§ 27. Two Difficulties
And now, as we come to the conception of that special Encyclopedia called Theological, the simple application to Theology of what was obtained for the conception of General Encyclopedia will not suffice. There would be no objection to this in the cases of the Encyclopedias of the Juridical or Philological sciences, but in the case of that of Theology there is. The reason of this lies in the two circumstances: first, that the scientific character of Theology is disputed by many; and, secondly, that they who do not dispute this are disagreed as to what is to be understood by Theology. Dr. Riibiger, who has referred to this difficulty in his Theologik oder Erie. der Theol., Lpz. 1880, p. 94, incorrectly inferred from it that for this reason, before its object can be ready, the Encyclopedia of science must create for itself from these several Theologies a general conception of Theology, in order that it may make this general conception of Theology the subject of scientific study. This is not possible, since then Encyclopedia would have the right of judgment between the several Theologies; it should have to furnish a complete demonstration for the sake of supporting this judgment; and thus it would have to investigate independently all the formal and material questions which are variously solved in Theology. In this way it would have to treat the leading departments of Theology fundamentally, and, dissolving into dogmatics, apologetics, church history, etc., would cease to be Encyclopedia. It would then bring forth its own object, instead of studying a given object. And, worse yet, he who would write such an Encyclopedia would not be able to escape from his own personality nor from the view-point held by himself. His criticism, therefore, would amount to this: he who agreed with him would be right, he who disagreed wrong, and the result would be that he would award the honorary title of general Theology to that particular Theology to which he had committed himself. A general Theology would then be exhibited, and, back of this beautiful exterior, the subjective view-point, which was said to be avoided, would govern the entire exposition.
§ 28. The First Difficulty
If both difficulties that here present themselves are squarely looked in the face, it must at once be granted that before Theological Encyclopedia can devote itself to its real task, it must vindicate the scientific character of Theology. This is not the creation of an object of its own, but the simple demonstration of the fact that Theology is a proper object of Encyclopedic investigation. If all Encyclopedia is the investigation of the whole or of a part of the organism of science, no Encyclopedia of Theology can be suggested as long as it is still uncertain whether Theology forms a part of this organism. Since, now, the doubt concerning the scientific character of Theology does not spring from the still imperfect development of this science, but finds its origin in the peculiar character it bears in distinction from all other sciences, it is the duty of the writer of an Encyclopedia of this science to show upon what grounds he disputes this doubt as to its right of existence. This demonstration must be given in two ways. First, by such definitions of the conception " science," and of the conception "Theology," that it will be evident that the second is subordinate to the first. And, secondly, by showing that the parts of Theology are mutually related organically, and that, taken as a whole, it stands in organic relation to the rest of the organism of science. This treatise also will venture the effort to furnish this double proof.
The first only of these two proofs is demanded by the peculiar character of Theology. The second proof that the parts of a special science mutually cohere organically, and together are related equally organically to the whole of science, every special Encyclopedia of whatever science undertakes to show. But the first proof that the conception of this special science is subordinate to the conception of general science does not occur in other special Encyclopedias, because with the other sciences this subordination is evident of itself and is by no one denied.
