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RITSCHLIANISM


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RITSCHLIANISM


disease, of which he died in the following year. Al- though Ritschl was violently attacked during his lifetime not only by the orthodox party, but also by the Erlangen school named after Hofmann, he at- tached to himself a large circle of enthusiastic follow- ers with Liberal leanings, who are included under the name of Ritschlianists. The hterary organs of Ritschlianism in Germany are the " Theologische Literaturzeitung", the "Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche", and the "Christliche Welt".

To understand and rightly appraise the rather abstruse train of thought in the doctrine of justifica- tion, which constitutes the focus of Ritschl's theolog- ical system, we must go back to the epistemology on which the whole edifice rests. Influenced by the phi- losophy of Kant rather than of Lotze, Ritschl denies human reason the power to arrive at a scientific knowl- edge of God. Consequently religion cannot have an intellectual, but merely a practical-moral foundation. Religious knowledge is essentially distinct from scien- tific knowledge. It is not acquired by a theoretical insight into truth, but, as the product of religious faith, is bound up with the practical interests of the soul. Religion is practice, not theory. Knowledge and faith are not only distinct domains; they are independent of and separated from each other. While knowledge rests on judgments of existence (Seinsurleile), faith proceeds on independent "judgments of value" (Werturteile), which affirm nothing concerning the essence or nature of Divine things, but refer simply to the usefulness and fruitfulncss of religious ideas. Anticipating to some extent the principles of Prag- matism put forward in a later generation by W. James, Schiller, etc., Ritschl declared that knowledge alone valuable which in practice brings us forward. Not what the thing is "in itself", but what it is "for us", is decisive. 80 far Ritschl is not original, since Schleiermacher had already banished metaphysics from Christian philosophy, and had explained the nature of religion subjectively as springing from the feeling of our absolute dependence on God. Ritschl's teaching is distinguished from that of the Berlin scholar especially by the fact that he seeks to establish a better Biblical and historical foundation for his ideas. In the latter respect he is the promoter of the so-called historical-critical method, of the application of which many Ritschlianists of the present day are thorough masters.

Like Schleiermacher, Ritschl connects mankind's subjective need of redemption with Jesus Christ, the "originator of the perfect spiritual and moral reli- gion". Since we can determine the historical reality of Christ only through the faith of the Christian com- munity, the religious significance of Jesus is really independent of His biography and investigation into His life. A convinced Ritschlianist seems to be ready to persevere in his Christianity, even though radical criticism were to succeed in setting aside the historical existence of Christ. He could be a Christian without Christ, as there could be a Tibetan Buddhist without an historical Buddha (cf. "Christliche Welt", 1901, n. 35). Ritschl himself never wished to separate Christianity from the Person of Christ. Since, as Ritschl especially emphasizes in reply to Baur, the original consciousness of the early Christian com- munity reveals itself with perfect consistency in the writings of the New Testament, theology must in its investigation of the authentic contents of the Christian religion begin with the Bible as source, for the more thorough understanding of which the ancient Chris- tian professions of faith furnish an indirect, and the s5rmbolical books of Protestants (Luther) a direct, guidance. The Reformation rightly elevated the Pauline justification by faith to the central place in Christian doctrine, and in the West carried it to a successful conclusion. As the necessary doctrine of salvation through Christ, this doctrine of justification


is thus alone obligatory for theology and Church, while the other convictions and institutions of the earliest Christian community are of a subsidiary nature. For this reason, therefore, Luther himself recognized the Bible as the Word of God only in so far as it "makes for Christ". Since the Christian faith exists only through personal experience or subjective acquaintance with justification and reconciliation, the objects of faith are not presented to the mind from without through a Divine revelation as an authorita- tive rule of faith, but become vividly present for the Christian only through subjective ex-perience. The revelation of God is given only to the believer who religiously lays hold of it by experience, and recog- nizes it as such.

Justifying faith especially is no mere passive atti- tude of man towards God, but an active trust in Him and His grace, evincing itself chiefly in humility, patience, and prayer. It is by no means a dogmatical belief in the truth of Revelation, but it possesses essentially a thoroughly practico-moral character. Ritschlianism can thus speak without any incon- sistency of an "undogmatic Christianity" (Kaftan). The harmonizing of the free-religious moral activity of the Christian with dependence on God is proclaimed by Ritschl the "master-question of theology". This fundamental problem he solves as follows: The re- turning sinner is at first passively determined by God, whereupon justification achieves its practical success in reconciliation and regeneration, which in their turn lead to Christian activity. Justification and reconciliation are so related that the former is also the forgiveness of sin and as such removes man's consciousness of guilt (i. e., mistrust of God), while the latter, as the cessation of active resistance to God, introduces a new direction of the will calculated to develop Christian activity in the true fulfilment of one's vocation. These two — justification and recon- ciliation — form the basis of our sonship as children of God. This justification, identical with forgiveness of sin, is, however, no real annihilation of sin, but a forensic declaration of righteousness, inasmuch as God regards the believing sinner, in spite of his sins, as just and pleasing in consideration of the work of Christ.

A special characteristic of Ritschlianism lies in the assertion that justifying faith is possible only within the Christian community. The Church of Christ (by which, however, is to be understood no external in- stitution with legal organization) is on the one hand the aggregate of all the justified believers, but on the other hand has, as the enduring fruit of the work of Christ, a duration and existence prior to all its mem- bers, just as the whole is prior to its parts. Like the children in the family and the citizens in the state, the believers must also be bom in an already existing Christian community. In this alone is God preached as the Spirit of Love, just as Jesus Himself preached, and in this alone, through the preaching of Christ and His work, is that justifying faith rendered po.ssible, in virtue of which the individual experiences regenera- tion and attains to adoption as a son of God (cf. Conrad, "Begriff und Bedeutung der Gemeinde in Ritschl's Theologie" in "Theol. Studien und Krit.", 1911, 230 sqq.). It is plain that, according to this view. Christian baptism loses all its importance m the real door to the Church.

\NTiat is Ritschl's opinion of Jesus Christ? Does he consider Him a mere man? If we set aside the pious flourishes with which he clothes the form of the Saviour, we come speedily to the conviction that he does not recognize the true Divinity of Jesus Christ. As the efficacious bearer and transmitter of the Divine Spirit of Love to mankind Jesus is "superordinate" to all men, and has in the eternal decree of God a merely ideal pre-existence. He is therefore, as for the earliest community so also for us, our "God and Saviour" only in the metaphorical sense. All other