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Seminary One Bite at a Time: That Heretic Friedrich Schleiermacher



Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) was a reformed theologian and a Universalist. I was very surprised to discover this! And I’m sure you’re just as surprised! (I’m sure you’re not, but thanks for reading!)


I’m a Universalist. I believe all of us will return to God after death. All of us. I have no idea what the afterlife looks like or feels like, I do not believe we can conceive of it let alone describe it. How do I know this, you ask. How can I be so sure, you ask. I can’t answer those questions. I’ll not try to convince you of anything. I do know there’s nothing special about me, nor am I better than anyone else. I am absolutely regular and ordinary (and I like that about me). I can’t account for my connection to the Divine, I can’t explain it. I can say I have hope, I have faith, and I have deliberately chosen to embrace the mystery.


During one of the rabbit hole excursions I often take on the internet, I connected with a retired priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He’d published an article I thought I might use for one of my assignments, so I reached out to him with questions. He’s a priest, a scholar, a professor, and has authored several books. When I shared with him the pain I was experiencing going through the works of John Calvin, he took an interest in me and we’ve developed a lively email friendship. He’s in his 80s, he’s kind, and he’s delightful. He calls me “Dear”, and you have no idea how soothing that is to hear. So yes, I’m projecting my insatiable need to be fathered on this man, and he is filling that empty place inside of me just a tiny bit. We are a million miles apart on theology, so I skirt all of that because this friendship is very dear to me. We have conversations about theology from a purely academic standpoint. He’s sent me some of his books. I’m learning and growing and connecting with fascinating people. That is what matters most.


I emailed him:


Schleiermacher seems to be somewhat of a universalist, and I’m pretty surprised that theology is considered part of the reformed tradition. I feel I’ve been freed of the John Calvin Curse (there is no end to my disgust for that poor man), and that’s a good thing. I really needed a break from that double predestination ridiculousness.


What we’re reading now is getting really interesting and there’s a bit of intrigue, there, seeing all these theologians critiquing one another and putting forth their own dogmatic arguments. This is what I came to school to learn.


And here’s your seminary lesson for the day:


“Friedrich Schleiermacher, a prominent figure in theology, was indeed associated with universalist beliefs. He argued for a single predestination where all people would be saved through God’s omnipotent grace, rejecting doctrines like limited atonement and election. Schleiermacher’s views on universal salvation were significant in the theological landscape, aligning him with a form of Reformed universalism based on the all-determining will of God. His rejection of the Calvinist concept of predestination and his emphasis on the unity of the human race as a virtue are key aspects of his universalist stance.”


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