Troeltsch’s criticism of Schleiermacher
Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: His Life and Work (Fortress, 1993), 205.
The crux of Troeltsch’s criticism of Schleiermacher is that because he came from Herrnhuter pietism and was close to the world of Romanticism in his early years he expressed his theological programme in a fantastic and unworldly way. In particular his ideal of the church seems to Troeltsch to be utopian and alien to the world. In the mature Schleiermacher Troeltsch criticizes above all his assimilation to current circumstances, to life in the Prussian church. For Troeltsch, Schleiermacher’s programme, particularly his definition of the “essence of Christianity,” is dependent on a dogmatics which puts the emphasis on the concept of redemption and which allows itself to be directed by church thinking, by an accentuation of the concept of the church.What intrigues me about this is how Troeltsch’s criticism of Schleiermacher is almost the mirror image of what one usually finds in today’s anglophone and largely neo-orthodox (and I don’t use that term in a positive way . . . ) theology. For instance, what one usually hears (unfortunately) is about how Schleiermacher departs from Christian conviction and not least by marginalizing the Trinity, how he introduces non-theological prolegomena in his work, etc. But Troeltsch comes at it from the other side: the problem with Schleiermacher is that he is too un-critically Christian! He has too high an estimation of the church! His work depends too much on dogmatic concepts (i.e., actual Christian conviction)!
Perhaps this indicates that the theological conversation in contemporary anglophone theology has become unhelpfully narrow.