§ 29. The Second Difficulty
The second difficulty should be considered somewhat more at length. It presents itself in the fact that all sorts of Theologies offer themselves as the object of investigation to the writer of an Encyclopedic Theology. There is a Greek Theology, and a Romish Theology, a Lutheran, Reformed, and a Modern Theology, a "Vermittelungstheologie," and, in an individual sense, we even hear a Schleiermachian, a Ritschhan, etc., Theology spoken of. Order, therefore, is to be introduced into this chaos. Simply to make a choice from among this number would be unscientific. Where choice is made its necessity must be shown. Even the Romish theologian, who looks upon every other Theology save that of his own church as the exposition of error, cannot escape from the duty of scientific proof of this position. If it involved merely a difference between several "schools," it might be proper to select out of these several interpretations what is common to them all, and thus to conclude the existence of a general Theology. But this is not so. The difference here springs not from a difference of method in the investigation of one and the same object, but from a difference concerning the question of what the object of Theology is. One Theology investigates a different object from another. One Theology denies the very existence of the object which another Theology investigates. Even if we could agree upon the methods of investigation it would be of no use, for though the merits of your method were recognized, the objection would still hold good that you apply your method to a pseudo-object, which has no existence outside of your imagination. This springs from the fact that the object of Theology lies closely interwoven with our subjectivity, and is therefore incapable of being absolutely objectified. A blind man is no more able to furnish a scientific study of the phenomenon of color, or a deaf person to develop a theory of music, than a scholar whose organ for the world of the divine has become inactive or defective is capable of furnishing a theological study, simply because he has none other than a hearsay knowledge of the object Theology investigates. Hence no escape is here possible from the refraction of subjectivity. This should the more seriously be taken into our account because this refraction springs not merely from the circumference of our subjective existence, but is organically related to the deepest root of our life and to the very foundation of our consciousness. Whether this impossibility of completely objectifying the object of Theology does or does not destroy the scientific character of Theology can only later on be investigated; here we do not deal with the object of Theology but with Theology itself as object of Theological Encyclopedia; and of this it is evident that Theology itself cannot be presented as an absolute and constant object, because its own object cannot escape from the refraction of . our subjectivity. If a scientific investigator, and in cam the writer of an Encyclopedia, could investigate his object without himself believing in the existence of his object, it might be possible for the Encyclopedist at least to keep himself outside of this difference. But this is out of the question. Faith in the existence of the object to be investigated is the conditio sine qua non of all scientific investigation. No theological Encyclopedist is conceivable except one to whom Theology has existence, neither can Theology have existence to him unless it also has an object in whose reality he equally believes. As an actual fact it is seen that all writers of Theological Encyclopedias take for their object of investigation that which they conceive to be Theology, and also that every theologian assumes something as object of Theology which to him has real existence. Thus one link locks into the other. To be able to write an Encyclopedia of Theology it must be fixed beforehand what you conceive to be Theology; and in order to know which of the several theologies that present themselves shall be your Theology, it must first be determined what the object is which you give Theology to investigate. It is evident therefore that the theological Encyclopedist cannot possibly furnish anything but an Encyclopedia of his Theology. For though this may be denied, and it be made to appear that a Theological Encyclopedia in the general sense is given, the outcome always shows that in reality the writer claims universal validity for his Theology.
§ 30. No One-sidedness
This is a self-deception which nevertheless contains a germ of truth. If in order to be a theologian one must believe in the existence of the object of his Theology, the claim is of itself implied that what he takes to be valid must also be valid to every one else. This is no presumption, but only the immediate result of the firmness of conviction which is the motive for his scientific investigation. All scepticism causes science to wither. But from this there flows an obligation. Just this: to point out in the other theologies what is untenable and inconsequent, to appreciate what is relatively true, and to a certain extent to show the necessity of their existence. No one Theology can claim to be all-sided and completely developed. This is not possible, because every Theology has to deal with an object that is not susceptible to an abstract intellectual treatment, and which can therefore only be known in connection with its historical development in life. Aberrations very certainly occur which furnish only negative or reactionary results for the knowledge of the object of Theology, and these can only be refuted. But there are also elements in this object of Theology, which do not find an equally good soil for their development with every individual, with every nation, or in every age. Every theologian, therefore, knows that neither he himself, nor the stream of history in which he moves, are able to make an all-sided and a complete exhibition of the object of his investigation.
