Academic journal article Theological Studies

Theology as Science in Nineteenth-Century Germany

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Theology as Science in Nineteenth-Century Germany

Article excerpt

Theology as Science in Nineteenth-Century Germany. By Johannes Zachhuber. Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology. Oxford: Oxford University, 2013. Pp. xiv + 318. $150.

Faith and science have historically been seen as being at odds, and no one seems to have resolved this fundamental tension. Zachhuber does not seek to resolve but to understand the tension. This is not a methodological question but a historical one; it concerns the notion of Christianity as an absolute faith and the idea of its history as a human science. Z. does not begin at 1800, nor does he end with 1900; rather, he starts in the 1830s and ends at the first decade of the 20th century. He focuses primarily on two "schools": the earlier one at Tubingen under F. C. Baur, and the later one at Gottingen led by Albert Ritschl. Z.'s narrative runs first from Baur to David Friedrich Strauss to Eduard Zeller, and second from Ritschl to Julius Kaftan to Ernst Troeltsch. Z. explains well the tensions in Baur's theology, the impact of Strauss's Leben Jesu, and the differences between Baur's conceptions of history and theology and those of Ritschl.

Z.'s lengthy account of Ritschl is particularly fine. He details the ways Ritschl agreed with Schleiermacher and Baur and disagreed with Baur and Hegel. Ritschl and Baur aligned themselves with Schleiermacher in opposing natural religion, but they did not go so far as to believe a superficial charge against Schleiermacher's alleged claim that the basis for religion was primarily emotion. Ritschl shared Baur's belief that understanding Christianity comes from understanding its history. One of the greatest strengths and weaknesses of Z.'s account is his reliance on philosophers. He makes a compelling case for the importance of Hegel and Schleiermacher, and then tries to argue that Schelling and Trendelenberg are also crucial. The former is perhaps important but the latter is known only because of his lengthy fight with Kuno Fischer over Kant and his later writings on natural law.

Z. discusses many of Ritschl's important works, like his Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versohnung (1870-1874), but he also draws from lesserknown but crucial writings such as Theologie und Metaphysik (1881). He also makes excellent use of the second edition of Die Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche (1857) to show how Ritschl was able to formulate his disagreements with Baur over not only how the early Catholic Church developed but also to explain how Ritschl thought historical theology should be done. …

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