Then came the “Blum Case.” Robert Blum, a revolutionary, had been shot by court martial in Vienna
|November 22, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter seven||
And the book contains matter for offence in no common degree. The point to which Strauss applies his criticism is the way in which the Christian theology which grew out of the ideas of the ancient world has been brought into harmony with the Christianity of rationalism and of speculative philosophy. Either, to use his own expression, both are so finely pulverised in the process—as in the case of Schleiermacher’s combination of Spinozism with Christianity—that it needs a sharp eye to rediscover the elements of the mixture; or the two are shaken together like water and oil, in which case the semblance of combination is only maintained so long as the shaking continues. For this crude procedure he desires to substitute a better method, based upon a preliminary historical criticism of dogma, in order that thought may no longer have to deal with the present form of Church theology, but with the ideas which worked as living forces in its formation.
This is brilliantly worked out in detail. The result is not a positive, but a negative Hegelian theology. Religion is not concerned with supra-mundane beings and a divinely glorious future, but with present spiritual realities which appear as “moments” in the eternal being and becoming of Absolute Spirit. At the end of the second volume, where battle is joined on the issue of personal immortality, all these ideas play their part in the struggle. Personal immortality is finally rejected in every form, for the critical reasons which Strauss had already set forth in the letters of 1832. Immortality is not something which stretches out into the future, but simply and solely the present quality of the spirit, its inner universality, its power of rising above everything finite to the Idea. Here the thought of Hegel coincides with that of Schleiermacher. “The saying of Schleiermacher, ‘In the midst of finitude to be one with the Infinite, and to be eternal in a moment,’ is all that modern thought can say about immortality.” But neither Schleiermacher nor Hegel was willing to draw the natural inferences from their ultimate position, or at least they did not give them any prominence.
It is not the application of the mythological explanation to the Gospel history which irrevocably divides Strauss from the theologians, but the question of personal immortality. It would be well for them if they had only to deal with the Strauss of the Life of Jesus, and not with the thinker who posed this question with inexorable trenchancy. They might then face the future more calmly, relieved of the anxiety lest once more Hegel and Schleiermacher might rise up in some pious but critical spirit, not to speak smooth things, but to ask the ultimate questions, and might force theology to fight its battle with Strauss all over again.
At the very time when Strauss was beginning to breathe freely once more, had turned his back upon all attempts at compromise, and reconciled himself to giving up teaching; and when, after settling his father’s affairs, he had the certainty of being secure against penury; at that very time he sowed for himself the seeds of a new, immitigable suffering by his marriage with Agnese Schebest, the famous singer.
They were not made for one another. He could not look to her for any sympathy with his plans, and she on her part was repelled by the pedantry of his disposition. Housekeeping difficulties and the trials of a limited income added another element of discord. They removed to Sontheim near Heilbronn with the idea of learning to adapt themselves to one another far from the distractions of the town; but that did not better matters. They lived apart for a time, and after some years they procured a divorce, custody of the children being assigned to the father. The lady took up her residence in Stuttgart, and Strauss paid her an allowance up to her death in 1870.
What he suffered may be read between the lines in the passage in “The Old Faith and the New” where he speaks of the sacredness of marriage and the admissibility of divorce. The wound bled inwardly. His mental powers were disabled. At this time he wrote little. Only in the apologue “Julian the Apostate, or the Romanticist on the throne of the Caesars”— that brilliant satire upon Frederic William IV., written in 1847—is there a flash of the old spirit.
But in spite of his antipathy to the romantic disposition of the King of Prussia he entered the lists in 1848 on behalf of the efforts of the smaller German states to form a united Germany, apart from Austria, under the hegemony of Prussia. He did not suffer his political acumen to be blunted either by personal antipathies or by particularism. The citizens of Ludwigsburg wished to have him as their representative in the Frankfort parliament, but the rural population, who were pietistic in sympathies, defeated his candidature. Instead, his native town sent him to the Würtemberg Chamber of Deputies. But here his philistinism came to the fore again. The phrase-mongering revolutionary party in the chamber disgusted him. He saw himself more and more forced to the “rights,” and was obliged to act politically with men whose reactionary sympathies he was far from sharing. His constituents, meanwhile, were thoroughly discontented with his attitude. In the end the position became intolerable. It was also painful to him to have to reside in Stuttgart, where he could not avoid meeting the woman who had brought so much misery into his life. Further—he himself mentions this point in his memoirs—he had no practice in speaking without manuscript, and cut a poor figure as a debater. Then came the “Blum Case.” Robert Blum, a revolutionary, had been shot by court martial in Vienna. The Würtemberg Chamber desired to vote a public celebration of his funeral. Strauss did not think there was any ground for making a hero of this agitator, merely because he had been shot, and was not inclined to blame the Austrian Government very severely for meting out summary justice to a disturber of the peace. His attitude brought on him a vote of censure from his constituents. When, subsequently, the President of the Chamber called him to order for asserting that a previous speaker had “concealed by sleight of hand” (wegeskamotiert, “juggled away”) an important point in the debate, he refused to accept the vote of censure, resigned his membership, and ceased to attend the diets. As he himself put it, he “jumped out of the boat.” Then began a period of restless wandering, during which he beguiled his time with literary work. He wrote, inter alia, upon Lessing, Hutten, and Reimarus, rediscovering the last-named for his fellow-countrymen.
At the end of the sixties he returned once more to theology. His “Life of Jesus adapted for the German People” appeared in 1864. In the preface he refers to Renan, and freely acknowledges the great merits of his work.
The Prusso-Austrian war placed him in a difficult position. His historical insight made it impossible for him to share the particularism of his friends; on the contrary, he recognised that the way was now being prepared for the realisation of his dream of 1848—an alliance of the smaller German States under the hegemony of Prussia. As he made no secret of his opinions, he had the bitter experience of receiving the cold shoulder from men who had hitherto loyally stood by him.
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus
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