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5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering theology..., 9 Jan 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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This volume on the works of Freidrich Schleiermacher is part of a series by Fortress Press entitled 'the Making of Modern Theology: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Texts'. Each of the volumes in the series focuses upon one particular theologian of note. These volumes are of use to students, seminarians, ministers and other readers interested in the development of theological ideas in the modern and postmodern world. Each volume is a reader of key texts from the theologian highlighted - the text entries are annotated a bit by the editors, and the editor of each volume provides an introduction setting the general stage for context and understanding.
Editor Keith Clements describes Schleiermacher as being a pioneer of modern theology. Working in the early nineteenth century, Schleiermacher recrafted the discipline of theology in the wake of Kant's radical revision of metaphysics and philosophy. The Enlightenment had taken hold in various ways: in science, in anti-clerical attitude, in philosophy. In Germany, it took a decidedly historical aspect -- religion along with other disciplines were cast in various methods of historical analysis. Interest in ancient cultures, languages, historical studies, politics and more took strong hold in the German academy, meanwhile belittling overtly and covertly the religious establishments Catholic and Protestant.
Schleiermacher was a preacher and minister for a time; his lifestyle did not accord well with a typical ministerial prudence, and he soon developed a distaste for the traditional dogmatism of the religious establishment. He gravitated more toward the academic, becoming part of the founding group of the University of Berlin. He was editor of a politically radical newspaper for a time, and involved officially in politics, particularly where the cause of education is involved. His extra-theological career was nearly as impressive as his theological vocation, but it is for this latter that he is remembered today.
Schleiermacher's theology turns on various points. He believed strongly that religion is based on feeling, on an immediate consciousness involving the religious person. Theology involves reflection and communication of self and others -- this is epistemologically different from 'knowing'. His methods of reading the Bible, understanding the role of Jesus, and understanding God are deeply relational and emotional, turning strongly on the relationship of humanity through history. Schleiermacher looked for a general 'religiosity' in humanity, and thus discounted the all-important and unique nature of Christianity in favour of a more general sense of religious sentiment in the people.
Clements draws passages, arranged topically, from several of Schleiermacher's key works: On Religion, Speeches; The Christian Faith; Brief Outline of the Study of Theology; Hermeneutics - the Handwritten Manuscripts; Christmas Eve Dialogue on the Incarnation; The Life of Jesus; and Selected Sermons.
Love him or hate him, no theologian since Schleiermacher has been able to write without in some manner responding to or reacting to him. As the father of liberal theology (not liberal in the political sense), for a time the dominant theological school in Christianity, Schleiermacher's influence is destined to remain strong for a very long time.
Each volume in this series also has a selected bibliography section -- this one for Schleiermacher is divided into works by Schleiermacher (primary sources in English, including journal articles as well as books), and works about Schleiermacher (secondary sources in English), and finally a few works containing relevant material on Schleiermacher. The book also has several indexes -- a place and subject index, and a names index. This is a very good book for scholarship. The translations of the works from the original German is new, preserving some of the language uses (masculine pronouns for God) while modifying others (gender neutral translations for terms such as Mensch, Menschen).
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