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1 FRIEDRICH SCHLEIERMACHER (1768-1834) Introductory Lecture: Classical Liberalism No modern theologian has influenced the direction of scholarship of his own era and thereafter to a greater degree than Schleiermacher did; no single theologian is more representative of the mood or method of 19th century theology than S. or his thought. Having said all this--in admittedly sweeping rank generalizations--one is immediately prompted to ask "why?" What was the basis for the theological revolution that became embodied in S.? What was it about his theological posture that enabled it to so thoroughly grasp the attention (or reflect the spirit) of his age? To answer these sorts of questions one must locate S.'s work in its larger historical context. You recall (I hope!) from our previous discussions how the gradual focalization of the Reformation led to Protestant Scholasticism and a rather rigid, creedal conception of the Christian faith. The responses to Scholasticism were basically two, which ran in entirely opposite directions. First, there was the rationalistic theology (Deism) which was at the same time an extension of Renaissance rationalism as well as of Scholasticism. The second reaction to Orthodoxy was Pietism. Pietism perceived that Orthodoxy had lost sight of the inward and dynamic aspects of the Faith, hence its correctives came largely from the affective dimensions of Christian experience. With the rise of increasingly radical rationalism in the Aufklarung , many Pietists realigned themselves with mainline Lutheranism --though their influence remained through various institutions like the collegia pietas and Halle University. It is precisely in the midst of this collision of mind and emotion within the Lutheran theological context that S. finds himself. Rationalism had become the dominant force in German academic theology, Pietism (in its formal sense) had all but fled from the scene--and the sterility of the theology of the Aufklarung was beginning to become more and more apparent. Born in the city of Breslau, Nov. 21, 1768, a son of a military chaplain, even as a lad, S. showed a sensitive nature and inquisitive mind--especially when it came to matters of religion. He recalls, for example, that the fact that he could not work out an exact equivalence between the sufferings of Christ and the punishments due those He redeemed robbed him of many a night's sleep. His early studies were steeped in classical literature and language (this was the Enlightenment's way), and he would later produce one of the finest German editions of Plato's works. In 1738 S. entered the Moravian school at Niesky. The Moravians traced their heritage rather directly from the Pietists, and at Niesky S. came under the spell of that school with its concern for genuine piety, friendship, and Christian service. The Pietism embodied at Niesky was not the hyper-introspective approach of Francke; it owed a greater debt to the overflowing heart of mystical Zinzendorf, in which the way of faith was lived out in a deep- seated sense of
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This note was uploaded on 04/17/2008 for the course REL THEL 352 taught by Professor Tyson during the Spring '08 term at Houghton College.

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