary cause of the idea. God is self-caused. He alone is substance; mind and matter become substance in only a secondary sense. Their phenomena are, respectively, modes of thought and mode of extension. Mind and matter have their nexus in God, the final substance. Spinoza developed this last idea. The infinite substance necessarily differentiates itself in an infinity of modes (finite existences) which again are ultimately resolved back into their original. The world thus becomes the necessary but fluent expression of the attributes of God. The infinity of attributes can find expression fully only in an infinity of worlds. We err when we attribute reality to our own or the world’s existence. God alone is real. The consequences for morality and religion are evident. Human 91responsibility disappears. All personal qualities of God are negated.
This attempt to explain all existence by the necessary forms of thought inaugurated the philosophical movement which is known as the Aufklärung (“Illuminism”). It was more constructive than the parallel movement in England. The explanation of all things was sought in the canons of reason. The conceptions of substance, attribute, cause, mode, etc., were the implements of discussion. Efforts were made to retain a portion of the territory of the super-rational but its boundaries were continually narrowed and it disappeared at last. Leibnitz developed the conception of substance in an unexpected direction. Instead of one all-embracing substance he posited an infinity of substances, mutually reflective, of which the one perfect substance is God, mirroring perfectly all the others. The knowledge of God, which is the same as knowledge with God, God’s knowledge, is love, religion. Reason and religion coincide as far as the former goes.
This incentive to develop the whole body of religious truths by a process of rational demonstration was carried out by Christian Wolff and his successors of the Aufklärung. Man was ultimately made the measure of all things and only those doctrines were received as true which were essential to man’s wellbeing. The Aufklärung resembled the deistical movement in England, but it was superior to the latter, especially in its positive regard for religion and its 92 more earnest effort to understand Christianity by a study of its history and a critical examination of its early documents. Reimarus, Wettstein, Ernesti, Michaelis, Griesbach, Eichhorn, Semler, are the great names in this connection. Textual and historical criticism discovered many errors, the human motives and historical circumstances that influenced and composition of the biblical books were investigated, and the statutory character of the Scriptures was disproved. But along with these somewhat negative results there was an impulse given to grammatico-historical exegesis; the peculiarly religious character of the Scriptures and their supreme value for the religious spirit were brought to light. This could not fail to be the case in the end.
The famous Gotthold Ephraim Lessing inaugurated a more positive study of Christianity as the religion of revelation. By insisting that Christianity precedes the New Testament and is greater than the documents that represent it he maintained the compatibility of faith in it with a free critical judgment of its documentary sources. He presented a philosophy of revelation that recognized in it a method of the divine education of the human race and assigned to it a positive relation to human culture and civilization--a lesson that Christians have been slow to learn: Revelation is a divine mode of education. It may anticipate the discoveries of reason but gives nothing that could not ultimately be attained by reason. Though Lessing himself remained at bottom a rationalist, he 93made an important contribution to the religious thought of his times by insisting upon a distinction between the religious feeling of the books of the Bible and the temporary forms in which it is conveyed to us. Gottfried Herder followed this clue further and taught men to appreciate the peculiar Hebrew feeling of the biblical writers. He pressed home the thought that religion is not knowledge but an inward conviction, an awareness of the divine operating in our hearts and identical with true humanity everywhere. Here we find ourselves at length in the company of Schleiermacher.
Our brief survey of the course of rationalism will be brought to a close with a few words on the bearing of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant on the questions at issue. As Hume’s philosophy signalizes the destruction of the English deism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, so Kant’s Critique of the Pure Reason marks the end of the old German rationalism and introduces a new era in philosophy. Its effect on the course of theology is equally marked, even to the present time. The aim of Kant was positive--to lay a foundation for morality and also of religion. His critique was concerned, not directly with the various systems of philosophy and theology that reason had striven to establish, but with the rational faculty itself. He finds that, while the sense-material which is embraced in our knowledge is derived from external impressions, the thought- forms by which it 94 is built into perceptions and finally into a world of knowledge are supplied directly by tire mind itself. This is true even of the idea of cause. Hence the validity of our knowledge of the phenomenal world. But when thought-forms are divorced from this sense-material, and the pure reason uses these bare abstract ideas to build up a system of supersensible knowledge, and then goes on to predicate reality of the noumenal world which it finds back of the phenomenal world, it indulges in a specious fallacy. The airy structures of mere speculation are valid only for thought. Kant sees the laboriously constructed systems of speculative philosophy and theology fall into ruins at his feet. “Rational theology” or “natural theology” is destroyed.
