In the eighteenth century the Protestant principle liberates itself from the bondage of its own self-limitation, realizing its own insight into free self-consciousness, accomplished first by pietism and rationalism, but with limitations. With the emergence of a critical consciousness, the ground is prepared for Kant, Fichte, and Schelling in the early nineteenth century, each emphasizing the role of the self in constructing the world of consciousness. Schleiermacher and Hegel follow. A tension exists in Schleiermacher’s thought between immediate self-consciousness and the consciousness of being utterly dependent on an absolute causality. For Hegel, Christianity and self-consciousness are based on the self-explicating absolute itself, which is God as absolute spirit. The inwardizing of dogma is attained here because it has become identical with spirit as both subjective consciousness and objective actuality. Most church theologians react against Hegelian “speculative theology” and retreat into their confessional identities and irresolvable contradictions, as Strauss demonstrated.
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