Reader's Guide to Schleiermacher's Christian Faith

Definitions of Key Terms and Questions for Aiding Understanding

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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

Introduction

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.

Questions

  • 36.1: What original doctrine do the twin doctrines of creation and preservation spring from? Regarding the doctrines of creation and preservation, is either of them secondary to the other?
  • 36.2: If creation & preservation divide a more primitive doctrine, from where does this division come?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 37.1: How does Schleiermacher characterize the intention in naming God as both All-Sovereignty and Creator? How does this intention relate to the feeling of absolute dependence?
  • 37.2: Should the Evangelical Church maintain this traditional doctrinal definition? Why or why not?
  • 37.3: If all doctrine is to be brought back to the feeling of absolute dependence, can the doctrines of creation and preservation reduce, without remainder, to this more primitive doctrine?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 38.1: If forced to select one, would creation or preservation more aptly describe this primitive doctrine? Can either of them better absorb its counterpart?
  • 38.2: Are creation and preservation two different kinds of divine activity? In what way, if any, are they distinguishable at all? Do they limit or exclude one another?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 39.1: Is it piety or some other motive that brings us to ask about the origins of things?
  • 39.2: When and why is the doctrine of creation more helpful to foster piety than preservation?
  • 39.3: What are the two Dogmatic aims with regard to the doctrines of creation and preservation?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 40.1: What has been the relation between scientific statements about the origin of the world and theological statements about the origin of the world? What should that relation be today?
  • 40.2: Did Luther and Calvin principally use Genesis 1-4 to make positive suggestions about history, or did they primarily employ them negatively against certain ways of interpreting the texts?
  • 40.3: Under what two conditions is it conceivable that there is a contradiction between the doctrine of creation and “the universal basis of our religious self-consciousness”?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 41.1: What is the danger inherent in describing God’s world-making on the analogy of human making?
  • 41.2: Does Schleiermacher suggest that creation is temporal or eternal? Why?
  • 41.Postscript: What is the peril involved in most definitions of God’s absolute freedom?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 42.1: Schleiermacher suggests two important stages in the history of the idea of spirits/angels: the initial considerations that gave rise to the idea of spirits, and the particular development of this idea in ancient Israel. What are these two stages?
  • 42.2: Schleiermacher suggests that Christ & the Apostles said many things about angels, but may not have had any real convictions about their existence. How does he exempt them from deception?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 43.1: Why does Schleiermacher suggest that the idea of angelic intercession is “losing influence”?
  • 43.2: What two uses of the concept of the angels “is to be recognized”?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 44.1: What two objections does Schleiermacher raise to the idea that the devil and his angels are thought of as “working unanimously”?
  • 44.2: What trouble does Schleiermacher see in the move to explain man’s evil by tracing it to Satan’s?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 45.1: The NT has many stories about exorcism. Given that this is the case, how does Schleiermacher reject them as supplying normative or binding elements of the Protestant dogmatic tradition?
  • 45.2: Does the question of the devil’s existence fall to theology, or another discipline?
  • 45.Postscript: Does Schleiermacher think that the idea of Satan and the fall of angels may be indispensible so as to address other things? Does he think that the idea of Satan will abide forever?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 46.1: Some would say that the pious self-consciousness and the awareness of the inter-relatedness of nature are exclusive, that one always grows at the expense of the other. Does Schleiermacher answer this with an argued refutation, a presupposition, or a principle? What is the content of that answer?
  • 46.2: Is the divine causality like the causal powers of particular things? –of the whole? –what is it like? –and how can one grasp, or be grasped, by a feel for this Godcausing?
  • 46.Postscript: What belief does Schleiermacher suggest is the basis for differentiating the objects of divine preservation into three types? How and why does Schleiermacher question this belief?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 47.1: Does Schleiermacher suggest that freedom is to be found on only one level of the nature-system?
  • 47.2: Does Schleiermacher think that a miracle, conceived of as a novelty, a break from the system of nature, could ever conceivably produce an effect that the nature-system could not produce without it?
  • 47.3: What reasons does Schleiermacher give for abandoning the idea of the absolutely supernatural?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 48.1: How does Schleiermacher define evil? What are the three kinds of evil that he distinguishes?
  • 48.2: Are we ever affected (limited, conditioned) without also affecting (being self-existent), and vice-versa? How are both of these terms related to God’s activity? Can evil be filtered from the world?
  • 48.3: Is divine cooperation enjoyed by things insofar as they are active, passive – or both?

Definitions

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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.

Questions

  • 49.1: Is there true causality and freedom where there is not life, where a thing does not act for-itself?
  • 49.2: Does God co-operate with free actions (that arise from within a living being) in a way that is essentially different from the way God co-operates with non-free actions (that move a being)? Or rather, should we distinguish sharply between free and natural actions, so that free actions are less dependent upon God than natural ones?

Definitions

  • [coming soon...]

 

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