At the same time the orthodox theology was also undermined, since it also professed to supply information concerning the supernatural or the super-rational world. The arguments for the existence of God and the other objects of religious belief are discovered to be fallacious if they are interpreted as giving in formation concerning matters of fact. The arguments for the reality of a revelation based on miracles and prophecy also fail for the same reason, and theoretical agnosticism in regard to these things takes their place.
But when we turn to his Critique of the Practical Reason a different result appears. What Kant takes away with the left hand he gives back with the right. He finds that the mind is self-legislative in matters of conduct. There is an unexceptionable law, a “categorical imperative,” an all-embracing ought, without 95which human conduct would be unmeaning. The authority of this law depends not on some external super natural communication, but lies in the very nature of the practical reason itself. Given responsibility, and freedom is also therewith given. “I ought, therefore I can.” Rewards and punishments are inevitable. God is therewith also given, else the law could not be sure of vindication. Immortality follows or else justice fails.
In this way Kant makes a place for religion, such a religion as satisfies the demands of morality, a religion that depends for its worth on the value of moral demands. This is not the place to estimate Kant’s arguments for religion. Whatever else this religion of his may be, it is not a religion of redemption and therefore falls short of the Christian religion. The importance of Kant’s philosophy for our present purposes lies in the suggestion which his discovery of the categorical imperative gave to Schleiermacher in his vindication of religion and his exposition of the nature of the Christian faith.
With Hume and Kant a former era of Protestant theology comes to an end and a new era shortly begins. Let us now briefly sum up the theological situation at the time.
Roman Catholicism trained the peoples of Europe to depend, in religious matters, on authority--the authority of the church. When the Protestant Reformation 96 led to a renunciation of that authority by many, they were compelled to substitute for it another ground of certainty in religious matters. The influence of mysticism, of new religious aspiration, and of the new intellectual awakening drew in one direction; traditional belief and the established methods of theology, as well as the instinct of order, drew in another. The resultant compromise gave to Protestant theology a double basis, the Bible as an external authority in some matters, and the individual human reason in others. But it was inevitable that a strife should arise and that one of these should encroach on the domains of the other. The trend of thought gave the advantage to the second of these. The intelligibility of the universe and the competency of the human mind to discover its secrets were axioms that seemed to promise that the human mind out of its own native energy might possess itself ultimately of the whole of the truth concerning God and our relations to him which it is necessary to know. Natural theology was to displace revealed theology and to appropriate its territory. The attack was first directed against the claim that there was need of a special revelation and next against the “evidences” of it. Protestant orthodoxy received a defeat if we may judge by its failure to hold the general confidence of the people.
But “natural theology” fell at the same time. The work of Hume and Kant showed that its structures were flimsy and that its so-called rational theology was a mere cobweb of the human intellect. If reason had 97destroyed revelation it had also apparently destroyed itself, at least so far forth as religious knowledge is concerned, and if religious knowledge turns out to be delusive, what is the good of any knowledge? Kant’s attempt to save morality from the maelstrom, even if successful, could hardly as yet be said to have saved religion, unless religion is to be viewed as subsidiary to morality.
Shall we say, then, that the Protestant confidence in the capacity of the human mind was misplaced? that in religion we must fall back on an authority that defies reason, or else admit that there can be no religious knowledge? Or is there a better way out of the difficulty? Might it not be that the nature of the human mind was too narrowly conceived--that the rationalists had erred by regarding it exclusively as intellect? Might it not be that the orthodox had also erred by conceiving religion and revelation too narrowly in making out revelation to be information and religion to be the knowledge and belief of it? Might there not be a view of religion that would remove it out of the religion of that old, bitter controversy? The way to a new apprehension of the whole matter was prepared by the great evangelical revival of the eighteenth century.
