Barth on Schleiermacher


“It is because he misunderstands the nature of claim and obedience in this respect that the teaching of Schleiermacher is so profoundly unsatisfactory. As he sees it, all religion, including the Christian, is to be brought under the common denominator of the concept of the “felling of absolute dependence”. It may even be questioned whether all non-Christian religion can actually be brought under this denominator. But if so, it is only explains why at this point religion is exposed, as it is, to a denial of its authority and relevance from the standpoint of human dignity and human rights. Indeed, it shows us why, in so far as it rests on this basis and is a modification of the feeling of absolute dependence, all religion is necessarily denied and opposed and rejected from this standpoint. To the extent that it rests on this basis, it is an outrage to the essence of man. It is intolerable, not only from the standpoint of humanism, but even according to Christian insight. It has necessarily to be repelled, for it opens the door to the establishment of every possible kind of caprice and tyranny and therefore to the profoundest disobedience to God. If the Christian faith, too, is only a special determination of the feeling of absolute dependence, this simply proves, not only that it is as the mercy of a deeply founded scepticism of man in relation to all religion, but that this scepticism is basically justified even in relation to itself: that is a protest has necessarily to be made against it, too, in the name of humanity. It is curious enough that the humanism of Schleiermacher ultimately culminates in this human view of the relationship of man to God, it being necessary in the last resort to protest against his doctrine of religion in the name of humanity itself. But so it is” (CD, II/2, 553).


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