Preliminary Comments

The issue of theology's relation to thinking has precipitated much confusion, primarily in theological circles. The famous Swiss theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Barth, is known for a lifelong struggle to appreciate Schleiermacher in the midst of deep misgivings concerning the integrity of Schleiermacher's theological commitments. An afterword by Barth, published together with an anthology of Schleiermacher's writings in 1968, summarizes a lifetime of vacillating between interpretative alternatives.2 The issue turns on the way Barth construes Schleiermacher's appeal to philosophy in theology. Specifically, Barth believes that Schleiermacher is grounding his theology in what Schleiermacher calls "ethics," a philosophy of history that reflects an anthropological description of human thinking, doing, and feeling as states of consciousness. Schleiermacher's theology, Barth suspects, compromises the truth of its claims about God when it is rendered in human epistemological and psychological terms. The concrete text in question is Schleiermacher's "Introduction" in §§ 1-31 of The Christian Faith. Is its status that of a philosophical foundation for the theology contained in parts I and II? Or is it a preliminary contextualization of theology's task and method in the non-theological disciplines that Schleiermacher outlines in the introduction as ethics, philosophy of religion, and apologetics? The former question has obfuscated the interpretation of Schleiermacher's work for the past century; the latter question represents the more recent attempts by scholars to establish the parameters of the discussion of Schleiermacher's theology in terms other than theology's captivity to philosophy's alien categories.

One of these recent interpretations has focused Schleiermacher's thought in terms of its systematic relatedness. Schleiermacher, in addition to his professional activities as pastor and professor, also served as co-founder with Wilhelm von Humboldt of the first modern university in the West at Berlin in 1809. The key to his vision for the various departments as related to each other and to the university as a whole was a system for "sciences" (Wissenschaft, in German, refers to any academic discipline in pursuit of knowledge) that he developed to correspond to the idea of knowledge (die Ideedes Wissens).3 During the late eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century context of German Idealism, thinkers - Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, for example - were excited by the possibility of understanding how the ideal, or concepts, in thought could correspond both epistemologically and metaphysically to reality.

A significant preoccupation concerned these thinkers: how to distinguish the idea of knowledge into its constituent parts in such a way that they would refer to the different academic disciplines. Schleiermacher, who had embarked on translating Plato's works from Greek into German, appropriated Plato's division of knowledge into two areas: ethics, which Schleiermacher referred to as the reality constituted by human agency, and physics, which is the reality constituted by nature. Schleiermacher envisioned the academic faculty of arts and sciences to represent the two areas of knowledge: arts representing ethics and sciences representing physics. The entire faculty was further sub-divided into pure and applied arts and sciences, so that each art or science was made up of its pure, or theoretical, designation and its applied, or practical, designation. Pure history, to use an example from arts rather than the more obvious examples from the natural sciences, might be seen as the philosophy of history, while applied history might be empirical historiography. Schleiermacher also envisioned a distinct sphere of knowledge he called the "technical and critical" disciplines that would facilitate the mediation between theory and application. Schleiermacher's dialectic and hermeneutics were the technical and critical disciplines destined to be used in all academic areas of study in order to bring theory to bear on empirical reality and map empirical data onto a conceptual grid. Finally, the three disciplines of jurisprudence, medicine, and theology were assigned a location outside the "real sciences" of arts and sciences. These were the "positive sciences," designated positive because their function was directed by institutions outside the university, namely, the legal court, the hospital, and the church.

This brief description of Schleiermacher's systematic vision for the modern university is complemented by a look at the systematic commitments of Schleiermacher's academic activity. Schleiermacher was a polymath. He not only envisaged different academic disciplines but also actually researched and taught in these disciplines, and in some cases laid down their foundational parameters. Schleiermacher's training was in theology (in the broad, German sense of Theologie), and he focused his early career on the pastoral ministry. Yet his first book-length publication was in the field of philosophical ethics, the Foundations for a Critique of Previous Ethical Theory from 1803, and the Speeches on Religion that he wrote from February to April 1799 while a chaplain at the Charité Hospital in Berlin articulated one of the most compelling cases of all time for religion as constitutive of human nature. His reputation as an academic theologian came later. He was appointed to the theology faculty at the incipient University of Berlin in 1808, an appointment that included the responsibility to lecture in the different fields that Schleiermacher conceptualized for the modern study of theology: philosophical theology, historical theology (which included New Testament studies, the history of Christianity, and dogmatic theology), and practical theology. He established the parameters of deuterocanonical literature with a commentary on 1 Timothy (1807), and contributed to the early nineteenth-century discussions of the interdependence and development of the Synoptic Gospels with a commentary on Luke in 1817. Unfortunately, his erroneous commitment to John as the original Gospel writer prevented him from having a lasting impact on New Testament studies.