THE SAVING REVIVAL
The cloud of unbelief that hung over Protestant Christian lands was dispelled by the gracious outpouring of a new spiritual faith in England which has 98 continued to send out its beneficent influence into all spheres of human activity and promises to spread over all the world. The names of the Wesleys and of Whitefield are inseparably associated with this revival, but its source is to be discovered far back. In the preceding pages of the present work it is affirmed that the religious life that burst out so vigorously in Europe during the Reformation was hampered in its freedom and narrowed in its operation by its artificial connection with civil governments and with ecclesiastical and doctrinal forms that were inadequate to express its nature. It is not intended by this statement to convey the idea that the stream of life had been swallowed up in the sands. Within the established churches there were many notable examples of a vigorous spirituality superior to the temporary forms that were meant to control it. If too commonly the churchman was more in evidence than the Christian, we have many reasons for believing that in multitudes of in stances the case was the reverse. It is, however, rather in the religious societies that sprang up spontaneously, in the fellowship of the free churches of Protestantism, that we are to look for the natural channels for the propagation of the Christian faith. The history of religion among Protestants is a study of thrilling interest. Luther’s faith consisted essentially in a firm assurance of the gracious relation of God to him in Christ as revealed in the gospel. The Anabaptist piety was of a similar type. The same deep feeling was cherished by many of their successors as the dearest 99possession of their hearts. This was one of the potent factors of the Puritan struggle in England on behalf of a simple worship and a high morality. It comes to vigorous life in Independency, in the Baptist churches, and the Quaker societies. It is strikingly exhibited in the career of Cromwell who combined with it the Israelites faith in Jehovah. It expresses itself in that wonderful creation of his genius, the New Model army. It finds beautiful utterance in Bunyan’s immortal allegory. It is glorified in the sufferings of the persecuted dissenters and nonconformists during the degenerate days of the last two Stuart kings. But it met with eclipse amid the comparative safety and the material prosperity of the times that followed, until Moravianism revived it in the work of the preachers of the revival.
a) The Pietists.--The story of religion in Ger many for the same period is not very different. Here we see the rise and spread of Pietism. State-churchism and formal orthodoxy left religion, like the German land at the close of the Thirty Years’ War, in a condition of desolation. In those days John Arndt summoned men to a living faith that should be marked inwardly by an assurance of Christ’s indwelling and outwardly by good works. Long afterward Philip Jacob Spener heard Arndt’s call to a higher life and responded with all the warmth of a soul that was remarkably endowed by divine grace. He sought to draw men away from theological strife and a mere external compliance with the forms of religion, by holding informal assemblies 100of the people where the Scriptures were studied with a view to edification rather than for doctrinal purposes; freedom of question and answer was allowed, and the spontaneous utterance of prayer and praise was encouraged, Laymen and clergymen alike were urged to cultivate a devout spirit, holy living, and the practice of family prayer. His well-known work, Pia Desideria (Pious Desires for a Reform of the True Evangelical Church), seems to have given to Pietism its name. He found many willing listeners. The desire for a new reform spread rapidly over most parts of Germany and into other countries. Its influence was particularly marked in the universities where bands of students began to conduct independent courses of biblical studies among themselves. Hundreds and even thousands of them became zealous missionaries of the new cause. When the authorities interfered a new university was organized at Halle, which forth with became the headquarters of the movement. We remember that Schleiermacher was a student and later a professor there. Many forms of beneficence appeared, orphanages and Bible societies being the most noteworthy. The names of exegetes like Bengel have perpetuated the fame of its biblical learning to the present. All open opposition was finally overcome and Pietism became the dominant element in theological circles.
At this point its failure begins. Success begot spiritual self-contentment and finally arrogant intolerance. Its sympathy with humanity in the broad 101fields of enterprise and culture was small throughout, and its view of life was narrow. Its connection with the state church was a fatal defect. On that account it shrank from a reformation of the doctrinal standards or the organization of independent bodies of Christians. Spener and his followers were careful to guard against any tendency toward Separatism. Here was a fatal error. Lacking the boldness of Free-churchism in England, Pietism fell back into the old forms of Lutheranism and Calvinism and, while the latter received from it a valuable spiritual impulse, its reabsorption was a loss to the world. The phenomenon of Pietism stands as a testimony to the fact that there was a spirit in German Protestantism which could find no fitting embodiment in the established forms of organization and doctrine.
b) The Moravians and the Methodists.--When Pietism began to wane the smoldering flame of religious fervor was already being rekindled by the Moravian Brethren.
Moravianism was characterized by spontaneity and initiative, Puritanic moral conviction, deep emotional experience, missionary zeal, and a capacity for organization. Hymn-singing, extempore prayer, and fervent utterance were marked features of their meetings. We have seen how profoundly these things impressed Schleiermacher. In middle life he used to look back longingly to their meetings for worship and felt how bare and poor was the official service in the German church. Their doctrines were in general agreement 102 with Protestantism, but the central place was given to the person of Jesus, to personal communion with him, and to his atonement by death. Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” echoes their adoration of the loving, human-divine Savior. Zinzendorf and others went so far in this direction that God the Father was almost lost sight of, the Father was displaced by the Son, and God was said to have died on the cross. They did not give to their organization the name of a church but called it a society (cf. the early Methodists). Yet they were in reality quite independent of the state church. John Wesley seems to have got the clue to many of his organizations and methods from them. They gave an unmistakable impulse to the organization of free churches.
