Reader's Guide to Schleiermacher's Christian Faith

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First Part of the System of Doctrine: The Development of that Religious Self-Consciousness which is always both presupposed by and contained in every Christian Religious Affection

First Section: A Description of our Religious Self-Consciousness in so far as the Relation between the World and God is expressed in it


36 The original expression of this relation, i.e. that the world exists only in absolute dependence upon God, is divided in Church doctrine into the two propositions—that the world was created by God, and that God sustains the world.

37 As the Evangelical (Protestant) Church has adopted both doctrines, but has not in her confessional documents given to either of them any distinctive character, it behoves [Ed: spelling matches CF] us so to treat them that, taken together, they will exhaust the meaning of the original expression.

38 The content of the original expression can be evolved out of either of the two doctrines, provided that in both of them, as in the original expression, God is regarded as the sole determinant.

39 The doctrine of Creation is to be elucidated pre-eminently with a view to the exclusion of every alien element, lest from the way in which the question of Origin is answered elsewhere anything steal into our province which stands in contradiction to the pure expression of the feeling of absolute dependence. But the doctrine of Preservation is pre-eminently to be elucidated so as to bring out this fundamental feeling itself in the fullest way.

First Doctrine: Creation

40 The religious consciousness which is here our basis contradicts every representation of the origin of the world which excludes anything whatever from origination by God, or which places God under those conditions and antitheses which have arisen in and through the world.

41 If the conception of Creation is to be further developed, the origin of the world must, indeed, be traced entirely to the divine activity, but not in such a way that this activity is thought of as resembling human activity; and the origin of the world must be represented as the event in time which conditions all change, but not so as to make the divine activity itself a temporal activity.

First Appendix: The Angels

42 This conception is indigenous to the Old Testament and has passed over into the New. It contains in itself nothing impossible and does not conflict with the basis of the religious consciousness in general. But at the same time it never enters into the sphere of Christian doctrine proper. It can, therefore, continue to have its place in Christian language without laying on us the duty of arriving at any conclusion with regard to its truth.

43 The only tenet which can be established as a doctrine concerning angels is this: that the question whether the angels exist of not ought to have no influence upon our conduct, and that revelations of their existence are now no longer to be expected.

Second Appendix: The Devil

44 The idea of the Devil, as developed among us, is so unstable that we cannot expect anyone to be convinced of its truth; but, besides, our Church has never made doctrinal use of the idea.

45 In the New Testament scriptures the Devil is, indeed, frequently mentioned, but neither Christ nor the Apostles set up a new doctrine concerning him, and still less do they associate the idea in any way with the plan of salvation; hence the only thing we can establish on the subject for the system of Christian doctrine is this: whatever is said about the Devil is subject to the condition that belief in him must by no means be put forward as a condition of faith in God or in Christ. Furthermore, there can be no question of the Devil having any influence within the Kingdom of God.

Second Doctrine: Preservation (Conservation)

46 The religious self-consciousness, by means of which we place all that affects or influences us in absolute dependence on God, coincides entirely with the view that all such things are conditioned and determined by the interdependence of Nature.

47 It can never be necessary in the interest of religion so to interpret a fact that its dependence on God absolutely excludes its being conditioned by the system of Nature.

48 Excitations of self-consciousness expressing a repression of life are just as much to be placed in absolute dependence on God as those expressing an advancement of life.

49 Whether or not that which arouses our self-consciousness and consequently influences us, is deemed to be traced back to any part of the so-called nature-mechanism or to the activity of free causes—the one is as completely ordained by God as the other.

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