Sunday, June 19, 2011

Karl Rosenkranz on Friedrich Schleiermacher (1 of 3)

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was recognized throughout the 19th century as a major Protestant theologian, as one of the most significant and politically democratic Romantic thinkers. Ecumenical Christian theologian Hans Küng considers Schleiermacher the most important Christian theologian of the 19th century and the first Christian theologian who developed a distinctively modern view of Christianity. He was also highly regarded for his philological work translating Plato into German, as a pedagogical reformer, and as an activist mobilizing Prussians to the anti-French resistance during the Wars of Liberation against the Napoleonic occupation.

Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

Karl Rosenkranz (1805-1879), the Hegelian scholar and leading figure among the Old Hegelians, published his Kritik der Schleiermacherischen Glaubenslehre (Critique of the Schleiermacherian Religious Teaching) in 1836. Most of the content had previously been published in 1830-31 as a series of articles in the Berliner Jahrbücher and focuses on the content of the 2nd edition of Schleiermacher's Der christliche Glaube (The Christian Faith), which appeared in 1830. In the preface to the book, Rosenkranz describes vividly from his own experience in the 1920s Schleiermacher's ability to inspire his listeners and to explain complex and imaginative concepts in a clear way. The Kritik der Schleiermacherischen Glaubenslehre was a philosophical and theological reckoning with Schleiermacher’s Christian theology from Rosenkranz' Hegelian outlook.

Schleiermacher's theology was informed by the philosophies of his time and took full account of the historical-critical Scriptural studies of his day. Going beyond Enlightenment rationalism, he argued that faith must be understood as involving both reason and emotion. Schleiermacher wanted to situate Biblical scholarship and philosophical reason within a Protestant theology with a distinctly mystical element.

The mystical core of Schleiermacher's theology was heavily influenced by his own Pietist background. His father was a Reformed (Calvinist) Protestant minister, and Schleiermacher studied under the Moravian Brethern (Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine). Schleiermacher argued that individuals experienced the reality of God through their own feelings. And this feeling takes the form of an awareness of the individual's utter dependence on God. Rosenkranz found this too exclusively a subjective basis on which to describe God, who also must be understand as an objective essence in and for Himself.

Ronsenkranz' Hegelian understanding of Christian theology required the establishment of a clear distinction and contradiction (in the technical Hegelian dialectical sense) between the finite and the infinite. He argues that Schleiermacher’s theology fails to establish that distinction adequately:

Das Mengelhafte hierin ist, daß Schleiermacher das Endliche und Unedliche als einen abstracten Gegensatz behandelt; jedes ist; das Endliche aber ist abhängig vom Unendliche und hat im Verhältniß [sic] zu ihm den Character eines rein Bestimmunglosen. Es verschwindet im Unendlichen. Und doch ist es.

[The insufficiency in this is that Schleiermacher deals with the finite and the infinite as an abstract contradiction; both exist; but the finite is dependent on the infinite and relative to it has the character of a purely indeterminate thing. It disappears in the infinite. And nevertheless it exists.]
This is a quarrel on Rosenkranz' part with the notion, particularly emphasized by Protestant theology, of the transcendence of God. Kant’s philosophy is known as transcendental philosophy because of its speculative nature, and Kant influenced Schleiermacher's theology in important ways. In Rosenkranz' understanding, the finite and the infinite must be established not only in a subjective but an objective way. And in his view, Schleiermacher's theology is founded so heavily in that subjective experience of the individual's emotional perception of God that it provides no clear way for the individual ego to achieve the knowledge of the infinity of God.

Schleiermacher’s version of dialectics was different from Hegel's. In Hegel's dialectical concept of development, processes contained a positive contradiction in opposition to a negative contradiction, in a dynamic that resolved itself by what Hegel called Aufheben ("ablation" in English), in which the positive and negative contractions were both preserved and cancelled out as they are lifted to a higher level. Rosenkranz argues that Schleiermacher's dialectics failed to achieve the Aufheben/ablation of the contradiction between the finite and the infinite, which for Hegel takes place in the state of Absolute Spirit.

(Continued in Part 2)

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