New Perspectives on an Old Debate:Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Essay on ElectionMATTHIAS GOCKEL*Abstract:This article analyses Schleiermacher’s essay on election, which hasnot received the attention it deserves. I argue that it presents a significantadvance in the debate about unconditional grace and the relation betweenredemption and predestination. While Schleiermacher defends the Augustinian-Calvinist view of election, he criticizes the ideas of double predestination andeternal damnation (for the unbelievers). Thus, he wants to provide a new basisfor Lutherans and Calvinists to settle or, at least, reconsider their longstandingcontroversy over the matter. After the publication of the essay in 1819,Schleiermacher’s doctrine of election remained unchanged, except for minormodifications.Friedrich Schleiermacher’s essay ‘On the Doctrine of Election, especially in regardto the Aphorismsof Herr Dr. Bretschneider’1has received scant attention fromhistorians 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 electionin The Christian Faithand even called it ‘a kind of precursor to my dogmatics’.2Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street Malden, MA 02148, USA. International Journal of Systematic TheologyVolume 6Number 3July 2004*Heubnerstrasse 33, D-06686 Wittenberg, Germany.1The essay appeared in Theologische Zeitschrift1 (1819), pp. 1–119 and was laterincluded 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 KritischeGesamtausgabe(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 theedition in the KGA for references (by page and line and with my own translations).2In a letter to his friend Ludwig Gottfried Blanc from 28 April 1819 (Schleiermacher,Theologisch-dogmatische Abhandlungen, p. xlviii). Direct references to the essay alsoappear in the first and second edition of The Christian Faith: F.D.E. Schleiermacher, Derchristliche Glaube, nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange
Second, it represents his first publication on a specific dogmatic topic and offers anoriginal and profound discussion of central questions in the debate about election.3In fact, Schleiermacher himself emphasizes the importance of the topic and the needfor a resumption of the debate, after more than two centuries had passed withoutany significant progress in the discussion of several unresolved issues, particularlyin regard to the primacy of divine grace.4His motivation to write the essay stemmed from various sources.