Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Reformed Irenicism

Hodge’s Schleiermacher (2)

Last time we looked at Charles Hodge’s first mention of Friedrich Schleiermacher as recorded in his son A.A. Hodge’s The Life of Charles Hodge, from 4 March 1827. The next reference to him comes in a journal entry only four days later, on 8 March 1827, and again involves August Tholuck.

Hodge writes:

This morning, at 11 o’clock I called upon Prof. Tholuck, and walked with him until one. He said it was evident that vital religion was very much increasing in Germany, and he thought, that the pantheistic philosophy of the day was doing good inasmuch as it led men to entertain a “deep religious feeling,” and showed them the insufficiency of the neological systems. Schleiermacher, especially, he thought was made an instrument of great usefulness, partly without designing it, or in a way which he did not contemplate. His authority stands so high that the respect which he manifests for the Bible, and the reverence with which he speaks of Jesus Christ, has great influence. He has thus been the means of awakening attention to religion of many young men, and of some of great evidence, as Neander, who after renouncing Judaism, was for some time a disciple of Rousseau. Tholuck, himself, attributes much of his religious feeling to Schleiermacher’s influence. About 4 o’clock Tholuck called for me to walk with him, and, although much fatigued by the morning excursion, I could not deny myself the pleasure. His conversation was principally on practical religion.

That’s a lot of walking.

A couple of things stand out. First, the echoes of Schleiermacher’s own dogmatic starting-point, the “feeling of absolute dependence.” Second, the way in which a thinker might be used for good, even if in a way he did not intend or foresee. For example, Schleiermacher was formative for August Neander, who was in turn (along with Tholuck himself) formative for the great German Reformed theologian and historian Philip Schaff.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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