Protestantism in the 19th century was profoundly influenced by the rise of several prominent schools of philosophy in the West. We have previously considered the interaction of the Christian faith with industrialization and urbanization. The new philosophies of the 19th century continued to add to the intricacy and often confusion of the playing field.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 2. New York: HarperCollins, 2010b. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 31, “Protestant Theology” Loc. 6022-6251.
The 18th century saw theological debate in which Catholics and Protestants tended to do theology in different ways (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6029). Gonzalez discusses the distinctive ways Protestants engaged in theological reflection. He considers the developments within Protestantism to be related to the Industrial Revolution and its move toward an individualistic, urbanized, and technologically oriented society (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6037). In an effort to care for the needs created in society by these developments, some groups of Christians made greater efforts at ministry to the poor and needy, as well as filling social roles once held by extended family (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6059). Theology changed in its process due to the changing types of cultural analyses in the world, particularly with the work of persons such as Marx and Freud (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6082).
Building on Kant’s view of religion as an ethical matter rather than an intellectual one, Scheiermacher “gave up the attempt to base religion on reason, be it pure or practical” (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6090). Religion, rather, was based on feeling (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6105). Theology becomes the practice of exploring feelings of dependence on God and of a relationship to the world (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6114).
G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1830) also built on Kant, but in a different direction (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6129). He affirmed that reason itself was the only true reality. Hegel’s reasoning process itself examined an idea with a goal of finding a different, superior idea. Hegel further affirmed a universal reason which he would refer to as “the Spirit” (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6146). History would then be seen as the progressive development of the Spirit’s ideas. Christianity was the culmination of religion, being the apex of divine ideas b6154). However, Christianity is not to be bound by any dogmatic systems (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6162).
Soren Kirkegaard (1813-1855) built on Kant in a third direction (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6177). Rather than building a philosophy on pure reason or on a sense of dependence, Kirkegaard saw the perfection of Christianity in faith in the God revealed in Scripture (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6177). this is not an easy answer. On the contrary, it requires forceful self-denial. We must learn not to depend on our own reason or feelings but on revealed truth. Christianity is portrayed as central to a person’s existence. It is not viewed as easy, but as very real (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6200). Kirkegaard viewed the full-bodied existence as something which would be lived in, counter to Hegel, who saw it as something foreign.
In the world of academia, the biblical and theological scholars in Tubingen, particularly F.C. Baur, sought to find the thesis, antithesis, and a new synthesis in the New Testament (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6216). Meanwhile, conflict arose between the more academic versions of Christianity and the more traditional groups. Analysis of historical developments likewise saw either an abandonment of the historic faith or a development and growth of the faith (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6224). The philosophical developments, especially those of Hegel, led to a view of reason as opposed to faith, also opposed to reality (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6232). Scholars also began a search for “the historical Jesus,” a true person behind the alleged later accretions of doctrinal writings (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6240). All these developments, taken together, create a very busy and fertile century.
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