Written at the beginning of Schleiermacher’s professorship at the University of Berlin, Brief Outline of the Study of Theology seeks to lay out a structure for the study of theology, particularly in a university context. In it, Schleiermacher lays out what he sees as the nature of theology, the nature of the theological task, and the nature of the theologian. He then states the nature of philosophical theology, historical theology, and practical theology. Schleiermacher presents the structure of theology as a wheel. Each spoke is a different discipline that adds to the whole. The hub is the teaching and guidance of the church. The theologian must understand the important aspects of each spoke and how they relate to the hub.
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Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) was born in Breslau, Silesia, Prussia. His father was a Reformed chaplain in the Prussian army. Schleiermacher attended a Moravian school and eventually went to the University of Halle. He graduated from Halle in 1794 and began to tutor the children of an aristocratic family. He left after two years and took up a chaplaincy at a hospital in Berlin. While in Berlin, Schleiermacher was influenced by the Romantic movement, particularly the emphasis on imagination and emotion. He read the works of Baruch Spinoza, Plato, Immanuel Kant, Fichte, and Schelling. In 1802 he became the pastor of a congregation in Stolp, Pomerania. He left in 1804 to accept a position as preacher and professor of theology at the University of Halle. In 1807, he accepted an offer to become pastor of Trinity Church in Berlin. While there, he helped found the University of Berlin and accepted a chair of theology. He also became the secretary of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Schleiermacher’s advocacy of the unification of the Reformed and Lutheran branches of the German church led to the Prussian Union of Churches in 1817. Schleiermacher wrote his magnum opus, Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche (The Christian Faith according to the Principles of the Protestant Church), in 1821 and revised it in 1831.