Troeltsch’s Understanding of the Historical Relation between Dogmatics and Ethics

Once upon a time there was an assistant professor who saw a book in his colleague’s office, bought it, and read it. He subsequently found some interesting stuff in it and decided to share that interesting stuff with others.

You get the point.

So this is an account of how Troeltsch understood the historical relationship between dogmatics and ethics in Christian theology. I found it interesting; you might too.

Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: His Life and Work (Fortress, 1993), 180:
For Troeltsch, the course of the more recent history of theology since the Reformation went like this. Originally an understanding of Christian faith and religion which was not discussed further included a bent towards action; the result was that the methodological question of the relationship between dogmatics and ethics went unanswered. Rather, ethics retreated behind dogmatics and stood in its shadow. That changed with the Enlightenment and its concern to develop a universal theory of morality. Kant represents the end of a development in which the relationship between ethics and religion changed. Ethics was understood as the fundamental science, and religion was incorporated into it or subordinated to it. This definition of the relationship now in turn changed with the rise of the individual sciences in the form of psychology and history. That posed a new task for the understanding of religion, namely and analysis of religious feeling to be made from a historical and psychological perspective. That meant that the dogmatic element again became independent from the ethical element, as a result of a specific view of the concept of religion, namely, the independence of the religious from morality and metaphysics. This understanding is to be found in Schleiermacher. However, it was crossed by Schleiermacher’s inclusion of theological ethics in doctrine, as a result of which the idea of ethics as subordinate to dogmatics, which was believed already to have been overcome, once again emerged. So it was right for Richard Rothe in his ethics not to begin from Schleiermacher’s theological ethics but from his general ethics and to be inspired by the idea of developing theology from an overall ethical view. According to Troeltsch, no account before that of Hermann did justice to the possibilities presented positively by Rothe, which at the same time are a consequence of the modern development. Here already Troeltsch saw the remarkable merit and special achievement of Wilhelm Hermann’s Ethics.
Expect more from / about Troetlsch in the future.



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