Schleiermacher’s Perspective on Redemption

A Fulfillment of the coincidentia oppositorum between the Finite and the Infinite in Participation with Christ

in Journal of Reformed Theology
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This article analyzes the philosophical background of Schleiermacher’s doctrine of redemption. The two philosophical strands of dialectic Neoplatonism and Romanticism form the basis of Schleiermacher’s soteriology, in which Christ’s redemption is seen not just as an act to liberate from sin, but the fulfillment of the coincidentia oppositorum (the coincidence of opposites) between the finite (individual) and the Infinite (the whole) within the dynamic dialectical interrelationship between them. By participating in Christ’s perfect God-consciousness through receptivity to “absolute dependence,” the individual experiences redemption. In its philosophical context, Schleiermacher’s soteriology may be labeled as Christ-Centered Dialectic-Neoplatonic-Romantic-Soteriology.




See Hugh R. Mackintosh, Types of Modern Theology: Schleiermacher to Barth (London: Nisbet, 1937), 71–144; John S. Reist, Jr, “Continuity, Christ, and Culture: A Study of F. Schleiermacher’s Christology,” The Journal of Religious Thought 26, no. 3 (1969), 24–27; Mark S.G. Nestlehutt, “Chalcedonian Christology: Modern Criticism and Contemporary Ecumenism,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 35 (1998), 182; Lori Pearson, “Schleiermacher and the Christologies Behind Chalcedon,” Harvard Theological Review 96 (2003), 356; John Macquarrie, Jesus Christ in Modern Thought (London: SCM Press, 1990), 206–207; Karl Barth, The Theology of Schleiermacher: Lectures at Göttingen, Winter Semester of 1923–24, ed. Dietrich Ritschl, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 103–104; idem, “Schleiermacher,” in Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century: Its Background and History (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 411–459; Colin E. Gunton, Yesterday and Today: A Study of Continuities in Christology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 89–99. For a detailed discourse of Schleiermacher’s Christology in the context of the theological “revisionary Christologies” compared to the Chalcedonian formulation, see further Iain G. Nicol, “Schleiermacher and Ritschl: Two Nineteenth-Century Revisionary Christologies,” in Christological Foundation for Contemporary Theological Education, ed. Joseph D. Ban (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1988), 137–157; C.W. Christian, Friedrich Schleiermacher (Waco: Word Books, 1979), 118–120. Contrasted against the arguments of these scholars, Kevin Hector holds that Schleiermacher’s Christology is rather closed not only to the Actualism in terms of the incarnation, but also to “high” Christology as well. See Kevin W. Hector, “Actualism and Incarnation: The High Christology of Friedrich Schleiermacher,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 8, no. 3 (July 2006), 307–322.


Richard B. Brandt, The Philosophy of Schleiermacher: The Development of His Theory of Scientific and Religious Knowledge (New York: Harper, 1941), 71–298; Robert M. Adams, “Philosophical Themes in Schleiermacher’s Christology,” Philosophia, vol. 39 (2011), 449–460. Cf. Jacqueline Mariña, “Christology and Anthropology in Friedrich Schleiermacher,” in The Cambridge Companion to Friedrich Schleiermacher, ed. Jacqueline Mariña (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 151–170.


Cf. Brandt, The Philosophy of Schleiermacher, 71–199; Adams, “Philosophical Themes in Schleiermacher’s Christology,” 456–460.


Cf. Philip Clayton, “Schleiermacher As a Romantic,” in Schleiermacher, Romanticism, and the Critical Arts: A Festschrift in Honor of Hermann Patsch, eds. Hans Dierkes, Terrence N. Tice and Wolfgang Virmond (London: Edwin Mellen Press, 2007), 115–124; Terry P. Pinkard, German Philosophy, 1760–1860: The Legacy of Idealism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 131–171; Robert F. Streetman, “Romanticism and the Sensus Numinis in Schleiermacher,” in The Interpretation of Belief: Coleridge, Schleiermacher, and Romanticism, ed. David Jasper (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986), 104–125; Jack Forstman, A Romantic Triangle: Schleiermacher and Early German Romanticism (Missoula: Scholars Press for the American Academy of Religion, 1977).


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 39.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 79. Cf. Catherine L. Kelsey, Thinking About Christ with Schleiermacher (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 43–68.


Cf. Cooper, Panentheism, 81; Robert R. Williams, “The Platonic Background of Schleiermacher’s Thought,” in Schleiermacher the Theologian: the Construction of the Doctrine of God (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978); Julia A. Lamm, The Living God: Schleiermacher’s Theological Appropriation of Spinoza (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 125.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 39.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 39. Cf. Streetman, “Romanticism and the Sensus Numinis in Schleiermacher,” 110.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 3.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 251.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 76.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 88.


Schleiermacher, “Explanations of the Second Speech,” On Religion, 103.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 48–49.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 58.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 36.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 39.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 48.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 86.


Schleiermacher, Dialectic, 3.


Schleiermacher, Dialectic, 6.


Schleiermacher, Dialectic, 54. Cf. Streetman, “Romanticism and the Sensus Numinis in Schleiermacher,” 105.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 39, 79.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 70.


See Schleiermacher, Reden über die Religion, 69–70. Cf. Streetman, “Romanticism and the Sensus Numinis in Schleiermacher,” 117–118. With regard to the relationship between Anschauung and Gefühl, T.N. Tice’s comment is helpful: “perspectivity (Anschauung) without feeling (Gefühl) is nothing and can have neither the right origination nor the right force. Feeling without perspectivity is also nothing. Both can only exist because and insofar as they are, fundamentally one and undivided.” See Schleiermacher, On Religion (trans. Tice), 365n46. See also Schleiermacher, On Religion (trans. Oman), 43–46, 49–50, 99, 101, et passim.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 36.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 101.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 49–50.


Cf. Christian, Friedrich Schleiermacher, 50.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 51.


Schleiermacher, Dialectic, 7.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 210.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 245. Schleiermacher further comments: “Your feeling is piety, in so far as it expresses, in the manner described, the being and life common to you and to the All. Your feeling is piety in so far as it is the result of the operation of God in you by means of the operation of the world upon you.” See Schleiermacher, On Religion, 45.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 47.


Walzel, German Romanticism, 50.


C.W. Christian, Friedrich Schleiermacher (Waco: Word Books, 1979), 50–51.


Pinkard, German Philosophy, 148–158.


Crouter, Friedrich Schleiermacher, 260–264.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 246.


Schleiermacher, On Religion, 79.


Cf. Mariña, “Christology and Anthropology in Friedrich Schleiermacher,” 162–168.


Niebuhr, Schleiermacher on Christ and Religion, 211.


Nestlehutt, “Chalcedonian Christology,” 182. Cf. Gunton, Yesterday and Today, 98–99.


Hector, “Actualism and Incarnation,” 307.


Cf. John Hick, Evil and the God of Love (1966; reissued with a new Preface, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Wyman, “Sin and Redemption,” 146–147.


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