Christian Faith (Two-Volume Set)

A New Translation and Critical Edition

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Editor(s): 
Friedrich Schleiermacher, Terrence N. Tice, Catherine L. Kelsey, Edwina Lawler
  • Louisville, KY: 
    Westminster John Knox Press
    , September
     2016.
     1160 pages.
     $95.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780664226206.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Originally published in 1821-1822, and then again as a revised, second edition in 1830-1831 titled Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche im Zusammenhange dargestellt [Christian Faith: Interconnectedly Presented in Accordance with Principles of the Evangelical Church], this work of systematic theology is regarded as the quintessential exemplar of modern Protestant theology. Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was a Reformed pastor and then a theology professor at the Universities of Halle and Berlin, and is regarded as the father of modern (i.e., liberal) Protestant theology. Although he wrote many other important and influential works on a wide variety of topics—hermeneutics, psychology, philosophy, and ethics—Christian Faith is his magnum opus, first translated into English in 1928. However, even though the original translation was instrumental in bringing Schleiermacher’s most mature and innovative theology to the English-speaking world, it was deficient in not a few ways—including translation inconsistencies of key words, untranslated Greek and Latin quotations from documents Schleiermacher interacted with, and very few footnotes referencing other works by Schleiermacher, especially his sermons. Thus, to remedy these issues, a new translation and for the first time, a critical edition of Christian Faith has been produced by some of the foremost Schleiermacher scholars in the world, making his theology more accessible, understandable, appreciative, and easier to interact with critically for many more generations in the English-speaking world, church, and academy.

As a new English translation, and the inaugural critical edition, Christian Faith possesses many new features that were not present in the 1928 edition. The translators and editors have added many explanatory notes, broken down Schleiermacher’s infamously long sentences into more manageable and readable English prose, and provided an extensive cross-reference system that aids the reader in seeing a greater interconnectedness of the 172 propositions within Christian Faith, and to other seminal works such as On Religion and Brief Outline. With these additions and expansions—there are 3,148 footnotes—for which the translators and editors advise the reader either to ignore them, peruse them to dispel confusion and/or satisfy curiosity, or engage them for the most immersive experience of Schleiermacher’s mature theology. Moreover, unlike the one-volume 1928 edition, this new edition returns to the original two-volume presentation of the 1830-1831 edition, not solely for the sake of formal replication but rather, for ease of physical handling as originally decided upon by Schleiermacher when preparing the revised, second edition of 1830-1831. Finally, a new and updated analytical index of topics was created so as not to confuse Schleiermacher’s arguments and stances on a doctrinal topic with those he interacts with, as well as an index created solely for when and where Schleiermacher references his Brief Outline in Christian Faith.

This new translation/critical edition of Schleiermacher’s Christian Faith is most welcome and appreciated, not only as it rectifies some of the issues with the original English translation, but also in that it provides the opportunity for a new generation of Christian theologians, religious studies scholars, and Christian ministers alike to engage critically, constructively, and sympathetically with one of the church’s most brilliant—and not uncontroversial—theologians. Furthermore, this new edition will hopefully aid in the dispelling of the far too many dismissive and ill-formed judgments and caricatures of Schleiermacher’s theology while simultaneously allowing those who read his theology to formulate new, and no less critical, evaluations of this perennial work of theology. This work of modern Protestant theology is of the same, if not higher, calibre of theology as John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536) and Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics (1932-1967), and deserves to be read and judged on its own terms for its context, its content, and its convictions. Schleiermacher’s Christian Faith is one of the most thoroughgoing, anti-speculative, and ruthlessly consistent systematic theologies written that single-handedly revolutionized Protestant theology, employing human religious self-consciousness (Gefühl) as the sole criterion for theological construction and discourse. Therefore, it behoves any self-respecting Christian theologian to acquaint and converse with Schleiermacher’s theology, and this new translation/critical edition of Christian Faith renders them without excuses to do so. Moreover, if an individual or institution’s library is in possession of the original 1928 edition they should replace it with this new edition. I would offer one caution: this is a dense and challenging work for which scholars and advanced students in theology/religion are the most appropriate and immediate audience. If someone desires to wade into Schleiermacher’s theology for the first time, I recommend first his Brief Outline, and then On Religion.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Bradley M. Penner is Adjunct Professor of Theology at Briercrest College and Seminary.

Date of Review: 
February 16, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was a Protestant pastor and theologian widely regarded as the founder of modern theology.

Catherine L. Kelsey is Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Formation at Iliff School of Theology. She is the author of Thinking about Christ with Schleiermacher and Schleiermacher's Preaching, Dogmatics, and Biblical Criticism.

Terrence N. Tice is one of the foremost Schleiermacher scholars in the world. He is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Michigan and editor and translator of Brief Outline of Theology as a Field of Study, Third Edition, among other works.

Edwina Lawler is Professor Emerita at Drew University, where she taught German for 44 years. A Fulbright Scholar at Tübingen, she is an experienced translator of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Dorothea Schlegel, and David Friedrich Strauss.

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