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

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

Introduction

57 The universality of the feeling of absolute dependence includes in itself the belief in an original perfection of the world.

Questions

  • 57.1. What does Schleiermacher mean that the original perfection of the world reveals itself “through the feeling of absolute dependence” (234)?
  • 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)?

Definitions

  • 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” (235).

 

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.

Questions

  • 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?

Definitions

  • 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.

Questions

  • 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?

Definitions

  • 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 perfection.

Questions

  • 60.1. How does Schleiermacher justify the claim that “in our clear and waking life a continuous God-consciousness as such is possible” (245)?

Definitions

  • 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” (244).
  • 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.

Questions

  • 61.1. How are faith and certainty related for Schleiermacher’s in religious experiences?
  • 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 human beings?

Definitions

  • 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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