Culmann’s Christian Ethics1 -- By: John P. Lacroix
BSac 30:118 (April 1873) p. 361
Culmann’s Christian Ethics1
This work has been before the German public some time. But it deserves the attention of American scholars also, partly because of its unquestionable excellences, and partly because of the ability with which it advocates certain extravagant theosophic views. In spirit it is reverent and evangelical. But it blames all precedent works on ethics with stopping at half-ways; and it assumes to possess the key to higher constructions of Christianity than are found in ordinary orthodoxy. In a word, it claims to be more orthodox than the orthodox themselves.
The author was a speculative theosoph of the school of Schelling as transformed by the evangelical thinking of Baader and Schaden. Though a faithful pastor, he was more a theologian than a preacher. Of his chief work, Ethics, he completed only the first volume. The second, which is posthumous, is but an outline, and is supplemented by five very able theological essays. Dr. Culmann died as Protestant pastor at Spires, October, 1863, at the early age of thirty-eight. His name is still fragrant in the memory of his flock and of his colleagues. One of the latter prefaces the posthumous volume with a beautiful appreciation of his character, showing, among other things, how that, with every added day of his life, he rose to a more deeply-rooted and a more joyous conviction that in Christ lie hidden all the choicest treasures of wisdom.
The spirit and characteristics of Culmann’s ethics may be pretty fairly judged of from the following uninterrupted presentation of his chief positions:
Christian ethics is based on the inter-relations of God and man. These relations are generally conceived of too outwardly, after the analogy of a human parent to his son, or of an educator to his pupil. This view of these relations is only rationalistico-theistic, but it is far higher than the pantheistic. In Schleiermacher’s pantheistic theology God has not even so much objectivity as an educator to a pupil; instead of a living God we have here only the human God-consciousness from which to construct religion. The inter-relation of God and man is much deeper. The scriptures imply this by designating it as a bridal relation, and by calling us members of Christ’s body, and branches upon the vine, Christ. Here the
BSac 30:118 (April 1873) p. 362
love is no longer a matter of mere consciousness, but it rises to a reciprocal essence-interchange. It is not Platonic but marital. Man does not here love God merely from a dread distance; but God enters into him with his own divine essence. The bond of communion is kept up on the part of God, not merely b...
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