New Perspectives - International Journal of Systematic Theology Volume 6 Number 3 July 2004 New Perspectives on an Old Debate Friedrich Schleiermachers

New Perspectives - International Journal of Systematic...

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New Perspectives on an Old Debate: Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Essay on Election MATTHIAS GOCKEL* Abstract: This article analyses Schleiermacher’s essay on election, which has not received the attention it deserves. I argue that it presents a significant advance in the debate about unconditional grace and the relation between redemption and predestination. While Schleiermacher defends the Augustinian- Calvinist view of election, he criticizes the ideas of double predestination and eternal damnation (for the unbelievers). Thus, he wants to provide a new basis for Lutherans and Calvinists to settle or, at least, reconsider their longstanding controversy over the matter. After the publication of the essay in 1819, Schleiermacher’s doctrine of election remained unchanged, except for minor modifications. Friedrich Schleiermacher’s essay ‘On the Doctrine of Election, especially in regard to the Aphorisms of Herr Dr. Bretschneider’ 1 has received scant attention from historians and theologians alike. This is surprising, for at least two reasons. First, Schleiermacher repeatedly referred to it as an early version of the doctrine of election in The Christian Faith and even called it ‘a kind of precursor to my dogmatics’. 2 Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street Malden, MA 02148, USA. International Journal of Systematic Theology Volume 6 Number 3 July 2004 * Heubnerstrasse 33, D-06686 Wittenberg, Germany. 1 The essay appeared in Theologische Zeitschrift 1 (1819), pp. 1–119 and was later included in the posthumous collection of Schleiermacher’s Sämmtliche Werke , vol. I/2 (Berlin, 1836), pp. 393–484. Recently, it has been edited for vol. I/10 of the Kritische Gesamtausgabe (KGA), including the page numbering of the former two editions and a historical introduction: Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, ‘Ueber die Lehre von der Erwählung; besonders in Beziehung auf Herrn Dr. Bretschneiders Aphorismen’, Theologisch-dogmatische Abhandlungen und Gelegenheitsschriften (KGA, vol. I/10), eds H.-F. Traulsen and M. Ohst (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1990), pp. 145–222. I will use the edition in the KGA for references (by page and line and with my own translations). 2 In a letter to his friend Ludwig Gottfried Blanc from 28 April 1819 (Schleiermacher, Theologisch-dogmatische Abhandlungen , p. xlviii). Direct references to the essay also appear in the first and second edition of The Christian Faith : F.D.E. Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube, nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange
Second, it represents his first publication on a specific dogmatic topic and offers an original and profound discussion of central questions in the debate about election. 3 In fact, Schleiermacher himself emphasizes the importance of the topic and the need for a resumption of the debate, after more than two centuries had passed without any significant progress in the discussion of several unresolved issues, particularly in regard to the primacy of divine grace. 4 His motivation to write the essay stemmed from various sources.

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