Drey addressed one of the most disputed issues of his day - the anthropological nature of religion as moral, affective, and cognitive, which was being debated among deists, rationalists, Romantics, idealists, and theologians of all stripes.
He strove for a comprehensive viewpoint. He affirmed the importance of feelings and the "heart" in keeping with the Romantics, and of the moral apprehension of value and of purpose as accentuated by the deists and rationalists, but neither of these dimensions of religion were to be granted at the expense of the mind's journey to God through intellect and reflection that leads to judgment and conviction. With Lessing, Drey acknowledged God's work in bringing about the education (Erziehung) of the human race, and acknowledged also Schleiermacher's and J. G. Herder's appreciation of the religious formation (Bildung) of individuals and communities through language and history. But this education and formation were not achieved through some rationalist whittling away of the purportedly accidental cultural accretions of historical faith. Instead, he argued that appreciation of the divine pedagogy requires a deeper awareness and admission of the palpable realities of God's effective communication - the very mediation of grace and revelation in the world of discourse, practice, and institutions - than Aufklärung thinkers and many Romantics would grant.
Drey taught physics and mathematics at the Lyzeum in Rottweil beginning in 1806 before moving to Ellwangen in 1812, and he read and kept handwritten notes on astronomy, geology, chemistry, and biology. So it stands to reason that the cultural shift in orientation from physics to biology, with organic root metaphors taking precedence over mechanistic ones, which is found in the work of Schelling and Hegel, as well as in Kant's later writings, is detected in Drey's writings as well.5 An organic understanding of history and the church became common currency in the early nineteenth century, and sometimes Hegel's version of dialectic was included. Lutheran J. G. Herder and Reformed theologian Schleiermacher and his student Johann August Neander advanced an organic viewpoint. And Lutherans F. C. Baur and Philipp Marheineke became associated with a particular Hegelian version of organic dialectic. The writings of Drey, reflecting his close reading of Schelling and Schleiermacher, advance an organic vision of the church and history where parts and wholes, innovative and rigid individuals and mentalities, interact. A theory of collective interaction through time takes shape. Like Schleiermacher, Drey repudiated arguments in favor of natural religion as so many dissatisfying abstractions, by affirming not only the innate inclination to God and a religious outlook in human subjectivity, but also the indispensability of the historical origins and character "the positivity"- of religions, and in particular of Christianity. Drey also perceived a necessary constructive tension comparable to Schleiermacher between heterodoxy and "hyper-orthodoxy" in the genesis and development of historical Christianity. But unlike Schleiermacher, Drey took great pains to show the power of God at work in the dynamic nature of the living tradition, in the Word of God, in the scriptures, and in the binding judgment of the official teachings of the bishops in ecumenical councils.6 Variations on this organic viewpoint were developed by other Tübingen theologians. Möhler's attention to unity and historical details reflected especially his critical engagement with the historians Gottlieb Jakob Planck and Augustus Neander. Staudenmaier's procedure responds to the Hegelian vision of unity
(Einheit) in the midst of differences and dialectical processes. Johannes Kuhn's critique of David Friedrich Strauss's treatment of the historical character of Christian revelation drawing on Schelling, Hegel, and Wilhelm Von Humboldt offers a further illustration of this transgenerational conversation and debate with contemporaries. Over a period of time, these Catholic Tübingen theologians developed a vision of the living tradition of the Church, oral and written, in Scripture and symbols of faith, that would be widely received (especially due to their influence on the Roman school of theology associated with J. B. Franzelin, G. Perrone, K. Schrader, and C. Passaglia,) by both the moderately conservative and moderately progressive wings of the German and European church.
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