Reader's Guide to Schleiermacher's Christian Faith

Definitions of Key Terms and Questions for Aiding Understanding

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Introduction

Chapter I. The Definition of Dogmatics

2 Since Dogmatics is a theological discipline, and thus pertains solely to the Christian Church, we can only explain what it is when we have become clear as to the conception of the Christian Church.

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I. The Conception of the Church: Propositions Borrowed from Ethics

3 The piety which forms the basis of all ecclesiastical communions is, considered purely in and of itself, neither a Knowing nor a Doing, but a modification of Feeling, or of immediate self-consciousness.

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4 The common element in all howsoever diverse expressions of piety, by which these are conjointly distinguished from all other feelings, or, in other words, the self-identical essence of piety, is this: the consciousness of being absolutely dependent, or, which is the same thing, of being in relation with God.

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5 What we have thus described constitutes the highest grade of human self-consciousness; but in its actual occurrence it is never separated from the lower, and through its combination therewith in a single moment it participates in the antithesis of the pleasant and the unpleasant.

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6 The religious self-consciousness, like every essential element in human nature, leads necessarily in its development to fellowship or communion; a communion which, on the one hand, is variable and fluid, and, on the other hand, has definite limits, i.e. is a Church.

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II. The Diversities of Religious Consciousness in General: Propositions Borrowed from the Philosophy of Religion

7 The various religious communions which have appeared in history with clearly defined limits are related to each other in two ways: as different stages of development, and as different kinds.

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8 Those forms of piety in which all religious affections express the dependence of everything finite upon one Supreme and Infinite Being, i.e. the monotheistic forms, occupy the highest level; and all others are related to them as subordinate forms, from which men are destined to pass to those higher ones.

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9 The widest diversity between forms of piety is that which exists, with respect to the religious affections, between those forms which subordinate the natural in human conditions to the moral and those which, on the contrary, subordinate the moral to the natural.

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10 Each particular form of communal piety has both an outward unity, as a fixed fact of history with a definite commencement, and an inward unity, as a peculiar modification of that general character which is common to all developed faiths of the same kind and level; and it is from both of these taken together that the peculiar essence of any particular form is to be discerned.

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III. Presentation of Christianity in its Peculiar Essence: Propositions Borrowed from Apologetics

11 Christianity is a monotheistic faith, belonging to the teleological type of religion, and is essentially distinguished from other such faiths by the fact that in it everything is related to the redemption accomplished by Jesus of Nazareth.

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12 Christianity does indeed stand in a special historical connexion with Judaism; but as far as concerns its historical existence and its aim, its relations to Judaism and Heathenism are the same.

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13 The appearance of the Redeemer in history is, as divine revelation, neither an absolutely supernatural nor an absolutely supra-rational thing.

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14 There is no other way of obtaining participation in the Christian communion than through faith in Jesus as the Redeemer.

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IV. The Relation of Dogmatics to Christian Piety

15 Christian doctrines are accounts of the Christian religious affections set forth in speech.

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16 Dogmatic propositions are doctrines of the descriptively didactic type, in which the highest possible degree of definiteness is aimed at.

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17 Dogmatic propositions have a two-fold nature—an ecclesiastical and a scientific; and their degree of perfection is determined by both of these and their relation to each other.

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18 The collocation of dogmatic propositions, for the purpose of connecting them and relating them to each other, proceeds from the very same need which led to the formation of them, and is simply a sequel to it.

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19 Dogmatic Theology is the science which systematizes the doctrine prevalent in a Christian Church as a given time.

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Definitions of Key Terms for 2-19

Dogmatic Theology: “the science which systematizes the doctrine prevalent in a Christian Church at any given time” [88].

Knowing: One of the two ways in which rationality constitutive of human nature manifests itself.

Feeling: the site of an experience of transcendent being, feelings shape the qualitative or phenomenal character of sense impressions.

Doing: A manifestation of human reason based on a preceding “incentive”

Piety: “the consciousness of being absolutely dependent, or which is the same thing, of being in relation to God” [12].

Religion:

  • Teleological: a condition whereby “a predominating reference to the moral task constitutes the fundamental type of the religious affections” [42].
  • Aesthetic: [content coming]
  • Positive: “the individual content of all the moment of the religious life within one religious communion, in so far as this content depends on the original fact from which the communion itself, as a coherent historical phenomenon, originated” [49].
  • Natural: Religions philosophically indifferent to particularity, grounded in an interest in universal truth.

Redemption:

  • Passive: “A passage from an evil condition, which is represented as a state of captivity or constraint, into a better condition” [54].
  • Active: “The help given in that process by some other person” [54].

Supra-rational: “An in dwelling (either from the beginning, or coming in later and continuing, or confined to one moment) of God or the logos in Christ, and as a moving of the redeemed by the Holy Spirit” [65]

Consciousness:

  • Higher self-consciousness: The feeling of absolute dependence
  • Lower self-consciousness: “the self-consciousness which, as expressing the connection with perceptible finite existence, splits up into a partial feeling of dependence and a partial feeling of freedom” [19].

God: “Whence of our receptive and active existence” [16].

Miracle: “Phenomenon in the realm of physical nature which are supposed not to have been caused in a natural manner” [71].

Questions for 2-19

Schleiermacher makes a distinction between Knowing and Doing and claims that Feeling sits between Knowing and Doing. Is such a clear distinction among the three modes of self-consciousness persuasive and as definite as Schleiermacher would have us believe?

What are we to make of Schleiermacher’s view on the emphasis on piety as the goal of the Christian faith? Does this limit our understanding of the Church with regards civic engagement?

Schleiermacher can be described as the first major Christian theologian to develop theology for interfaith. Is this accurate and to what extent can we appropriate his theology for interfaith work in a world so deeply divided along religious lines?

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