Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst
SCHLEIERMACHER, FRIEDRICH DANIEL ERNST
Protestant theologian, philosopher, educator; b. Breslau, Nov. 21, 1768; d. Berlin, Feb. 12, 1834. Schleiermacher has been called the "father of modern theology" (i.e., of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Protestant liberal theology). He came from a Moravian background. After attending a Moravian seminary for two years, he left the Moravians and studied theology at the University of Halle, where he made extensive studies of Plato, Spinoza, and Kant. After brief periods as tutor to the family of Count Dohna, as preacher at an orphanage in Berlin, and as pastor of a church in Landsberg, he became chaplain to those of the Reformed faith at the Charité Hospital, Berlin. Between 1796 and 1802, in Berlin, he was attracted to romanticism through a circle of friends that included Karl Schlegel. Under the stimulus of these associations, he published Über die Religion (1799, Eng. tr. On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers,
1893, repr. 1958). In 1800 appeared Monologen (Eng. tr. Soliloquies, 1926). Following further brief engagements as court preacher in Stolpe and professor and chaplain in Halle, he returned to Berlin as pastor of Trinity church and took up his final post as head of the theological faculty in the new University of Berlin (1810–34). In addition to his chief theological work, Die Christliche Glaube (1821, 2d ed. 1830, Eng. tr. The Christian Faith, 1928, repr. 1963), he produced a German translation of Plato and works on exegesis, on philosophical and theological ethics, and on hermeneutics. The 30 volumes of his collected works include 10 volumes of sermons.
In Schleiermacher's thought, faith always issues in knowing (doctrine) and doing (ethical action), but it is first of all a kind of "feeling" or intuition, the "feeling (consciousness) of absolute dependence." He used this notion apologetically when he suggested to the "cultured despisers" of religion that when they rejected traditional dogmas, they were not necessarily rejecting the faith that lay behind the dogmas. To him religion, properly understood, was intrinsic to human nature, the highest expression of self-consciousness, which at its best is also Godconsciousness. Although faith, in his view, belongs primarily to "immediate" self-consciousness, it is also linked with a second level, the "sensible" self-consciousness, the level on which the self is related to the world. "World" includes nature and society. Religion is thereby connected with culture and history. God is not "objectively presented" in immediate self-consciousness, but knowledge of Him is to be inferred from the contents of self-consciousness in conjunction with our experience of the world.
The disadvantage of Schleiermacher's view is that he spoke about God in terms of human experience; and this threatened to supplant revelation with a human norm. But God is the active source or ground of our religious responses; and Schleiermacher can be construed more positively as a historical thinker who understood that God reveals Himself in and through historical events or processes.
In The Christian Faith, Schleiermacher's thinking was more churchly and Christocentric than in his earlier works. In this book he held that piety always has a communal as well as an individual dimension, and that religious affections are always formed in particular ways within religious communities or churches. Christianity, he wrote, derives its distinctive pattern from its founder; it is "a monotheistic faith, belonging to the teleological (i.e., ethical) type, [in which] everything is related to the redemption accomplished by Jesus of Nazareth." Redemption is necessary because man is subject to sin, that is, he has an interrupted, unsteady God-consciousness. This is the result of man's becoming too much immersed in and too preoccupied with the world, the finite and sensory, so that his sense of the Infinite is obscured. Consequently man's life becomes fragmented and disoriented. Redemption is the reorienting of life in all its elements, individual and social, in proper relation to God. Christianity is unique and universally valid because it is the only religion to make redemption central. Christ is unique because He had a perfect, uninterrupted Godconsciousness, and because He had no need of redemption Himself (which distinguishes Him from other founders of religions). Rather he was the initiator and mediator of man's redemption. We receive the effects of His life and work through participation in the life of the Spirit in the church, the redemptive community. Redemption means the fulfillment of true humanity as intended by God, and men are so constituted that no individual can be completely fulfilled until all are brought into harmonious and loving relationship with each other in the kingdom of God.
See Also: liberalism, theological.
Bibliography: Sämtliche Werke, 30 v. (Berlin 1835–64). w. dilthey, Das Leben Schleiermachers, 2d ed. h. mulert (Berlin 1922). h. e. brunner, Die Mystik und das Wort (2d ed. Tübingen 1928). r. b. brandt, The Philosophy of Schleiermacher (New York 1941). f. flÜckiger, Philosophie and Theologie bei Schleiermacher (Zollikon-Zurich 1947). k. barth, Protestant Thought from Rousseau to Ritschl, tr. b. cozens (New York 1959). p. h. jo/rgensen, Die Ethik Schleiermachers (Munich 1959). r. r. niebuhr, Schleiermacher on Christ and Religion (New York 1964). w. a. johnson, On Religion: A Study of Theological Method in Schleiermacher and Nygren (Leiden 1964). l. cristiani, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 v. (Paris 1903–50) 14.1:1495–1508. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 1223–1224. h. g. fritzsche, Evangelisches Kirchenlexicon: Kirchlich-theologisches Handwörterbuch, 4 v. (Göttingen 1956–61) 3:801–805. p. hermann and e. weniger, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 5:1422–1436. p. meinhold, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 9:413–416.
[w. e. wiest]