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Schleiermacher and the Reformation: A Question of Doctrinal Development

  • B. A. Gerrish (a1)


The month of December 1816 found Schleiermacher thinking about too many things at once and not at all in the best of health. To his friend Gass, who seemed to have no trouble combining scholarship with administration, he sent a plea for help:

I have long been bent upon making just some superficial patristic and scholastic studies, in order to gather a few handy quotations for my dogmatics; and I never got around to it. I would be very much obliged if you would write me somewhat more exactly how you have gone about it and on what [passages] you have chiefly relied.



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This presidential address was delivered at the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History, 28 December 1979. Because in the subject of this address, as in most other aspects of historical theology, he has been there before me, I would like these reflections to be understood as a tribute to my teacher, Wilhelm Pauck, as he approaches the celebration of his eightieth birthday. An expanded version, with fuller discussion of the sources and secondary literature, will appear in my forthcoming book, The Old Protestantism and the New, and for this reason I have confined my footnotes here to references for direct quotations. Unless otherwise stated, translations are mine.

1. Schleiermacher, Friedrich to Gass, Joachim Christian, 29 12 1816,Fr. Schleiermacher's Briefwechsel mit J. Chr. Gass, ed. Gass, Wilhelm (Berlin, 1852), p. 128.

2. Newman, John Henry, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, rep. of the 1878 ed. (Garden City, New York, 1960), p. 35.

3. Hanna Jursch, Schleiermacher als Kirchenhistoriker. Vol.1, Die Problemlage und die geschichtsheoretischen Grundlagen der Schleiermacherschen Kirchengeschichte (Jena, 1933), p. 53.

4. Barth, Karl, “The Word of God and the Task of the Ministry,” in Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, trans. Horton, Douglas (1928; rep. ed., New York, 1957), p. 195. The emphasis is Barth's.

5. The Life of Schleiermacher as Unfolded in His Autobiography and Letters, trans. Rowan, Frederica, 2 vols. (London, 1860), 1:3.

6. Ibid., p. 4.

7. Ibid., p. 14.

8. Schleiermacher, to Blanc, [1821], Aus Schleiermacher's Leben: In Briefen, ed. Jonas, Ludwig and Dilthey, Wilhelm, 4 vols. (Berlin, 18581863), 4:280.

9. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Geschichte der christlichen Kirche (1840), ed. Bonnell, E., Friedrich Schleiermachers sämmtliche Werke (hereafter cited as SW), 31 vols. (Berlin, 18341864), div. 1, 11:15.

10. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, trans. Oman, John (1894;rep. ed., New York, 1958), p. 223.

11. Ibid., p. 238.

12. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, “Ueber den eigenthümlichen Wert und das bindende Ansehen symbolischer Bücher,” reprinted in Schleiermacher, Kleine Schriften und Predigten (hereafter cited as KS), ed. Gerdes, Hayo and Hirsch, Emanuel, 3 vols. (Berlin, 19691970), 2:162.

13. Ibid., p. 164.

14. Friedrich Schleiermacher, Predigten in Bezug auf die Feier der Uebergabe der Augsburgischen Konfession, reprinted in KS, 3:28.

15. Schleiermacher, , Geschichte der christlichen Kirche, p. 582.

16. The propositions [Leitsätze] of the first and second editions are given parallel to each other in Redeker's critical edition based on the 2d ed. of 1830–31. Schleiermacher, , Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt, 7th ed, ed. Redeker, Martin, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1960), 2:497563; see p. 506.

17. Ibid., 1:137.

18. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Die christliche Sitte nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt (1884), ed. Jonas, Ludwig, SW, div. 1, 12:212.

19. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, “Denn das apostolische Zeitalter ist nicht zurückzuführen,” Der christliche Glaube, 1:138. (Translation made from 3rd ed.).

20. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, “An die Herren D.D.D. von Cölln and D. Schulz: Ein Sendschreiben” (1831), reprinted in KS, 2:238.

21. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Gespräch zweier selbst überlegender evangelischer Christen über die Schrift “Luther in Bezug auf die neue preussische Agende”: Ein letztes Wort oder ein Erstes, SW, div. 1, 5:552.

22. “Die Reformation geht noch fort.” Ibid., p. 625.

23. Schleiermacher, Die christliche Sitte, p. 72.

24. Nösgen, Karl Friedrich, “Calvins Lehre von Gott und ihr Verhältnis zur Gotteslehre anderer Reformatoren,” Neue kirchliche Zeitschrift 23 (1912):690747; quotation on p. 747

25. See, for example, Troeltsch, Ernst, “Prinzip, religiöses,” in Schiele, Friedrich Michael and Zscharnack, Leopold, eds., Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 5 vols. (Tübingen, 19091913), 4:1843–1844.

26. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, An Herrn Oberhofprediger Dr. Ammon über seine Prüfung der Harmsischen Säze (1818), SW, div. 1, 5:400.

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Church History
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