Reader's Guide to
Schleiermacher's Christian Faith
Definitions of Key Terms and Questions for Aiding Understanding
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
Third Section: The Constitution of the World which is indicated in the
Religious Self-Consciousness, so far as it expresses the General
Relationship between God and the World
§57 The universality of the feeling of absolute
dependence includes in itself the belief in an original perfection of the
- §57.1. What does Schleiermacher mean that the original perfection of
the world reveals itself “through the feeling of absolute dependence”
- §57.2. How is Schleiermacher’s conception of the original perfection
of the world and the divine approval of the world different from “a
paradisical condition of the world and a condition of moral perfection
in man” during some historical period of time (235)?
- §57.1. The Original Perfection of the World – “... that through the
feeling of absolute dependence the divine omnipotence in all its
livingness reveals itself everywhere in the world, as eternal,
omnipresent, and omniscient, without any distinction of more or less,
without even a contrast in respect of dependence between one part and
another.” (234). In short, the capacity of the world to excite the
God-consciousness in humans.
- §57.2. The Divine Approval of the World – That “which, in relation
to the act of creation as such, has for its object... only the origin of
finite existence... as the source of the whole temporal development”
§58 The belief described is to be set forth in two
doctrines, of which one deals with the perfection of the rest of the world
in relation to man, the other with the perfection of man himself.
- §58.1. Why can dogmatics distinguish “the original perfection of
man” from “the original perfection of the world” (236)?
- §58.2. Why is Schleiermacher’s account of the original perfection of
the world not a cosmological claim?
- §58.1. The Original Perfection of Man – “... the common factor in
the religious excitations, only related to the finite co-determining
them..., i.e. to the world-impressions which we receive” (236). In
short, the capacity, in human beings, for the God-consciousness as
excited by ‘world-impressions’.
First Doctrine: The Original Perfection of the World
§59 Every moment in which we confront externally given
existence involves the implication that the world offers to the human spirit
an abundance of stimuli to develop those conditions in which the
God-consciousness can realize itself, and at the same time that in manifold
degrees the world lends itself to being used by the human spirit as an
instrument and means of expression.
- §59.1. What are the “ideal” and “real” sides of the original
perfection of the world? How do human beings relate to these?
- §59.3. What does it mean that the knowability of the world and the
receptivity of the world “essentially go together” (240)?
- §59.3 Postscript. Why, if the biblical narratives are taken
historically, can they “have no place” in Schleiermacher’s Dogmatics?
How should they be more properly considered?
- §59.1. The Knowability of the World – “...that kinds of influences
(or existing things) can be related to the same self-consciousness,”
which is “the ideal side of the original perfection of the world” (239).
- §59.1. Man (as Spirit) – “...a self-active being in whom
God-consciousness is possible” (238).
- §59.1. The Human Body – An organism “given for the spirit...which
brings the spirit into contact with the rest of existence” (239).
- §59.2. The Receptivity of the World – The world considered as an
“instrument” of human freedom and a means of human expression (239-240).
- §59.3 Postscript. Doctrine of the Best World – The speculative idea
that the existing world is the best of “many worlds all originally
equally possible with the one which actually came into existence” (241).
Second Doctrine: The Original Perfection of Man
§60 The predisposition to God-consciousness, as an
inner impulse, includes the consciousness of a faculty of attaining, by
means of the human organism, to those states of self-consciousness in which
the God-consciousness can realize itself; and the impulse inseparable
therefrom to express the God-consciousness includes in like manner the
connexion [ed: this is the spelling in CF] of the race-consciousness
with the personal consciousness; and both together form man’s original
- § 60.1. How does Schleiermacher justify the claim that “in our clear
and waking life a continuous God-consciousness as such is possible”
- §60.1. The Predisposition to God-consciousness (Original Perfection
of Man) – “...an inner impulse (which) includes the consciousness of a
faculty of attaining, by means of the human organism, to those states of
self-consciousness in which the God-consciousness can realize itself”
- §60.1. Religious Experience – “...that we are aware of this tendency
to God-consciousness as a living impulse” (244).
- §60.2. Race-consciousness – “...the fundamental condition or basis
of social life” which, “by the inner union of the race-consciousness and
the personal self-consciousness,” external expression of the inner
God-consciousness is possible (246).
§61 Fulness [ed: this is the spelling in CF] of
experience in the sphere of faith is due to the individual development, in
virtue of this original perfection of human nature, of each human life
brought into existence by procreation. But how, on the same presuppositions,
the first men developed, history gives no account, and the hints we have on
that subject cannot form a religious doctrine in our sense of the word.
- §61.1. How are faith and certainty related for Schleiermacher’s in
- §61.1. Why is the conception of the original perfection of man
“limited to the sphere of procreation” (249)?
- §61.2. Why don’t historical accounts of the first human beings add
anything to Schleiermacher’s account of the original perfection of man?
- §61.3-4. Does Schleiermacher need to address the problem of the
emergence of “self-communicating piety” in the human race as he does in
these sections, or could he have ruled it out a priori? If the latter,
how might he have done that?
- §61.5. How does Schleiermacher present his position as different
from St. Augustine’s on the question of the original righteousness of
- §61.5. The Original Righteousness of Man – That “the first real
state of man could not have been one of sin” (255).
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