Barth on Schleiermacher (with brief thoughts on American Evangelicalism)
Theologically the “genius” of the major part of the church is that of Schleiermacher. All the so-to-speak official impulses and movements of the centuries since the Reformation find a center of unity in him: orthodoxy, pietism, the Enlightenment. All the official tendencies of the Christian present emanate from him like rays: church life, experiential piety, historicism, psychologism, and ethicism. We need not ask how far he constituted this center personally and directly or simply as a proponent of the romantic and idealistic movement of his age – how far, then, the threads that link the past and the future also run back beyond him. Suffice it to say that almost all of them run by way of him, so that with a good conscience we can call him a type of what was determinative for a whole century, and are indeed forced to see in him the most brilliant representative not only of a theological past but also of the theological present.The really strange thing about this quote is that the things Barth identifies as present-day (in terms of 1920’s Germany) tendencies emanating from Schleiermacher – “church life, experiential piety, historicism, psychologism, and ethicism” – are precisely the things that seem to me to be holding the field within contemporary American evangelicalism, in many ways. It is a well-worn trope of comic books and action movies that one is always in danger of becoming what one fights against. Have evangelicals started becoming liberals, in the classic European sense of the term? If so, how advanced are the symptoms, what is the prognosis, and what can be done to combat this malady?