An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 317 pages of information about An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant.
the other necessities!’ On the other hand, the ordinary teleological theology, with its external architect of the world and its externally determined designs, could not seem to Goethe more satisfactory than the mechanical philosophy.  He joined for a time in Rousseau’s cry for the return to nature.  But Goethe was far too well balanced not to perceive that such a cry may be the expression of a very artificial and sophisticated state of mind.  It begins indeed in the desire to throw off that which is really oppressive.  It ends in a fretful and reckless revolt against the most necessary conditions of human life.  Goethe lived long enough to see in France that dissolution of all authority, whether of State or Church, for which Rousseau had pined.  He saw it result in the return of a portion of mankind to what we now believe to have been their primitive state, a state in which they were ‘red in tooth and claw.’  It was not that paradisaic state of love and innocence, which, curiously enough, both Rousseau and the theologians seem to have imagined was the primitive state.

The thought of the discipline and renunciation of our lower nature in order to the realisation of a higher nature of mankind is written upon the very face of the second part of Faust.  Certain passages in Dichtung and Wahrheit are even more familiar.  ’Our physical as well as our social life, morality, custom, knowledge of the world, philosophy, religion, even many an accidental occurrence in our daily life, all tell us that we must renounce.’  ’Renunciation, once for all, in view of the eternal,’ that was the lesson which he said made him feel an atmosphere of peace breathed upon him.  He perceived the supreme moral prominence of certain Christian ideas, especially that of the atonement as he interpreted it.  ‘It is altogether strange to me,’ he writes to Jacobi, ’that I, an old heathen, should see the cross planted in my own garden, and hear Christ’s blood preached without its offending me.’

Goethe’s quarrel with Christianity was due to two causes.  In the first place, it was due to his viewing Christianity as mainly, if not exclusively, a religion of the other world, as it has been called, a religion whose God is not the principle of all life and nature and for which nature and life are not divine.  In the second place, it was due to the prominence of the negative or ascetic element in Christianity as commonly presented, to the fact that in that presentation the law of self-sacrifice bore no relation to the law of self-realisation.  In both of these respects he would have found himself much more at home with the apprehension of Christianity which we have inherited from the nineteenth century.  The programme of charity which he outlines in the Wanderjahre as a substitute for religion would be taken to-day, so far as it goes, as a rather moderate expression of the very spirit of the Christian religion.

CHAPTER II

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An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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