• Bernard M. G. Reardon
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series (LPR)


Kant’s attack on the whole notion of speculative metaphysics meant that for him a ‘natural’ or rational theology could no longer be sustained. ‘I maintain’, he wrote in the Critique of Pure Reason, ‘that all attempts to make a purely speculative use of reason in reference to theology are essentially fruitless and of their inner nature null and void; that the principles of its employment in the study of nature do not lead to any theology whatever; consequently that there can be no theology of reason at all unless one takes moral laws as its basis, or uses them as a clue.’1 Theology, that is, could no longer present itself as a ‘factual’ science, providing knowledge of the supraphenomenal order. This, however, was not a mere confession of scepticism. As we have said, not only did Kant believe in God, he believed also that God’s existence could be affirmed as a matter of reasoned faith. But divine being could not be demonstrated in the way that entities within the phenomenal world may be shown to exist, nor could it be proved from the bare concept of God itself. The difficulty that confronted him therefore was to explain what, in these circumstances, the idea of God could mean. The theologian uses language about God that purports to have determinate significance, and indeed as a rule such language is quite explicit.


Moral Progress Religious Doctrine Moral Evil Divine Command Meaningless Gesture 
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References and Notes

  1. 2.
    To speak of Kant as ‘the philosopher of Protestantism’ is mistaken. His outlook had but little in common with Luther’s, and much more closely resembled that of Erasmus. To the orthodox Protestant ‘our willing acknowledgment of the right and its claim upon us really does not convince us that by this very fact we are one with God; on the contrary, it convicts us of a deep inward antagonism to God, and our complete inability, as of ourselves, to keep His “law”‘ (H. R. Mackintosh, Types of Modern Theology, London, 1937, p. 24).Google Scholar
  2. 15.
    Leonhard Staehlin, in Kant, Lotze and Rischl (E. T. and D. W. Simon, Edinburgh, 1889), contended that because Ritschl’s theory of knowledge was essentially Kantian his theology was incompatible with orthodoxy, which in his view required a metaphysical basis (cf. p. 284). Otto Pfleiderer, The Development of Theology in Germany since Kant and its Progress in Great Britain since 1825 (London, 1890) describes Ritschl’s epistemology as ‘eclectically derived’ from Kant and Lotze, and dismisses it as ‘a dilettante confusion’ convincing only to amateurs (p. 183). The Scottish theologian James Orr (The Ritschlian Theology and the Evangelical Faith [London, 1897] denied that Ritschl really got his epistemology from Lotze, arguing that it was in fact purely Kantian (p. 237).Google Scholar
  3. 19.
    See Theologie und Metaphysik (1881), a polemical essay in which Ritschl attempts to clarify his philosophical opinions. There is an English trans. by Philip Hefner in Albrecht Ritschl: Three Essays (Philadelphia, 1972, pp. 151–212). Ritschl was convinced that theology needs an epistemology. ‘Each theologian is under necessity as a scientific man to proceed according to a definite theory of knowledge, of which he must be conscious and the legitimacy of which he must prove’ (Theologie und Metaphysik, 2nd edn, 1887, p. 60).Google Scholar
  4. 28.
    See Sabatier’s Esquisse d’une Philosophie de religion (Paris, 1897).Google Scholar
  5. 29.
    Ménégoz, Publications diverses sur le fidéisme et son application (Paris, 1900) 1, p. 251.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bernard M. G. Reardon 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard M. G. Reardon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Religious StudiesUniversity of Newcastle upon TyneUK

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