Schleierrracher, Friedrich

( 1768 - 1834 )
   prominent German Protestant theologian
   Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher was born on November 21, 1768, at Breslau in Lower Silesia (now Wroclaw, Poland), the son of a Reformed minister. He took his first formal theological studies with the Moravian Church at Herrnhut, and then in 1787 studied with the Lutheran Pietist faculty at the University of Halle. In 1894, he was ordained and became pastor of a Reformed Church congregation in Berlin. He taught at Halle for three years (1804-07), then became a professor at the newly founded University of Berlin in 1810.
   Schleiermacher's first theological task was a defense of religion in general and Christianity in particular against skeptical Enlightenment critics. In his 1799 volume, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, he argued that religion began with a "sense and taste for the infinite," starting in feeling and belief with action coming later. He analyzed religious sentiments, which pointed to an infinite and eternal reality. in the end, he defined religion as a sense of absolute dependence upon the infinite.
   In his later book, The Christian Faith (1821), Schleiermacher associated this sense of absolute dependence with a conscious intuition of God. Faith strengthens God-consciousness, and what we call sin obscures it. Schleiermacher departed significantly from traditional Protestant themes in arguing that Jesus Christ was fully human, but unique due to the strength and constancy of his God-consciousness. His redeeming work centered on imparting God-consciousness to believers.
   Schleiermacher became the fountainhead of German liberal theology, which was dominant until the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy following World War I. His work has enjoyed a certain revival in the post-Neo-Orthodox period as theologians have sought to merge the best of liberal and conservative themes.
   Further reading:
   ■ Keith W. Clements, ed., Friedrich Schleiermacher: Pioneer of Modern Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1997)
   ■ James O. Duke and Robert FF Streetman, eds., Barth and Schleiermacher: Beyond the Impasse? (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988)
   ■ Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, trans. by H. R. Mackintosh (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2001); , On Religion: Addresses in Response to Its Cultured Critics, ed. by Richard Crouter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
   ■ Stephen Sykes, Friedrich Schleiermacher (Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1971).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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