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This chapter is dedicated to the Wilhelmine Empire (Kaiserreich), an era that saw the apex of German imperial expansionism. It was a period ripe with numerous intersecting visions of supersessionism, expansion, and domination. A major challenge for Baeck was Adolf Harnack’s turn-of-the-century popular lectures and subsequent book titled The Essence of Christianity. Harnack presented a pure and positive essence of Christianity against a legalistic and negative Jewish tradition. Baeck’s first major work, The Essence of Judaism (1905) responds to Harnack and subsequent challenges from the History of Religions School. Yet this type of response was shaped by the heydays of German imperialism, both abroad and in the attempts to colonize the former Polish territories. This is a formative phase for Baeck’s thought and many of his ideas, including the distinction between state power (Macht) and spiritual energy (Kraft), his views on Jewish missionizing, as well as his relation to Zionism. All these emerge in this period and continue to play a role in his thought throughout his life.
As stated by the editors, this volume addresses the topic of Christianity and international law within the broader conversation about the relevance of religion in the dynamics of global governance. Human rights law is one of the most important elements of international law and there are several dimensions of its relation to Christianity – historically, institutionally, and theologically – that generate theoretical concern. One such dimension is that of Christian agencies within the genealogy and historical developments of human rights law. As demonstrated in several chapters of this volume, an analysis of Christian agencies brings new insights into the research field of international human rights law.
Another dimension of the relationship between Christianity and human rights law is the issue of Christianity as a resource for critique of the contemporary human rights law. Such a critique might have impact on legitimacy as well as on efficiency of the human rights instruments, and it cannot but be framed in particular settings of various Christian traditions and communities.
This chapter traces the intellectual trajectory of the young John Rawls to show how several strands of Christian personalist theology intertwined at Princeton during the Second World War. It highlights a major new archival discovery: the undergraduate Rawls’s first published essay, a piece that demonstrates his early exposure to the ideas of Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. By considering in turn the influences on Rawls of American Episcopal Protestantism, Catholic human rights discourse, and continental dialectical theology, this chapter seeks to challenge historiographies that treat those different strands of Christian personalism in isolation. It also emphasizes the fundamentally liberal orientation of many Christian personalists, specifically their preoccupation with defending human free will as both essential to personhood and compatible with a robust theology of grace. This chapter draws attention to an oft-neglected liberal faction within the “Theological Discussion Group” of neoorthodox fame and showcases the enormous impact these liberal theologians had on reshaping elite American undergraduate religious education. This chapter ultimately argues that Rawls’s own liberalism, which would come to so define postwar political philosophy, was first forged in the cauldron of Christian personalism at Princeton and is best understood as a case for social revolution emerging from that framework.
Chapter 5 engages proposals that deny the importance of a historical Fall. I begin with Kant’s account of radical evil. An influential reading is this. Every human being who reaches the age of reason freely subordinates the moral law to self-interest. Next is Karl Barth’s “christologized” version of radical evil: the Fall is the universal act of unbelief in Christ. I argue that the reduction of original sin to the universality of actual sin is insufficiently inclusive. Neither infants nor the severely mentally disabled choose wrongdoing. Schleiermacher separated original sin from the Fall in a different way. Original sin is the corporate act of humanity. The “force” of sin is present in infants, albeit in germinal form, and when they mature they lack God-consciousness and tend to sinful self-love. Schleiermacher’s view leads to a problematic conclusion. Either sin is numerically one, or sin is merely environmental, external to the will. Schoonenberg defends a similar view but stresses human freedom. McFarland intriguingly proposes a synthesis of Maximus’s and Augustine’s accounts of the fallen will, while arguing that we can avoid etiological explanations of sin altogether. I argue, however, that we have to choose: we need either to explain why original justice is theologically unnecessary or to defend it in some form.
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