Excerpt from The Presbyterian and Reformed Review: July, 1897
Enough forus to recall how assiduous in his studies Ritschl always was, and to note the fact, made evident by the changes in the successive editions of the third volume. That he studied and learned to the last. It will therefore be best to take up at once the final form of his theology for a brief and untechnical review for I am sure, if any true picture of this remarkable man and any adequate conception of his inﬂuence has been conveyed by what has gone before, it will be the reader's wish to know what those ideas were which gave him so great a place in German theology. I express myself neither assent nor dissent from his positions, for my work here is simply that of a reviewer. Whether true or false, or neither entirely, the theology of Ritschl is a fact of the. Greatest historical interest. As such simply I wish to sketch it, and to do this in a way that would be recognized by his friends as well as his foes as fair tolhim.
Ritschl, then, takes his position as a theologian within the circle of the existing Christian Church. It possesses a distinct and characteristic life; and the problem of the theologian is to comprehend that life and to set forth the doctrinal truth which underlies it and is embodied in it. This remark may seem to be a very simple one and altogether unimportant, but as Ritschl handled it, it was of the greatest importance. We shall find him passing over Without much notice a number of the doctrines of the ordinary systems, because, as he said, they have no interest for the Christian community, that 'is, contribute in no way to its religious life. They might be conceivably of interest to a man out in search of any sort of abstract knowledge, but not to the Christian theologian, who seeks only truth which contributes to life.
It was but another form of this position when Ritschl cried out against metaphysics in theology. Many thought that he -meant all metaphysics, but he subsequently said, N o, I meant only bad metaphysics and it is finally evident that he meant only that philosophy of the Absolute which would develop all theology from a priori ideas by abstract processes. We see him here shedding the last remainders of the early Hegelianism of his Halle student life. The theologian deals with the concrete, and with that given him in the Christian community. Itself. Yet Ritschl's own method is sometimes highly metaphysical.
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