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Schleiermacher and the Construction of a Contemporary Roman Catholic Foundational Theology

  • Francis Schüssler Fiorenza (a1)


When I was completing my book on foundational theology, I presented a paper on the concept of broad reflective equilibrium and foundational theology to a group of colleagues at a conference sponsored by the Association of Theological Schools. This paper summarized the book's concluding section, which dealt with the relationship between contemporary criticisms of foundationalism and a foundational theology employing the method of broad reflective equilibrium. It advanced a systematic and historical argument. Systematically, the section argued that the method of broad reflective equilibrium offered a vision of foundational theology that avoided the pitfalls of foundationalism, overcoming the foundationalism of fundamental theology. It appealed to current discussions about methodology, specifically, the discussions on reflective equilibrium in the philosophy of science and in political ethics. The historical argument appealed to Schleiermacher by relating Schleiermacher's stance on the relationship between systematic and philosophical theology to the conception of a nonfoundationalist foundational theology, employing the method of broad reflective equilibrium.



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1 Fiorenza, Francis Schüssler, Foundational Theology: Jesus and the Church (New York: Crossroad, 1984).

2 For a discussion of this label and direction, see Placher, William C., “Postliberal Theology,” in Ford, David, ed., The Modern Theologians (2 vols.; New York: Blackwell, 1989) 2. 115–28.

3 Lindbeck, George A., The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984). My book and Lindbeck's were discussed together on an AAR panel with a response to Lindbeck's charges against Schleiermacher by Gerrish, Brian, published as “The Nature of Doctrine,JR 68 (1988) 8792. See also Brian Gerrish, “Nature and the Theater of Redemption: Schleiermacher on Christian Dogmatics and the Creation Story,” in idem, Continuing the Reformation: Essays on Modern Religious Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), where Gerrish defends Schleiermacher against Ronald F. Thiemann's specific critique of foundationalism.

4 For an assessment different from Lindbeck's, see Frei, Hans W., Types of Christian Theology (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992) 3438; and idem, Theology and Narrative: Selected Essays (eds. George Hunsinger and William C. Placher; New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) 177–98. Frei criticizes a strictly phenomenological approach to religion as “foundational and exclusive” (Theology and Narrative, 99), Frei's evaluation, however, is ambivalent. He cannot, on the one hand, locate Schleiermacher totally within a phenomenological approach. On the other hand, in regard to his correlation between experience and scripture, “Schleiermacher was not at all successful in his attempt” (Types of Christian Theology, 70).

5 Schleiermacher, Friedrich D. E., On the Glaubenslehre: Two Letters to Dr. Lücke (Trans. Duke, James and Fiorenza, Francis Schüssler; AAR Texts and Translations 3; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981).

6 Thiel, John E., God and World in Schleiermacher's Dialektik and Glaubenslehre (Bern: Lang, 1981); Junker, Maureen, Das Urbilddes Gottesbewusstseins (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1990); and Hinze, Bradford E., Narrating History, Developing Doctrine: Friedrich Schleiermacher and Johann Sebastian Drey (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1993). See below the works of Robert Stadler (n. 13) and Michael Eckert (n. 25).

7 Söhngen, Gottlieb, Der Weg der abendländischen Theologie (Munich: Pustet, 1959).

8 See, for example, Van Noort, Gerhard, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1: The True Religion (Westminster, MD: Newman, 1955).

9 Bouillard, Henri, The Knowledge of God (New York: Herder & Herder, 1968) and idem, The Logic of Faith (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967).

10 Lonergan, Bernard, Method in Theology (New York: Crossroads, 1972).

11 Bernhard Welte represents another attempt, contemporaneous to Rahner's, to develop a fundamental theology in contrast to the Neoscholastic. See Godzieba, Anthony J., Bernhard Welte's Fundamental Theological Approach to Christology (New York and Frankfurt: Lang, 1994).

