Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Troeltsch’s distinction between Dogmatics and Glaubenslehre

So, more about Troeltsch. I found this distinction to be rather interesting and thought-provoking, especially when viewed in terms of Troeltsch’s interactions with Hermann.

Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: His Life and Work (Fortress, 1993), 202.
When in 1900 the publishing house Mohr/Siebeck in Tübingen was considering whether to found a new journal for systematic theology, Troeltsch was also asked for his opinion. He wrote: “Systematic theology belongs in general journals. . . I do not believe that anyone will have the courage to devote a special journal to it at a time when dogmatic theology is falling apart.” The fact that Troeltsch had always had the intention to publish a collection of his “positive” views does not contradict these thoughts.

The idea of the dissolution of dogmatic theology is to be seen against the background of Troeltsch’s distinction between dogmatics and the doctrine of faith (Glaubenslehre). In the history of religion Troeltsch sees dogmatics as a distinctive feature of Christianity which emerged in connection with the formation of a community, an exclusivist view of history and a speculative development of ideas. The concept of “the doctrine of faith” resulted from the Protestant criticism of the idea of the authoritative laying down of teaching by the church and the assumption of universal normative validity in matters of faith. According to Troeltsch, modern Protestantism fundamentally overcame the domination of dogma and dogmatics by the destruction of the supernaturalist way of thinking and an understanding of revelation extending to the whole of Christianity. The summary description of ideas of Christian faith and the life of faith resting on personal conviction is aimed at handing down insights of faith to others, with the goal of evoking a corresponding personal resonance in them.

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3 comments:

Kevin Davis said...

Thanks for this. I'll have to get the biography.

an understanding of revelation extending to the whole of Christianity

That's so key. Tillich -- who is also a great interpreter of history -- said much the same thing.

This is also, by the way, a good warning to never predict the future based upon present circumstances and trends! Nobody saw the resurgence of systematics coming, albeit not on "positivist" grounds -- and on that count, Troeltsch was right.

J. Scott Jackson said...

Could we make the argument that theology construed as "Dogmatik" is more open to critique and revision than if it is defined as "Glaubenslehre"? What if "the whole of Christianity" -- even the whole of Christianity of a particular church at a particular time and place -- is construed as a kind of organic totality. Whereas, on the other hand, dogmatics presses normative claims, perhaps even vigorously, but as these claims are put forward, their questionable and tentative character is also highlighted. The dogmatician is standing out there somewhat on a limb, so to speak, responsible to the faith of the church yet in a critical relationship to any formulation of that faith and skeptical of her own pretensions to try to encompass "revelation" as a totality. Of course, these maybe aren't the usual connotations of "dogmatics," but I have in mind something like what Barth was attempting. But maybe this is just quibbling over terminology: What really matters is how the particular theological construction works -- what the material claims are, how they're put together, etc. Did any of that make sense?

Bobby Grow said...

Travis,

What do you think about this distinction? How do you see Barth in it? Do you see him saying yes to Troletsch and then no at the same time (because Barth engages with "Dogmatics" but in this kind of mode of faith that Troletsch seems to be alluding to--albeit differently than Barth fleshes it out).