Although his professorial appointment was in theology, rather than in philosophy, Schleiermacher was invited to be a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, founded by the eighteenth-century polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. As a member, Schleiermacher was permitted to lecture on philosophy. The Lectures on Dialectic delivered six times between 1811 and 1833, when he wrote the introduction for publication, establish dialectic as the procedure for the production of knowledge of reality on the grounds of critical philosophy. Schleiermacher also conceived dialectic as a dialogical process entailing interpersonal communication and understanding. The lectures on Hermeneutics and Criticism stand as the undisputed origins of the modern study of interpretation as well as serve as a significant impetus to higher biblical criticism. In addition to these lectures in the technical-critical disciplines, Schleiermacher was also preoccupied with pedagogy, political science, and psychology. His uncanny foresight in the early part of the nineteenth century concerning the major intellectual challenges to the study of theology were met with a systematic commitment to relating theology to other academic disciplines, such as history and philosophy, politics and hermeneutics, and culture and religion. He is known as not only the "father of modern theology," but also a theorist of culture, a sociologist and psychologist of religion, and a philosopher of self-consciousness reaching deep into the philosophy of language.

The emerging consensus in Schleiermacher scholarship consists of contextual-izing Schleiermacher's thought by its systematic parameters. A particular topic in Schleiermacher's work can only be adequately addressed by viewing its content and treatment as related to and distinguished in systematic context. This interpretative method has significant implications for understanding Schleiermacher's theology. Theology's method is constituted by the same epistemological processes and the same intersubjective conditions relevant to all intellectual inquiry. Theology's content is unique as its particular area of study is the systematic mapping of normative ideas that are produced by specific religious communities. Yet the ways in which ideas are gathered in the first place from living communities, and subsequently defined and organized, are no other than by the epistemological and intersubjective mechanisms characterizing any pursuit of knowledge. A discussion of Schleiermacher on theology requires contextualizing his understanding of theology and its distinct subject matter - historical religion as lived in communities of faith - in relation to the anthropological constituents of thinking and doing, as well as language's capacity to articulate thought. Human thought and linguistic expression are further shaped by epistemological conditions governing the production of knowledge and by the intersubjective conditions of interpersonal understanding and misunderstanding. A revision of Barth's misunderstanding of Schleiermacher must begin with a correct interpretation of how philosophy in Schleiermacher's sense of dialectic and hermeneutics informs the production of knowledge in Protestant theology in the way that Schleiermacher intended to highlight the uniqueness of the Christian religion.

I now turn to a more precise treatment of Schleiermacher's philosophy, beginning with the Dialektik in order to show what the academic desire for knowledge entails. Dialectic, for Schleiermacher, addresses the human desire to convert thinking into knowledge that is both discursive and systematic. But this definition requires elucidation as to both the way that thinking arises in human persons -this means thinking in relation to other areas of human existence, how thinking is related to both the kind of consciousness producing thinking and the discursive shaping of thinking in its articulation in language - and how thinking is oriented to knowledge. The desire to know (das Wissenwollen) is interpersonally embodied in the "art of conducting conversation," as Schleiermacher defines dialectic by translating literally the Greek dialegesthein. Dialectic entails hermeneutics, which I treat in the subsequent section on the hermeneutical aspects of the production of knowledge. Once Schleiermacher's dialogical-dialectic is established as the parameter for any inter subjective production of knowledge, his specific understanding of Christian theology can be appreciated as an application of his method to an area of particular human experience and language not accounted for by any other area of academic inquiry, yet in terms that can be understood.

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