Reader's Guide to Schleiermacher's Christian Faith

Summary and Commentary from Frank Cross

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George Cross, The Theology of Schleiermacher

II. THE ANTITHESIS IN THE RELIGIOUS SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS (62-169)

II. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ANTITHESIS: UNFOLDING OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF GRACE (86-169)

Section 2. The Nature of the World in Relation to Redemption. Doctrine of the Church (113-63)

SECOND DIVISION: THE CHURCH IN ITS COEXISTENCE WITH THE WORLD (126-59)

The church is the creation by the Spirit of Christ, out of individuals in the world, of a communion whose common spirit is the same Holy Spirit. Its state of existence in the world must, then, be in analogy with that of the person of Christ. In him the supernatural, the divine, as the abiding self-identical element of his person, united to itself the natural, the human, which was the variable element of his person. So also in its common spirit the church possesses an ever self-identical element, which makes its appearance in a variable element, the world. The church and the world are not to be described as two mutually exclusive entities, as if it sufficed to say that just as the world is not the church, so the church is not the world. Such a view tends to separation and legal righteousness. A better and more adequate statement would be the following: The world is excluded from participation in the church because in itself it is mere nullity and negation--not a self-contained unity, but a manifold of elements temporarily, oppositely, and contingently related. That alone which is permanent in the world is the feeling of the need of help which itself is a product of the Holy Spirit's self-exertion upon the world and is the basis of the church's title to the world.

Since the aim of the church is ever the same, namely, the realization within itself of the image of Christ, the mode of the existence of the divine in the human must remain the same as it was in him. The variable element in the church, as in Christ, is due to the human nature in and through which the Holy Spirit works. Now, human nature as undetermined by the Holy Spirit is the world, and therefore all that is variable in the church is due, not to its common spirit, but to the world, and the manner of the Spirit's work among men depends on peculiarities of temperament and circumstances of individuals and, on a larger scale, of nations.

All in the church which is not wrought by the Holy Spirit is of the world and constitutes its attack upon the church. To this pertain the sins of the regenerate and all error and perversion, which are destined to disappear from the church and yet re-enter into it with each new convert. The differences within a Christian society arise from the same causes.

All this discussion amounts to saying that Christianity is a power developing itself historically in the world. A treatment of it as such involves a discussion of its permanent, self-identical elements and its variable elements (126).

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