Thus to him also there are theologies which are not simply aberrations but merely one-sided developments, whose relative validity he appreciates and with whose results he enriches himself. But even that which is relatively true and complementary in other theologies he is not allowed to leave standing loosely by the side of his own theology, but is bound to include it organically in his own theology, being ever deeply convinced of the fact that in spite of their relative right and complementary value these other theologies interpret the essence of Theology one-sidedly and understand it wrongly. Thus the aim is always to show in a scientific way that the Theology that has the love of his heart is entitled to the love of all hearts, wherefore he corrects and enriches his own Theology with whatever acquisitions he can borrow from the other theologies in order thereby to vindicate the more effectively the universal validity of his object of Theology. No reduction therefore is practised of the several theologies to a common level, for the mere sake of investigating encyclopedically what is common to them all; but on the contrary the start is taken from one's own conviction, with an open eye to one's own imperfections so as sincerely to appreciate the labors and efforts of others, and to be bent upon the assimilation of their results.
§ 31. View-point here taken
This attempt to write a Theological Encyclopedia, too, purposely avoids therefore every appearance of neutrality, which is after all bound to be dishonest at heart; and makes no secret of what will appear from every page, that the Reformed Theology is here accepted as the Theology, in its very purest form. By this we do not mean to imply that the Reformed theologians are to us the best theologians, but we merely state, that Reformed Theology, 1, has interpreted the object of Theology most accurately, and 2, has shown the way most clearly by which to reach knowledge of this object. Let no one take this statement to intend the least infringement upon the respect which the writer of this Encyclopedia is also compelled to pay to the gigantic labors of Lutheran, Romish, and otter theologians. His declaration but intends to make it clearly known, that he himself cannot stand indifferently to his personal faith, and to his consequent confession concerning the object of Theology, and therefore does not hesitate to state it as his conviction that the Reformed Theology with respect to this has grasped the truth most firmly.
Does this put a confessional stamp upon this Encyclopedia? By no means; since "confessional" and "scientific" are heterogeneous conceptions. "Confessional" is the name that belongs to the several streams in the historical life of the Church, and is no distinguishing mark for your manner of scientific treatment of the theological material. The difference lies elsewhere. The fact is that until the middle of the last century Theology received its impulse from the Church, in consequence of which Theology divided itself into groups which maintained their relation to the groupings of the churches according to their confessions. Since that time, however, Theology has not allowed itself to be governed by the life of the Church, but by the mighty development of philosophy, and consequently we scarcely speak in our days of a Lutheran, Romish, or Reformed Theology, but of a rationalistic, a mediating, and an orthodox Theology. With this custom this Encyclopedia does not sympathize, but takes it as a matter of course that even as the medical, juridical, and philological sciences, the theological science also is bound to its object such as this shows itself in its own circle in life; i.e. in casu the Church. Every other grouping of theological schools rests upon a philosophical abstraction which really ranks Theology under philosophy or under history and ethnology, and in that way destroys it as an independent science. Hence our aim is to seek the object of Theology again in its native soil; to examine no piece of polished cedar in the wall, but the tree itself on Lebanon; and in this way also to study the object of Theology in the history of the Church. But even thus the choice of the Reformed stamp is not yet scientifically justified. The Encyclopedia obtains its right to this only when it shows that the historical distinction between Romish, Reformed, etc., Theology flows of necessity from the very essence of Theology, and that the current distinctions of our times are foreign to its essence and are attached to it from without. And thus every Encyclopedical writer is entitled and obliged in his Encyclopedia to honor as Theology whatever is Theology to himself, but this should be done in such a way that he shows how with this interpretation the organic character of this science is best exhibited.
§ 32. Compass of its Task
On this condition it is the task of Theological Encyclopedia: 1, to vindicate the scientific character of Theology; 2, to explain the relation between Theological science and the other sciences; 3, in its own choice of the object of Theology to exhibit the error in the choice of others, and to appreciate what is right in the efforts of others and to appropriate it; and then, 4, to do for Theology what it is the task of general Encyclopedia to do for science in general.