12 Birkner, Hans-Joachim, Theologie und Philosophie: Einführung in Probleme der Schleiermacher-Interpretation (Theologische Existenz heute 178; Munich: Kaiser, 1974).

13 Stadler, Robert, Grundlinien der Theologie Schleiermachers. I. Zur Fundamentaltheologie (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1969).

14 Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Kurze Darstellung des theologischen Studiums zum Behuf einleitender Vorlesungen (ed. Scholz, Heinrich; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1910) section 26. In the first edition, Schleiermacher uses the botanical model to distinguish the philosophical (root), historical (body), practical (crown) theology. The second edition drops this metaphor. See Tice's, Terrence translation: Friedrich Schleiermacher, Brief Outline on the Study of Theology (Atlanta: Knox, 1966).

15 Ibid., section 27.

16 Fiorenza, Francis Schüssler, “Foundational Theology and Theological Education,Theological Education 20 (2) (1984) 107204.

17 Rahner, Karl, Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity (New York: Seabury, 1978).

18 The German subtitle is, however, identical with the English.

19 Rahner, Karl, Zur Reform des Theologiestudiums (Quaestiones Disputatae 41; Freiburg: Herder, 1969); and idem, “Possible Courses for the Theology of the Future,” Theological Investigations 13 (1975) 32–60.

20 Rahner's interpretation of religious experience as self-transcendence and of the concept of Christianity suggests significant parallels to Hegel and differences from Schleiermacher.

21 Birkner, Theologie und Philosophie, 33–34.

22 See the brilliant exposition and defense of Schleiermacher vs. Brunner by my colleague, Niebuhr, Richard R., Schleiermacher on Christ and Religion (New York: Scribner's, 1964).

23 Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, 20–21 and 128–35; Thiemann, Ronald F., Revelation and Theology: The Gospels as Narrated Promise (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1985) 2531; idem, “Piety, Narrative, and Christian Identity,” Word and World 3 (1983) 148–59, reprinted in idem, Constructing Public Theology: The Church in a Pluralistic Culture (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991) 126–41.

24 Barth, Karl, Protestant Thought: From Rousseau to Ritschl (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959) 306–54.

25 Eckert, Michael, Gott-Glauben and Wissen: Friedrich Schleiermachers Philosophische Theologie (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1987) 23.

26 In German the text is: “zu dem sogennanten natürlichen hinzukomme.” Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 7: Die christliche Glaubenslehre (2 vols.; 1st ed.; Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1980) 1. sections 19, 69.

27 Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Theologische Enzyklopädie (1831–32; ed. Sachs, Walter; Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1987).

28 Schleiermacher, Theologische Enzyklopädie, section 34.

29 Nösselt, Johann August, Anweisungen zur Bildung angehender Theologen (Halle: Wittwe, 1786/1789) 2. 455. And see also Birkner, Hans-Joachim, “Schleiermacher's ‘Kurze Darstellung’ als theologisches Reformprogramm,” in Hultberg, Helga et al. , eds., Schleiermacher im besonderem Hinblick auf seine Wirkungsgeschichte in Dänemark (Munich and Copenhagen: Fink, 1986) 5981.

30 Planck, Gottlieb Jakob, Abriβ einer kritischen und vergleichenden Darstellung der dogmatischen Systeme unserer verschiedenen christlichen Hauptparteien (2 vols.; Göttingen: Vandenhock & Ruprecht, 1796) 1. 113.

31 Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, section 30.

32 Schleiermacher, On the Glaubenslehre, 70.

34 Ibid., 27.

35 A mutual interdependence exists between the Ethik (1812/13), mit späteren Fassungen der Einleitung, Güterlehre und Pflichtenlehre [ed. Birkner, Hans-Joachim; Hamburg: Meiner, 1981]) and the Dialektik (Friedrich Schleiermachers Dialektik [ed. Odebrecht, Rudolf; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesselschaft, 1976]).

