Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Hodge’s Schleiermacher (1)

Many people are familiar with Charles Hodge’s famous footnote about Friedrich Schleiermacher in heaven. Hodge was quite far from Schleiermacher’s theological principles (to put it mildly), yet he had this to say in note 372 of his Systematic Theology (

When in Berlin the writer often attended Schleiermacher’s church. The hymns to be sung were printed on slips of paper and distributed at the doors. They were always evangelical and spiritual in an eminent degree, filled with praise and gratitude to our Redeemer. Tholuck said that Schleiermacher, when sitting in the evening with his family, would often say, “Hush, children: let us sing a hymn of praise to Christ.” Can we doubt that he is singing those praises now? To whomsoever Christ is God, St. John assures us Christ is a Savior.

N.b. that Hodge says this before going on to call his Christology “a philosophical theory and nothing more,” part of a system that “is essentially pantheistic” and that “ignores the doctrine of the Trinity”; and to say that the “plan of salvation” he offers “is entirely different from that revealed in the Bible and cherished by the Church in all ages.” Nevertheless, he thought that Schleiermacher would be numbered with the saints. An ability to distinguish these two things seems to me characteristic of Hodge’s way of thinking.

Schleiermacher is also mentioned several times in in Hodge’s journals and correspondence as contained in A.A. Hodge’s The Life of Charles Hodge. In this series, I simply intend to catalog Hodge’s various references to him there.

The first comes from 4 March 1827, when Hodge was 29 and studying in Germany. He recounts the following story about the German theologian August Tholuck (of Tholuck, Schaff notes that Hodge, “who studied at Halle in 1827…was daily in his company”):

[Tholuck] talked a great deal about the philosophical opinions of the German Literati. Kant’s system is universally abandoned. Fichte, who followed him, is also forgotten. Schelling has shared the same fate. The reigning philosopher of the day is Hegel. Schleiermacher has a system of his own. The present systems are all Pantheistic. Hegel and Schleiermacher both deny the personality of the Deity and the individuality of the soul of man. The universal principle with them is God, and, according to Hegel, the world itself is the Realität of the Deity, and all it contains, the different races of men, and the animals in their various orders, are all modes of existence of this one universal principle. This, at least, is the idea I got from Tholuck’s description. For I do not pretend to understand a system which its author says is comprehended only by two theologians in Germany; and which, as Gesenius very properly remarked to Mr. Robinson, was thereby proved to be not worth understanding.

He then says this, which goes some way toward accounting for how he held together the two things mentioned above (sharp criticism of system and his conviction that Schleiermacher was nevertheless a true believer):

Even the Biblical Theologians of Germany are so led away by the speculative spirit, so characteristic of its inhabitants, that it seems impossible they should be restrained within the bounds of sober and important truth, except by the influence of religion on their hearts.

That’s all for this installment. We’ll proceed to the next reference in the follow-up.


By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.