With reference to the first point, Dr. Rabiger goes too far when (p. 95) he says: "The only problem of Theological Encyclopedia is to build up Theology as a science." It certainly has more to do than this. It can even be said that only after this task has been performed does its real Encyclopedic task begin. If Encyclopedia is truly the science of science, everything that is done to place the science as object before oneself is only preparatory work. Only when Theology, lies before you as a science does your real Encyclopedic study begin. His proposition therefore to give the name of "Theologik" to Theological Encyclopedia will not do. "Theologik" isolates Theology from the organism of the sciences, and the very point in hand is to grasp the science of Theology as an organic member of the body of sciences. This is expressed by the word Encyclopedia alone, for which reason the name of Theological Encyclopedia can under no consideration be abandoned. From this follows also the second point already indicated. Theological Encyclopedia must insert Theology organically into the body of sciences; which duty has too largely been neglected not only in the special Encyclopedias of Theology, but in those of almost all the special sciences. The third point follows of itself from § 31, and calls for no further explanation. And as regards the fourth, this flows directly from the subordination of the conception of Theological Encyclopedia to that of general Encyclopedia.
§ 33. Its Relation to Methodology
This task includes of itself the scientific description of the method of Theology, and of its parts, and its insertion into organic relation with its object. No general Methodology is necessary, for this may be assumed to be known. But it must show the paths of knowledge, mapped out by general Methodology, which Theology is to travel in order to reach her end. Then it must show what modifications are introduced into this general method by the peculiar character of Theology. And finally, what nearer method flows from this for the subdivisions of Theology. There is no cause for a separate treatment of Theological Methodology. He who places it as a separate study outside of his Encyclopedia, must invoke its help in that Encyclopedia; neither can he furnish his Methodology without repeating the larger part of the content of his Encyclopedia. Just because of the strongly subjective character which is inseparable from all Theology, it is dangerous to separate the method too widely from the object, neither can the object be sufficiently explained without dealing at the same time with the method. Hence it should be preferred to treat the method of Theology taken as a whole in the general volume of the Encyclopedia, and then, so far as this is necessary with each subdivision, the modifications which this method undergoes for the sake of this subdivision.
§ 34. Its Aim
The aim of Theological Encyclopedia is in itself purely scientific. Since Theology belongs to the organism of science, the Encyclopedic impulse itself compels the investigation of this part also of the great organism of science, in order that we may know it in its organic coherence and relation. This is its philosophical aim. But its aim is equally strong to bring Theology itself to self-consciousness. No more than any other science did Theology begin with knowing what it wanted. Practical interests, necessity and unconscious impulse brought it to its development. But with this it cannot remain satisfied. For its own honor's sake, Theology also must advance with steady steps to know itself, and to give itself an account of its nature and its calling. This is the more necessary since in our times Theology as a whole is no longer studied by any one, and since the several theologians choose for themselves but a part of the great task. Thus every sense of relation is lost, and a writer in one department infringes continually upon the rights of the others, unless the sense of the general task of Theology becomes and remains quickened. In the third place, the aim of Encyclopedia of Theology is defensive or apologetic. Much presents itself as Theology with the assumption of the right to translate real Theology into that which is no Theology. The conflict which arises from this may not be left to chance, but must be decided scientifically, and this cannot take place until Theology fixes its scientific standard. And finally its aim in the fourth place is, for the sake of nontheologians, who must nevertheless deal with Theology, to declare, in scientifically connected terms, what Theology is.
§ 35. Result
As the result of the above it is evident that the conception of Theological Encyclopedia consists in the scientific investigation of the organic nature and relations of Theology in itself and as an integral part of the organism of science. As such it forms a subdivision of general Encyclopedia, and with it belongs to the science of philosophy. As such it is formal, not in the sense that it must furnish a mere scheme of departments and of names, but in the sense that it is not allowed to become material, as if it were its duty to collect the theological content in a manual. It may enter into the material only in so far as it is necessary for the sake of exhibiting the formal nature and relations of Theology. Distinguished from Hodegetics and Historia litteraria, it is not called upon to furnish a manual for beginners; though nothing forbids the addition to it of a brief historia litteraria, proTided that this is not presented as a part of the Encyclopedia itself.