Reader's Guide to Schleiermacher's Christian Faith

Definitions of Key Terms and Questions for Aiding Understanding

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Introduction

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.

Questions

  • 20. How does Schleiermacher propose to discriminate between which doctrinal propositions will be included or excluded from his Dogmatics?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 21. What do you think of Schleiermacher’s identification of heresy with any doctrine that cannot be derived or coordinated with the “essence” of Christianity? Just how stable of a concept of heresy is this? Does it entail multiple, mutually exclusive conceptions of heresy, depending upon which Church, and thus which “essence” of Christianity we are dealing with?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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

Questions

  • 22. Would you characterize Schleiermacher’s “natural heresies” as referring to specific historical instances or to more general, typological forms of heresy? Which of the four natural heresies belong together according to Schleiermacher? Why does he pair them together in this way?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 23. Does Schleiermacher view the antithesis between Catholicism and Protestantism to be insurmountable or does he entertain the possibility of reconciliation in the future?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 24. How does Schleiermacher define the Catholic Church in contrast with the Protestant church? Does this rather general definition of and distinction between the two hold up in your view?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 25. Does Schleiermacher privilege the role of unique, particular expressions of Dogmatic theology over more common, traditional expressions? Why does Schleiermacher eschew the customary concepts of “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” in attempting to define religious communities and/or beliefs?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 26. What is Schleiermacher’s rationale for eliminating propositions pertaining to “the science of Christian morals”? Is this an unexpected move, or has he already given us reason to expect the exclusion of this topic?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 27. To which two authorities must doctrinal propositions appeal to or conform with in order to secure their legitimacy in a Protestant Dogmatics? How does Schleiermacher limit his conception of what counts as normative Scripture for Protestant Dogmatics? Is this move theologically coherent? Of the three types of Dogmatics cited in this section (Scriptural Dogmatics, Scientific Dogmatics and Symbolical Dogmatics) which does Schleiermacher aspire to in his Glaubenslehre?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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

Questions

  • 28. How does Schleiermacher use the term “dialectical”? Why must a systematic Dogmatics employ this mode of language?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 29. What is the “antithesis expressed in the concept of redemption”? Why must all forms of religious self-consciousness be brought into connection with this antithesis if they are to secure a place in Schleiermacher’s Dogmatics?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 30. What are the three forms of Dogmatic propositions for Schleiermacher? What, if anything, is lost theologically when one surrenders Dogmatic propositions about the Divine attributes, Divine action, and the constitution and nature of the cosmos? What, if anything, is gained by restricting the realm of Dogmatic propositions to “descriptions of human states,” as Schleiermacher would have us do?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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.

Questions

  • 31. Which of the forms of Dogmatic propositions will Schleiermacher deal with in his ensuing Dogmatics? What reasons does he offer for this decision?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

Definitions for 20-31

Heresy: Any idea within the realm of Christian doctrine which cannot be derived from or coordinated with the essence of Christianity, “but which nevertheless gives itself out as Christian and seeks to be regarded as such by others” (95-96).

Four major types of Heresy:

  • Docetic Heresy: the extreme of emphasizing the Divine to the point of denying the human nature of Christ (99-100).
  • Nazarean/Ebionitc Heresy: the opposite extreme of emphasizing the humanity of Christ to the neglect and denial of the Divine (Ibid).
  • Pelagian Heresy: the extreme of affirming the goodness of humanity to the point of denying human falleness (sin) and the need for a redeemer (Ibid).
  • Manichean Heresy: the opposite extreme of denying human goodness and rendering the finite realm as inherently Evil (Ibid).

Evangelical Dogmatics: Protestant theology or dogmatics

Protestantism: A Christian community wherein “the individual’s relation to the Church” depends upon “his relation to Christ” (103, 24).

Catholicism: A Christian community wherein “the individual’s relation to Christ” is “dependent on his relation to the Church” (Ibid).

Scriptural Dogmatics: a theological system wherein the appeal to confessions is made secondary to the appeal to Scripture in order to authorize propositions (116).

Scientific Dogmatics: “a Dogmatic which, starting from some recognized principal points, would make everything clear by its orderly sequence, the parallelism of its members, and the coherence of its individual propositions” (116-117).

Symbolical Dogmatics: privileges confessional documents over Scripture; Schleiermacher associates this form with the Roman Catholic Church (117).

Dialectical: language “formed in a technically correct manner, that…may be used in all intercourse for the communication and correction of the knowledge in question” (118).

The three forms of Dogmatic propositions:

  • Dogmatic propositions as referring to “descriptions of human states” (125, 30).
  • Dogmatic propositions as “conceptions of Divine attributes and modes of [Divine] action” (Ibid).
  • Dogmatic propositions as “utterances regarding the constitution of the world” (Ibid).

Questions for 20-31

20. How does Schleiermacher propose to discriminate between which doctrinal propositions will be included or excluded from his Dogmatics?

21. What do you think of Schleiermacher’s identification of heresy with any doctrine that cannot be derived or coordinated with the “essence” of Christianity? Just how stable of a concept of heresy is this? Does it entail multiple, mutually exclusive conceptions of heresy, depending upon which Church, and thus which “essence” of Christianity we are dealing with?

22. Would you characterize Schleiermacher’s “natural heresies” as referring to specific historical instances or to more general, typological forms of heresy? Which of the four natural heresies belong together according to Schleiermacher? Why does he pair them together in this way?

23. Does Schleiermacher view the antithesis between Catholicism and Protestantism to be insurmountable or does he entertain the possibility of reconciliation in the future?

24. How does Schleiermacher define the Catholic Church in contrast with the Protestant church? Does this rather general definition of and distinction between the two hold up in your view?

25. Does Schleiermacher privilege the role of unique, particular expressions of Dogmatic theology over more common, traditional expressions? Why does Schleiermacher eschew the customary concepts of “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy” in attempting to define religious communities and/or beliefs?

26. What is Schleiermacher’s rationale for eliminating propositions pertaining to “the science of Christian morals”? Is this an unexpected move, or has he already given us reason to expect the exclusion of this topic?

27. To which two authorities must doctrinal propositions appeal to or conform with in order to secure their legitimacy in a Protestant Dogmatics? How does Schleiermacher limit his conception of what counts as normative Scripture for Protestant Dogmatics? Is this move theologically coherent? Of the three types of Dogmatics cited in this section (Scriptural Dogmatics, Scientific Dogmatics and Symbolical Dogmatics) which does Schleiermacher aspire to in his Glaubenslehre?

28. How does Schleiermacher use the term “dialectical”? Why must a systematic Dogmatics employ this mode of language?

29. What is the “antithesis expressed in the concept of redemption”? Why must all forms of religious self-consciousness be brought into connection with this antithesis if they are to secure a place in Schleiermacher’s Dogmatics?

30. What are the three forms of Dogmatic propositions for Schleiermacher? What, if anything, is lost theologically when one surrenders Dogmatic propositions about the Divine attributes, Divine action, and the constitution and nature of the cosmos? What, if anything, is gained by restricting the realm of Dogmatic propositions to “descriptions of human states,” as Schleiermacher would have us do?

31. Which of the forms of Dogmatic propositions will Schleiermacher deal with in his ensuing Dogmatics? What reasons does he offer for this decision?

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