Reader's Guide to Schleiermacher's Christian Faith

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Chapter II. The Method of Dogmatics

20 Since every system of doctrine, as a presentation of Dogmatic Theology, is a self-contained and closely-connected whole of dogmatic propositions, we must, with regard to the existing mass of such propositions, establish in the first place a rule according to which some will be adopted and others excluded; and in the second place, a principle for their arrangement and interconnexion.

I. The Selection of the Dogmatic Material

21 In order to build up a system of doctrine, it is necessary first to eliminate from the total mass of dogmatic material everything that is heretical, and to retain only what is ecclesiastical.

22 The natural heresies in Christianity are the Docetic and the Nazarean, the Manichean and the Pelagian.

23 A system of doctrine drawn up at the present time within the Western Church cannot be indifferent to the antithesis between Roman Catholic and Protestant, but must adhere to one of the other.

24 In so far as the Reformation was not simply a purification and reaction from abuses which had crept in, but was the origination of a distinctive form of Christian communion, the antithesis between Protestantism and Catholicism may provisionally be conceived thus: the former makes the individual’s relation to the Church dependent on his relation to Christ, which the latter contrariwise makes the individual’s relation to Christ dependent on his relation to the Church.

25 Every Evangelical (Protestant) Dogmatic ought to contain a peculiar and distinctive element; only, this will be more prominent in some systems than in others, and sometimes more in some points of doctrine, sometimes in others.

26 In the Evangelical (Protestant) Church the Science of Christian Doctrine and that of Christian Morals have long been separated; and so here too, for the purposes of our presentation, we eliminate from the totality of the dogmatic material such propositions as are elements of the Science of Christian Morals.

II. The Formation of the Dogmatic System

27 All propositions which claim a place in an epitome of Evangelical (Protestant) doctrine must approve themselves both by appeal to Evangelical confessional documents, or in default of these, to the New Testament Scriptures, and by exhibition of the homogeneity with other propositions already recognized.

28 The dialectical character of the language and the systematic arrangement give Dogmatics the scientific form which is essential to it.

29 We shall exhaust the whole compass of Christian doctrine if we consider the facts of the religious self-consciousness, first, as they are presupposed by the antithesis expressed in the concept of redemption, and secondly, as they are determined by that antithesis.

30 All propositions which the system of Christian doctrine has to establish can be regarded either as descriptions of human states, or as conceptions of divine attributes and modes of action, or as utterances regarding the constitution of the world; and all three forms have always subsisted alongside of each other.

31 Thus the division outlined above will have to be fully worked out according to all these three forms of reflection upon the religious affections; but always and everywhere on this same basis, namely, the direct description of the religious affections themselves.

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