The Christian Consciousness In Christian Theology -- By: A. J. F. Behrends

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:170 (Apr 1886)
Article: The Christian Consciousness In Christian Theology
Author: A. J. F. Behrends


The Christian Consciousness In Christian Theology1

Rev. A. J. F. Behrends

Clearness of definition, and a fixed terminology, are the two great and indispensable conditions of solid progress in knowledge. Definite meanings must be associated with words and phrases, and, as in the employment of algebraic symbols, there must be no variation in their use through all the intricacies of a long and difficult argument. It is acknowledged, too, that many a phrase is best understood under the light of its historical origin and earliest use; and such an investigation may lead to the conclusion, that, however winning it may appear to be, its early and long service associates it with tendencies and

conceptions that cannot be defended. Of such phrases “Christian Consciousness “is one. Etymologically harmless and attractive, its theological history may prevent its acceptance by many. For it has been the watchword of a theological school. It has served, for more than seventy-five years, as the rallying-cry of a definite method in theological inquiry, whose claim of superior merit cannot be conceded, and many of whose fruits are not encouraging to Christian faith. It is an alien on American soil, and American theology is not friendly to its naturalization. It has been used among us in a greatly modified sense, and the honors claimed on its behalf have been comparatively modest; but it is well to recall the pedigree of the newcomer, and to remember that with the word must be associated a long and eventful history in religious thought. And, unless we are ready to range ourselves under the banner thus unfurled, or unless we are prepared to confess the poverty of our speech, it may be wise to abandon the phrase altogether to those whose theological spirit it defines.

Now the underlying debate, marked by this innocent phrase, does not concern the philosophical question as to the ultimate ground of certainty, which must be posited based upon “Christian Consciousness,” as its source and organ, by an American writer, is from the pen of Professor Allen, of Cambridge, whose book on the Continuity of Christian Thought created something of a sensation in New England circles of thought. There is, however, no single treatise in which the subject of this article has been submitted to a searching historical examination, followed by a critical analysis and exposition of its implications. The present writer rises from his brief essay, which he has found compassed with great and many difficulties, and for whose thorough study an exacting pastorate does not leave him the needed leisure, in the earnest hope that some one thoroughly at home in German theology may undertake the task,...

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