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Lotze und Ritschl. Reich-Gottes-Theologie zwischen nachidealistischer Philosophie und neuzeitlichem Positivismus.
Frankfurt a. M.-Berlin-Bern-Bruxelles-New York-Oxford-Wien: Lang 2002. X, 337 S. 8° = Beiträge zur rationalen Theologie, 11. Kart. EUR 56,50. ISBN 3-631-39106-4.
Mark D. Chapman
This book, which is based on the author’s Halle dissertation, presents an extremely clear and comprehensive account of the relationships between Albrecht Ritschl and Hermann Lotze, who for seventeen years were colleagues at the University of Göttingen – it is based on an unparalleled mastery of their many published sources, as well as an impressive knowledge of nineteenth-century philosophy and theology and contemporary secondary literature. It is hard to imagine that anybody could better this account or could muster the energy to tackle such a range of historical texts. The level of detail means that it is not an easy read, although what it says is important, and one might hope that the findings might be presented in a more popular and accessible form in due course. What emerges from the research is an uncovering of Ritschl’s implicit metaphysics which, according to N., is dependent to a large extent on the work of Lotze. Given Ritschl’s explicit attacks on metaphysics and the many interpretations of his theology which see it as fundamentally anti-metaphysical and even positivistic, this is obviously a contested claim. Nevertheless, through painstaking analysis of virtually all the extant writings of both authors, N. makes a clear case for his thesis based on a thorough knowledge of the texts, which at the same time shows that Ritschl was neither a Biblicist nor a positivist. The first chapter offers a comprehensive and masterly account of Ritschl-interpretation, including a reassessment of Barth’s hostile response to Ritschl’s theology. What is shown is that Ritschl attacked simply certain particular varieties of metaphysics, but that he always retained a belief in the distinction between nature and spirit and defended this through an implicit metaphysics.
The first chapter briefly describes Ritschl’s theological development and response to and distancing from post-Hegelian speculation, while at the same time showing that he maintained a strong interest in the metaphysics of spirit. Indeed it was such a concept which was to dominate his main work, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung. Through the main chapters of the book (chapters 2–7) N. carefully reconstructs Ritschl’s theology around different themes, a task which is made more difficult by Ritschl’s unsystematic way of writing and his forays into many different areas of theology. Alongside this he also unpacks the main themes of Lotze’s philosophy and system of values especially as they made an impact on Ritschl’s thought. Each of the chapters is structured in a similar way – an outline of the problem, close engagement with the texts of both writers and then a résumé of what has been shown about the relationships between the two. Throughout the book the emphasis is on the delineation of Natur and Geist and the interactions between the two spheres of reality.
Chapter Two shows how religion functions to help human beings focus on the contrast between the natural world and a higher world in their self-consciousness (89). This distinction is shown most clearly in Ritschl’s leading interpretative category, the Kingdom of God proclaimed in the person of Christ. What becomes crucial is not so much the distinction between the two worlds as the way in which the spiritual world affects the natural – this is seen as the most important aspect of the theory of value, whereby moral and spiritual value-judgements allow for an interaction or interpenetration between the two worlds. The religious aspect to such value judgements moves Ritschl beyond Lotze’s simple delineation of the different spheres. Chapter Three analyses the problem of teleology, once more focusing on the Kingdom of God, but this time in dialogue with Kant’s Kritik der Urteilskraft and Lotze’s conception of teleology. Again, because of Ritschl’s less than systematic writing, N. is forced to reconstruct the material from across the vast corpus of his writings. What emerges is a conception of teleology which blends Kant and Lotze, while remaining fundamentally Kantian. Chapter Four moves on to ›axiology‹ or value-judgements. This allows N. to show how Ritschl differentiated between practical and theoretical knowledge. This leads on to a discussion of ontology in Chapter Five where, N. claims, Ritschl’s metaphysics are most concealed, but where they are most important. Here the concept of Wechselwirkung is central to the argument, and allows for what could be seen as a dualistic world-view to be unified in an ethico-theological unity. In Chapter Six N. expands on this problem with a lengthy discussion of epistemology, before going on to tackle the metaphysics of spirit in the final substantial chapter, which also analyses the relatively primitive psychology underpinning such a theory. In a final concluding chapter, N. seeks to place Ritschl’s implicit metaphysics (and his explicit criticisms of metaphysics) in the context of nineteenth-century theology. This is a masterly account which combines comprehensiveness with succinctness. The book concludes with a brief account of the prospects for a Ritschlian style theology in a contemporary situation where science seems less positivistic and perhaps less antagonistic to religion (although, especially if one looks at the debates initiated by Richard Dawkins in Britain, this harmonious approach may not be the case throughout the world).
As so often with books which lack a proper copy-editing stage there are many typographical errors (and virtually all the English citations are littered with grammatical errors). More substantially, however, there is remarkably little discussion of the inter-relations between Ritschl and the Ritschlians, especially Wilhelm Herrmann, whose approach to theology and metaphysics resembled Ritschl’s, but was, in important ways, quite different. Given that Ritschl responded to Herrmann in his own writings and also because of Herrmann’s influence on later theological criticisms of metaphysics, not least by Barth, this seems to be a major omission. Nevertheless this book provides an important contribution to a neglected period of the history of theology – it should prevent future theologians making blanket judgements about the nineteenth-century without engaging closely with the text.