This is not the most important fact in the present connection. They were the true founders of the Wesleyan evangelism. To their preachers, Spangenberg and Boehler, Wesley owed that assured confidence in the inner testimony of the Spirit, which was such a mighty force in the Revival and has come to us in our day as a factor of indisputable value in the determination of Christian truth. Our present confidence in the testimony of the Christian consciousness is an in heritance from the Revival. It has come down to us from the old Anabaptists through the double channel of English and German religionists.
We need not repeat here the story of the great revival--how it spread throughout the British Isles, 103how it crossed over into America, how it flowed back like a refreshing stream to Germany. Unhappily the terrible wars, through which Germany passed in the struggles with Austria and France, filled the minds of men there with other thoughts. Nevertheless, Ger many shared in the blessing the Revival brought. The fruits of the movement are now to be seen in many lands. The free churches have been multiplied in numbers and power many hundredfold. Missionary work in heathen lands, long shamefully neglected by Protestants, has come to the chief place in the thoughts of Christian leaders; philanthropic agencies have been multiplied everywhere; evils so deeply seated in human society that they seemed native to it have been attacked with a boldness and persistency that repose on a confidence in the power of the gospel to renovate social life everywhere.
It may not be possible to describe the fundamental nature of this great revival of Christian faith in a word. There is, however, one outstanding conviction that seems to have wrought itself by means of the Revival into the fiber of our thinking--the unimpeachable worth of the individual man. We see how nearly identical it is with the motive power of the Reformation. It is working a like revolution in our thinking.
The effect on prevailing apprehensions of the nature of religion has been immeasurably great. In the first place men have come to see that religion is a universal, though distinctive phenomenon of human life, 104 not to be identified with any of the doctrinal formulae, established organizations, or forms of worship formerly regarded as indispensable to it. In the next place, it is implicitly admitted to be a matter of individual concern and every man is understood to be capable of a conscious enjoyment of it and of an immediate certainty of its divine character. It is further seen to be a matter of experience, and this experience has been acknowledged in ever-widening circles to be a prerequisite to personal participation in Christian activities. And finally, as admittedly a matter of inward experience, there has been an increasing recognition of the value of the emotions in religion.
The Revival was a restoration, a reinforcement, and an enrichment of the religious life that awoke to vigor in the early days of the Reformation and that had made an ineffectual attempt to find embodiment in those days. That life had never obtained a reasoned theological expression suited to its nature. If the new movement was not to degenerate into fanaticism on the one hand or into formalism on the other, then it must receive a coherent theoretical expression in doctrine. In those early religious experiences which formed the basis of his whole religious life Schleiermacher was a spiritual child of Moravianism. He was the first thinker of note to undertake the task of reconstructing the traditional doctrinal system from the standpoint of evangelical religious experience. The rejuvenescence of Protestant theology begins with him.105
It has been shown that at the close of the eighteenth century the state of theological science was very unsatisfactory. The traditional creeds had been under mined and their defenders had propped them up with very shaky supports. Deism was itself dying of inanity. In the light of Kant’s Critique the great speculative systems now appeared as castles in the air. Kant’s own attempt to save belief in the three essentials of rational theology by making them postulates of the practical reason had subordinated religion to morality and theology to ethics. Theology was discredited both as to content and as to method.
Schleiermacher heard within himself the summons to a vindication, first, of religion, and second, of theological science. He was peculiarly fitted for the task. Though still a young man, he was well acquainted with the best ancient and modern works on philosophy. His Moravian training had called forth the powers of his deep religious nature and left an ineffaceable impression on his sensitive and ardent mind. He had passed through a period of doubt when rationalism swept away the doctrinal beliefs which he once received on authority. He knew that a shallow illuminism had no correspondence with the deepest longings of the human heart. Romanticism with all its dangers was preferable to intellectualism. That the canonization of human impulses bad and good, to which Romanticism with its aesthetic pride gravitated, had led him dangerously near to a confusion of moral 106 distinctions we have already seen, but it had also helped him to regain and hold fast the assurance of the unimpeachable right and dignity of the inner life of the human spirit. The outcome of his reflections on the subject appeared in the publication in 1799 of his Discourses on Religion to the Educated among Its Despisers.