36 For an analysis of Schleiermacher's understanding of Ethik in relation to the cultural sciences, see Scholtz, Günther, Ethik und Hermeneutik: Schleiermachers Grundlegung der Geisteswissenschaften (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1995).

37 Schleiermacher, Friedrich D. E., Entwürfe zu einem System der Sittenlehre, in Braun, Otto, ed., Schleiermachers Werke (4 vols.; Aalen: Scientia, 1967) 2. 251 (my translation).

38 Rieger, Reinhold, Interpretation und Wissen: Zur philosophischen Begründung der Hermeneutik bei Friedrich Schleiermacher und ihrem geschichtlichen Hintergrund (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1988) 250.

39 See Herms, Eilert, “Die Ethik des Wissens beim späten Schleiermacher,ZThK 73 (1976) 471–523. See his earlier work, Herkunft, Entfaltung und erste Gestalt des Systems der Wissenschaften bei Schleiermacher (Gütersloh: Mohn Gütersloher Verlag, 1974).

40 One should not understand this in a foundationalist sense, but rather as the attempt to display the distinctive human activity involved.

41 Ryle, Gilbert, Collected Papers 1929–1968 (London: Hutchinson, 1971) 2.

42 Geertz, Clifford, The Interpretation of Culture: Selected Essays (New York: Basic, 1973).

43 See Frei, Theology and Narrative, 100, and 146–47.

44 For a clear description of inappropriateness of conflating “thick description” with Wittgenstein's “language game,” see Brill, Susan B., Wittgenstein and Critical Theory: Beyond Postmodernism and Toward Descriptive Investigations (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1995) 117–43.

45 Schleiermacher, Friedrich D. E., Brief Outline on the Study of Theology (Atlanta: John Knox, 1966).

46 Farley, Edward, Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theological Education (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983).

47 Gadamer, Hans-Georg, Truth and Method (2d rev. ed.; New York: Continuum, 1994); Ricoeur, Paul, The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies in the Creation of Meaning in Language (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975); idem, Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995); Jauss, Hans Robert, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982); and idem, Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982).

48 See my survey in Foundational Theology, 285–321 and in “Theology as Responsible Valuation or Reflective Equilibrium” in Thiemann, Ronald F., ed., The Legacy of H. Richard Niebuhr (Minneapolis: Fortess, 1991) 3371, esp. 59–71; and Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, “Systematic Theology: Its History and Method,” in idem and John Galvin, eds., Systematic Theology (2 vols.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 1. 1–81, esp. 66–81.

49 Goodman, Nelson, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983).

50 Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971).

51 See Okin, Susan Moller, “Justice and Gender,Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 (1987) 4272; reprinted in idem, Justice, Gender, and the Family (New York: Basic, 1989) 89–109.

52 See Daniels, Norman, “Wide Reflective Equilibrium and Theory of Acceptance in Ethics,Journal of Philosophy 76 (1979) 256–82. For further bibliography, see Fiorenza, Foundational Theology, 319 n. 152.

53 See Sellars, Wilfred, “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind,” reprinted in his collection of essays, Science, Perception and Reality (1961; reprinted Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, 1963) 127–96.

54 Ibid., 170; italics in the original.

55 See Fiorenza, Francis Schüssler, “The Crisis of Hermeneutics and Christian Theology,” in Davanny, Sheila, ed., Theology at the End of Modernity (Philadelphia: Trinity, 1991) 117–40.

56 Rahner, Karl and Ratzinger, Joseph, Revelation and Tradition (New York: Herder & Herder, 1966).

57 The influence of Rousselot, Pierre J. (“Les Yeux de la foi,RechSR 1 (1910) 241–59, 444–75 and idem, “Réponse à deux attaques,” RechSR 5 (1914) 57–69) has led to a change in twentieth-century Roman Catholic fundamental theology. English translation of the essay response: The Eyes of Faith (New York: Fordham University Press, 1990).

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Schleiermacher and the Construction of a Contemporary Roman Catholic Foundational Theology

  • Francis Schüssler Fiorenza (a1)


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