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The Incarnation: Collected Essays in Christology

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Karl Barth


‘What is enlightenment?’ Essay by Kant.

People have believed because they were told what to believe,

Enlightenment for Kant is reaching a stage of maturity where you can shrug off the childishness needing parent figures and instead think for yourself.

Think for yourselves, investigate what you are told, only condone it if you think it is true.

Do not take anybody else’s word for it.

You will not behave well by standards that someone else has handed to you.

You should always be able to dig beneath something.

Putting rationality on a sound footing, people can establish the standard of right and wrong.

Disney Princess model of morality – almost every Disney film has the same moral message ‘be true to yourself’.

If you are true to yourself everything else will flow.

Thinking for yourself is a universal possession. Not about doing justice for your individual individuality it is about yielding to the moral law.

Freed from the dependence of your upbringing.

Reason can dig down beneath all of that.

If you think like Kant, religion can become a real problem. Religion is all about being handed down stuff by authority, being told how to live and how to talk.

Religion starts becoming a question because it looks like religion is subject to other people’s authority rather than your own authority, the authority within you.

Heteronomy – rule from another, something outside you is in charge.

Autonomy – rule by self, not by your reason, something inside you is in charge.

For thinkers in the wake of Kant, ruled by something outside of yourself.

If religion is going to be saved, it is going to be by re-establishing the significance of God by reason alone.

The existence of God – the idea may play some role in shaping human life.

Almost any individual in this period would turn out to have more complex views. This is a broad-brush picture of the cultural setting.


Someone who comes into this world shaped by enlightenment and is responsible for coming up a new approach, thinking through the nature of religion and theology posed by the questions of life.

Not the only person to respond to Kant.

Schleiermacher was a member of an artistic movement, what we know as romanticism.

People like Schleiermacher, upper class and influential, grew up reading Kant and Kant’s successors and overall, being convinced by the arguments. Believed Kant had made a major advance in new thinking.

Upset that the enlightenment culture they inherited was incapable of doing justice to human individuality, what it means to be a member of a particular culture. The universal brotherhood of thinkers. Did not do justice to the particularities of different cultures. Did justice to morality, reason and did not do justice to feeling, emotion, the effective side of life, what being a human being was actually like.

Romanticism was a movement of poets, theologians, etc. Tried to express what the enlightenment movement excluded.

Trying to make sense of different cultures.

Schleiermacher in the early Romantic culture, grew up as a Christian, Protestant household, shaped by Pietism, effective side of the emotional side to Christ. Nearly lost his faith at university while studying Kant and then gained it in the Romantic culture.

Speeches on religion – Book.

Addressed to himself and the other people in the romantic movement who were not interested in religion. Religion should be a core part of the Romantic response to enlightenment culture, it is the core ingredient. Focussed on the way in which the enlightenment rejected God was not really the rejection of the true God in Christian religion, it was the rejection of a father figure who handed down moral laws, it was all in the realm of reason, this is the God that was rejected. Schleiermacher said you can reject this God because it misses out what God actually means.

Imagine you are on top of a mountain and can see everything greater than you tiny – You could feel insignificant you are tiny and not worth anything in the world, or you could have a positive experience, no matter how small you are in the world, you are part of it. You are not an isolated individual who sits back and reasons with the world you feel yourself to be part of the total landscape. This is what it means being a Romantic.

This life is good and you are part of it.

Aware of the world as dependent on God, if you do not like the word God that is fine as that doesn’t matter, as long as you recognise that there is something bigger than you. It is not something you reason towards or yield towards.

It is about how you feel being part of this.

Consciousness of dependence, consciousness of God.

On the mountain top the consciousness is closer to you, but even when you aren’t it is there.

Everyone has this feeling of absolute dependence buried under them somewhere.

It is about a deeper way of understanding the world.

Imagine someone who has paranoia – the paranoia is just a deep way of shaping the individual, it is always there constantly deeply. Deep underlying dependence on God.

Does not try to answer questions like what God is.

God simply is that one who you feel utterly dependent. Using words and arguments gets in the way of experiencing the deep feeling.

Schleiermacher was a Christian. A church leader, a preacher, church politician, very influential.

Yes, you have the deeper feeling of dependence, you have got a form of God consciousness in your psyche, Christians experience a fact.

An encounter with Jesus through the witnesses, Christians discover someone completely pervaded with the consciousness of God, Christians discovered their own feeling of dependence. Christians just know it to be the case, it cannot be explained why.



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