The treatise was timely. It obtained at once a wide reading in literary and learned circles. The redundancy and floridness of its style make it a little tedious to present-day readers^ but these qualities were an advantage to it at the time. Even its obscurities were a recommendation to it in contrast with the platitudes of the Aufklärung. Many who read it awoke as from a dream. Pastor Harms, a theological opponent of Schleiermacher’s at a later date, confessed that he sat up all night long to finish the book at a single reading. The Discourses proved a turning-point in the study of theology. To establish their value it is only necessary to refer to the discussions on this work which still continue to appear from the pens of German scholars.
Schleiermacher aims at laying a foundation for theological science by first of all expounding the nature of religion. He finds religion, as Kant had found the fundamental moral law, in the human consciousness as such--it is a necessary and inalienable constituent element of human experience in its highest interpretation. It cannot therefore be a product of thought (it is not to be identified with a doctrine or sum of doctrines or to be viewed as the effect of such); or of 107moral action (it is not an inference from moral principles or a belief involved in the subjection to a universal moral law); but it is an original human endowment. Indeed, in human experience it is antecedent to all knowledge and action, for it appears in that rudimentary consciousness in which the distinction of subject and object, self and not-self, had not yet appeared. In this priority religion is exhibited as superior to knowledge and morality. Here the soul is the subject of the action of the universe; it is wedded to infinity.
The question as to the form of consciousness in which religion appears is answered by saying it consists in feeling. In the first edition of the Discourses Schleiermacher added “and intuition,” but in the later editions1111A second edition appeared in 1806, and a third in 1821. he makes it to consist specifically in feeling, thereby weakening its claim to supreme worth, though bringing it into closer harmony with his whole system of theology. By feeling he means, of course, much more than mere sensation; it is that sense of oneness with the whole of existence which is peace and blessedness. It comes into vivid consciousness in those deep emotions which are aroused by, or expressed in, elevated discourse or poetry or song. It does not submit itself to minute analysis or theological process. It is an immediate possession.
As for the philosophical explanation of such an experience, it is the universe, infinity, expressing itself in the human consciousness. Therefore it occurs in and with man’s relationship to the world. In one aspect 108 it may be designated as the human self-consciousness itself in its highest interpretation, and in another aspect as a function of the universe, the universe coming to self-consciousness in man.
Therefore it pertains to the individual, and at the same time to the universal, consciousness. Accordingly it may be said that there are as many religions as there are men. Each man’s religion is his own. It cannot be given to or borrowed from another; it cannot be imposed on men from without or taken from them; no man’s religion is in itself false, for it is not false to him. But at the same time it may be said that after all there is only one religion, for in its essence religion is the same in all though varied in different people according to the stage or direction of their development.
The undeniable symptoms of a pantheistic trend in the Discourses drew upon Schleiermacher much criticism. For example, his relative Sack, court-preacher, accused him of Spinozism and a veiled pantheism. But in his reply Schleiermacher vigorously repelled the charge. While he had not set forth the doctrine of a personal God, he had said nothing against belief in a personal God; he had only said that religion did not depend on whether, in abstract thought, a man predicated personality of the supersensuous cause of the world or not, and he had mentioned Spinoza as one instance. His aim was, in the present storm of philosophical ideas, to establish the freedom of religion from any sort of metaphysics and from dependence on 109morality, but he had no desire to cover any heresy by means of a reservatio mentalis.1212See the whole correspondence In Studien und Kritiken (1834).
The defectiveness of this view of religion, notwithstanding its warmth and suggestiveness, is apparent. It is as far from an apprehensible relation to any historical religion as Kant’s moral ideal is from relation to any historical morality. But the author rendered an invaluable service to the cause of religion and theology by exhibiting the originality, freedom, and universality of the former and its basic relation to the latter. In this view theology becomes a living and progressive science, ever drawing its main impulse from the growing religious life of humanity.
At a later time, when Schleiermacher had passed beyond the Romantic stage and found himself plunged into the great contest with the currents of thought that flowed through Germany along with the Napoleonic invasions, he aimed to bring his theory of religion into closer relation to ecclesiastical and national life. How this was done we shall see when we turn to his presentation of The Christian Faith.
