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A Theology for the Bildungsbürgertum: Ritschl in Context
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The subject of this historical-theological investigation is the German Lutheran theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889). Ritschl’s theology is understood in the context of the de-Christianization of the German Bildungsbürgertum (educated middle class). It is demonstrated that an ambition to counteract this tendency runs all through Ritschl’s theological thinking. More specifically, the study argues that Ritschl’s theology can be seen as a response to three intellectual challenges to Christianity in general and Lutheranism in particular – historical criticism, materialism, and anti-Lutheran polemics.

Part I concentrates on historical criticism and Ritschl’s interpretation of history. Chapter 1, which presents Leopold von Ranke’s historicist-oriented historical school at the University of Berlin and Ferdinand Christian Baur’s theological Tübingen school, provides the wider setting of Ritschl’s historical analysis. It is argued, in chapter 2, that those schools had a significant impact – albeit in different ways – on Ritschl’s understanding of history. The contribution of Ritschl to the so-called first quest for the historical Jesus is analyzed in chapter 3, which also points out that Johannes Weiss’ and Albert Schweitzer’s apocalyptic critique of the first quest undermined the historical foundation of Ritschl’s theology.

In part II, the focus is on materialism and the metaphysical framework of Ritschl’s theology. Chapter 4 discusses anthropological materialism, scientific materialism, and late idealism – three intellectual movements of relevance to Ritschl’s metaphysics. In chapter 5, Ritschl’s metaphysical framework is described as an attempt to safeguard the spiritual dimension of existence against the threat of materialism. This chapter also argues that Ritschl’s metaphysics is indebted to Hermann Lotze’s late idealist philosophy. Chapter 6 highlights the relationship between Ritschl’s metaphysics and his protest against “classical metaphysical theology,” and examines how Ritschl’s metaphysical framework leads him to reject natural theology and the classical Christological and trinitarian dogmas.

Part III discusses Ritschl’s theological ethics or understanding of Christian life in the context of the values of the Bildungsbürgertum and against the background of anti-Lutheran polemics. In chapter 7, an overview of the ethos of the educated middle class is provided. The subject of chapter 8 is Ritschl’s defense of Luther’s cultural importance against Paul de Lagarde’s criticism of the Lutheran Reformation. Chapter 9 carries out an analysis of Ritschl’s thinking on Christian life and its modern sources, especially noting the influences of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Schleiermacher, and exploring the similarities between Ritschl’s ethics and the values of the educated middle class.

In the Conclusion, the findings of the investigation are summarized in the claim that Ritschl’s responses to historical criticism, materialism, and anti-Lutheran polemics demonstrate that his theology in many respects was a theology for the Bildungsbürgertum. The concluding chapter also reflects on the implications of the present study for the common characterization of Ritschl as a Kulturprotestant (mediator between the Protestant Reformation and modern culture), problematizes Ritschl’s interpretation of the historical Jesus, and argues that Ritschl’s theological project was essentially abandoned by his most famous students.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2018. , p. 314
Keywords [en]
Albrecht Ritschl, the kingdom of God, theology, Christian ethics, Kulturprotestantismus, Bildungsbürgertum, nineteenth-century Germany, historical criticism, historicism, the historical Jesus, materialism, late idealism, Luther and modernity, criticism of religion
National Category
Religious Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-153418ISBN: 978-91-7601-978-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-153418DiVA, id: diva2:1264428
Public defence
2018-12-15, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
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Available from: 2018-11-23 Created: 2018-11-20 Last updated: 2018-11-20Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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