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

Second Section: The Divine Attributes which are related to the Religious Self-Consciousness so far as it expresses the General Relationship between God and the World

Introduction

50 All attributes which we ascribe to God are to be taken as denoting not something special in God, but only something special in the manner in which the feeling of absolute dependence is to be related to him.

Questions

  • 50.1. How do the efforts of speculation and Christian Dogmatics differ in regard to the divine attributes?
  • 50.2. Why is a “manifold” of attributes unacceptable in speculative approaches to God?
  • 50.3. Why are the first two ways of arriving at the divine attributes really identical?
  • 50.3. Does Schleiermacher deal with each of the means of dividing the divine attributes seperately or is there a central idea that underlies abandoning all of them together? If yes, what is that idea?
  • 50.4. What is the “general usage” of the divine attributes at the end of sub-section 4? Why does it “betray an analogy with speculation”?

Definitions

  • 50.1. Divine Attributes – Concepts denoting, “not something special in God, but only something special in the manner in which the feeling of absolute dependence is to be related to Him” (194).
  • 50.3. The Way of Removal of Limits (Via Emenentiae) – “arriving at the divine attributes” by positing something apart from God and, “after it has been freed from all limitations, is ascribed to Him” (197).
  • 50.3. The way of Negation (Via Negationis) – “arriving at the divine attributes” by positing something apart from God and then “its negation is ascribed Him” (197).
  • 50.3. The Way of Causation (Via Causalitatis) – “arriving at the divine attributes” by considering the Divine Causation “in the closest connexion with the feeling of absolute dependence itself” (197)

 

51 The Absolute Causality to which the feeling of absolute dependence points back can only be described in such a way that, on the one hand, it is distinguished from the content of the natural order and thus contrasted with it, and, on the other hand, equated with it in comprehension.

Questions

  • 51.1. How does beginning from the divine causality lead to a discussion of, not just divine omnipotence, but also of divine eternity?
  • 51.1. Why must the divine causality be “opposite to (the finite) in kind” in order to be equal to it “in compass”?
  • 51.2. What is it about the idea of causality that suggests eternity ought to be accompanied by the idea of omnipresence?
  • 51.2. What is it about the idea of causality that suggests omnipotence ought to be accompanied by the idea of omniscience in dogmatics?

Definitions

  • 51.1. The Natural Order – “(The) condition of mutual relation of differently distributed causality and passivity” (201).
  • 51.1. Divine Causality – “...the ground of our feeling of absolute dependence” that “extends as widely as the order of nature and the finite causality contained in it” (201).
  • 51.1. The Divine Omnipotence – “The divine causality as equivalent in compass to the sum-total of the natural order” (201).
  • 51.1. The Divine Eternity – “The divine causality as opposed to the finite and natural” (201).

 

First Doctrine: God is Eternal

52 By the Eternity of God we understand the absolutely timeless causality of God, which conditions not only all that is temporal, but time itself as well.

Questions

  • 52.2. What theological implications emerge if God’s eternity is taken as an endless duration of time? If it is taken as “timelessness”

Definitions

  • 52.1. The Eternity of God – “...the absolutely timeless causality of God, which conditions not only all that is temporal, but time itself as well” (203).
    Questions:
    52.1. Why is God’s eternity indifferent to whether or not time (or the world) is finite or infinite?

 

Second Doctrine: God is Omnipresent

53 By the Omnipresence of God we understand the absolutely spaceless causality of God, which conditions not only all that is spatial, but space itself as well.

Questions

  • 53.1. Why does Schleiermacher’s account of divine omnipresence not imply that God’s causality is “greater or smaller at different places”(208)?
  • 53.2. Why does schleiermacher take up the question of a distinction between “the divine omnipresence as an active and an inactive attribute” (209)?
  • 53 Postscript. The Immensity of God – God is immeasurable “because all measure may be resolved into time and space determinations” (211).

Definitions

  • 53.1. The Omnipresence of God – “...the absolutely spaceless causality of God, which conditions not only all that is spatial, but space itself” (206).

 

Third Doctrine: God is Omnipotent

54 In the conception of the divine Omnipotence two ideas are contained: first, that the entire system of Nature, comprehending all times and spaces, is founded upon divine causality, which as eternal and omnipresent is in contrast to all finite causality; and second, that the divine causality, as affirmed in our feeling of absolute dependence, is completely presented in the totality of finite being, and consequently everything for which there is a causality in God happens and becomes real.

Questions

  • 54.1. Why does Schleiermacher not adress any contradiction or redundancy between the divine omnipotence and the causality of the natural order?
  • 54.2. How are the lack of distinction, in God, between potential and actual and between “the general and the individual” related (213)? What does this have to do with how Schleiermacher conceives divine omnipotence?
  • 54.3. Is Schleiermacher somehow limiting the divine omnipotence by arguing that there is no distinction, in God, between what God ‘can’ and what God ‘will’ do (214-215)? Why or why not?
  • 54.4. How does Schleiermacher “rule out without loss” the “distinctions within and divisions of” the divine omnipotence in this section? Why can’t there be distinctions between free and necessary will in God? Why can’t there be a separation of God’s willing Himself and God’s willing the world?

Definitions

  • 54 Postscript. The Independence of God – “...that there is nothing in God for which a determining cause is to be posited outside of God” (219)

 

Fourth Doctrine: God is Omniscient

55 By the divine Omniscience is to be understood the absolute spirituality of the divine Omnipotence.

Questions

  • 55.1. What is implied about the world of existing things in that “the divine thinking is the same as divine will”? (221)
  • 55.2. What assumption is required to suppose that God has “mediate knowledge”?
  • 55.3. How does Schleiermacher solve the problem of divine ‘foreknowledge’ of unfolding human actions?

Definitions

  • 55.1. The Omniscience of God – “...the absolute spirituality of the divine Omnipotence” (219).
  • 55.1. Spirituality – “...the function of knowing”
  • 55.1. The Divine Wisdom – “…a comprehensive name for the divine purposes,” identical with the divine omniscience (222).
  • 55.2. Mediate Knowledge (in God) – that by which God “would know just what would have resulted had something happened which did not happen” (224).

 

Appendix: Some Other Divine Attributes

56 Among the divine attributes usually mentioned, the Unity, Infinity, and Simplicity of God especially might conveniently come in here, as having no relation to the antithesis in the excitations of the religious consciousness; only they could not be regarded as divine attributes in the same sense as those already dealt with.

Questions

  • 56.1. Why does Schleiermacher relegate Unity, Infinity, and Simplicity to an appendix?
  • 56.1. How does Schleiermacher suggest that Unity, Infinity, and Simplicity have “meaning to be gained... for Dogmatics”(229)?

Definitions

  • 56.1. The Unity of God – “...that attribute in virtue of which there is no distinction (in God) of essence and existence” (229). Also, “the principle of monotheism” (230).
  • 56.1. The Infinity of God – “...a precautionary rule for the formation of ideas of divine attributes, the rule, i.e. that attributes which cannot be conceived as without limits ought not to be ascribed to God” (230).
  • 56.1. The Simplicity of God – “... the unseparated and inseparable mutual inherence of all divine attributes and activities” (231).

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