Schleiermacher saw at once the need of correcting the impression that he had little regard for ethics, and in the next year (1800) he published his Monologues. The theory is complimentary to his view of religion and represents the ego in its consciousness of freedom spontaneously determining its own inner development and striving to represent in its own person the whole of society, of the nation, and, ultimately, of humanity. 110This view reappears in his system of theology where the two parallel presentations are unified.
Among the many works of Schleiermacher of more or less note which appeared before his whole system was elaborated, we may mention just one, his Outline of Theological Science (Kurze Darstellung des theologischen Studiums), 1806, which presents his conception of the integration of the whole body of theological sciences. Editions of this compact little treatise still continue to appear.
The crowning work of Schleiermacher’s services as a theologian is his Glaubenslehre, The Christian Faith. The occasion of its publication was the attempt of the Prussian king, Frederick William III, to unite the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Prussia in a new body, to be known as the Evangelical church. The three-hundredth anniversary of the beginnings of the Reformation seemed to offer a suitable opportunity for such an effort. The weakness of Prussia in the earlier part of the struggle with Napoleon had been partly a consequence of religious decline and division. Religious unity seemed necessary to political unity and strength. Schleiermacher’s religious convictions and his patriotism combined to make him a supporter of the movement. But he saw the dangers that threatened the vitality of Protestantism. A strong conservative reaction had set in at the close of the Napoleonic wars. Pastor Harms led a party that demanded a return to the older rigid Lutheran orthodoxy. The king himself was not only a rank conservative 111but aimed at bringing the church more directly under state (and this meant for him, royal) control. A heated controversy arose between conservatives and radicals, or Supernaturalists and Rationalists, as they were called. It was at this time (1821) that the first edition of The Christian Faith appeared. Hurst1313History of Rationalism, 241. remarks: “The book was a surprise to all parties. It was a stroke of genius destined alike to recast existing theology and to create a new public sentiment for the future.” Schleiermacher, by a broad treatment of the great topics of Christian theology, aimed at stemming the current running toward a narrow and intolerant orthodoxy, and at the same time, by bringing into relief the religious reality which underlies the different confessions of Protestantism, he hoped to deepen the consciousness of the unity and worth of the Christian faith.
But the purpose of Schleiermacher’s work went far beyond the needs of a temporary and local crisis. This his greatest achievement obtained a permanent place among the world’s most notable attempts to solve the problems of the inquiring religious spirit, because it treated those problems in a spirit which recognized their seriousness and breadth. It was the work of a writer who had set himself diligently to apprehend the meaning of religion, and especially of Christianity, in a universe of things that lay open to human experience and investigation; who had held his mind open to receive whatever he might find nourishing 112 to a hungry spirit in all realms of study and the philosophies of all schools.
The task which confronted the genius of Schleiermacher may be set forth briefly as follows: to describe the inner nature of religion, and particularly of Christianity, so as to exhibit its basis in an original human enduement and its freedom from dependence, on the one hand, on a body of objective knowledge--whether that knowledge be externally communicated or be the product of rational thought--or on a form of morality, on the other hand; to relate Christianity as a historical magnitude to other historical religions so as to bring into relief its pre-eminence among the various forms of religious faith; to indicate the place of the religious experience in the entire realm of human consciousness so as to vindicate the claim that it supplies the highest interpretation of the universe; to restate the interpretations of the Christian faith which have appeared in the great historic confessional and creedal symbols so as to bring out their religious content, and at the same time to clear away those traditional philosophical and superstitious excrescences which have obscured the truth of Christianity; to effectuate the demand that no form of doctrine may be admitted to be Christian except in so far as it is an expression of the Christian religious consciousness--a present conscious religious faith; to furnish to aggressive Protestant Christianity an instrument for its advancement, in the form of a reasoned systematic statement of its own inherent nature.113
Did space permit, we might show how upon a foundation of Christian religious faith he built the product of the rich speculative genius of Plato, the sin-consciousness of Paul and Augustine, Luther’s and the Anabaptists immediacy of fellowship with God, Calvin’s all-embracing divine purpose, Spinoza’s self-differentiating substance transmuted into the principle of causality, Leibnitz mirroring of the universe in the individual, Lessing’s philosophy of the revelation which, at the same time, is education, with Kant’s conviction of the incompetency of pure reason to establish religious truth running through it all. How all these elements, shot through with the Moravian warm love for Jesus Christ and the fellowship of grace, were recast in the crucible of Schleiermacher’s own thinking and were built up into a massive system, the following exposition will make an effort to show.114115
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