Volume 26, Issue 1, Spring 2021
The Concept of Universal Salvation
Apokatastasis in the Thought of Friedrich Schleiermacher. An Outline
The article analyzes the concept of universal salvation—apokatastasis in the thought of Friedrich Schleiermacher especially with reference to his early Speeches on Religion and the later treatise The Christian Faith. It moves from Schleiermacher’s understanding of religion per se to his soteriological and eschatological theories. He understands the nature of religion as the feeling-intuition of the Infinite and points to a certain aspect of mystery, which religion contains. He rejects in the Speeches on Religion the anthropomorphic understanding of God and speaks of God-Universum. In the treatise Christian Faith, he reinterprets the theological concept of original sin and depravation, and points to a natural process of development of humankind from Godless-consciousness to God-consciousness. From the Protestant-reformed tradition Schleiermacher adopts the concept of predestination. However, he rejects the so called “double predestination” of salvation and condemnation. According to him, all people are chosen to be saved “in Christ”. This way, Schleiermacher continues the Reformed tradition, however he understands the election in universal categories. He rejects God, who chooses for salvation only some people, but accepts God-Universum, who maintains the unity of creation and leads people to perfect communion. This drives the German thinker to universalistic beliefs. In the convictions pointing to the final unity of humankind, Schleiermacher exposes his deep humanism. He assumes that it is impossible to reconcile the traditional view of eternal hell with God’s love. Divine punishment can serve as an aspect of overall paidagogia, leading to the maturing of humanity. However, it cannot be understood as a retribution, based on God’s wrath and cruel lex talionis. Such an understanding of God is for Schleiermacher unacceptable. Understanding soteriology in these terms, Schleiermacher refers to the apokatastatic tradition of the Church Fathers and the classical concept of apokatastasis. In the modern context he continues and develops the personal aspect of apokatastasis, but also—through his affinities to the thought of Spinoza—draws near to its macro-scale, cosmological form.