On a piece of scrap paper:
More on Semler’s particularity:
Removing the tie to Israel, little, hated, poor, removes the necessary asceticism from Christianity. It also removes the distinction between oppressor and oppressed, so that, presumably, there is no judgment, a standard in the “Christianity” of “thinking people”, exemplified by an attitude of “I’m okay, you’re okay (unless you disagree with that).”
That’s not Christianity, but a quasi-religious social construct of the bourgeoisie.
I make these kinds of notes for myself, and then they are often lost. I’m glad this one was not.
As I posted briefly on Semler earlier, and this note is related to that, providing an additional critique of Semler. I will expand upon this note.
More on Semler’s particularity. Semler accuses the Jews of “particularity”, of adamantly sticking to their own ways in the face of liberal German blandishments to convert to some kind of flippy-floppy ethical universalism which Semler calls Christianity, but which is far from any known species of the Christian faith. Yet, importantly, Semler is blind to his own particularity. Semler’s own requirements are quite exclusive, and the attitude he exudes and which is maintained by later modernists following him generally, is one of complete particularity: only liberal German theology is valid. Even more conservative German theology is rejected. So, Semler’s ideal is not only enthnocentric (German), but further restricted by being his own particular liberal stream of theology and scholarship. Only those who would accept his ideal would be acceptable. That’s quite a rigid particularism! That explains my “More on Semler’s particularity.”
Removing the tie to Israel, little, hated, poor, removes the necessary asceticism from Christianity. The “tie to Israel” refers to the continuity between the Church of the Old Testament and the Church of the New Testament. Semler, of course, posited a complete break between the two, because he (and so many other “enlightened” Germans) couldn’t stomach the idea that Christianity owed anything to Jews. But the continuity between Israel and the Church is there, as all modern scholarship recognizes. One would have to be insane to posit otherwise. And, as part of that continuity, we find the Church assimilating, as Israel, the asceticism involved in being lesser than those around. The humble national status of Israel in the ancient world, hated for its peculiar customs, is something embraced by the Church in its asceticism. There is, too, the wholly iconic reflection of this relationship, which inheres in this scrawled note, of Israel and Church. There is both continuity and image between the two, Israel and Church, Church and Israel, forward and backward. The iconic worldview does not move in only one direction, after all. One becomes the image of the other at various times. Semler, in denying the continuity between Israel and the Church, removes the heritage of asceticism from his “Christianity.” Like some iconoclast of old, he plasters over the image of both Israel and the Church, so neither can be seen for what they are: reflections one of the other.
It also removes the distinction between oppressor and oppressed…. When there is no more image of the one wronged, then there is no way to recognize the one doing wrong. Semler restricts one’s analogical view to a Christianity that is sui generis, one that is the “ultimate emanation of the world spirit” or some such. Stripped of its very historicity, the Church no longer exists as an historical entity at all, but rather as an emotion, a longing, a purely Romantic ideal. (This Romanticism is found most strongly in Semler, but it is also present in de Wette and others of the period.) There is no longer any sin, nor any sinner, for these are legalistic, Jewish categories of thought, passé, and, I daresay, verboten in Semler’s new construct. With no sin, then, there can be no fault and no guilt in oppressing others. How convenient! The primary point here is, again, iconic: without the icon of Israel, wronged and hated by the world, the Church cannot recognize itself. To continue:
It also removes the distinction between oppressor and oppressed, so that, presumably, there is no judgment, a standard in the “Christianity” of “thinking people”, exemplified by an attitude of “I’m okay, you’re okay (unless you disagree with that).” When a concept of penalty is absent, there can be no judgment. Only a simple mind would depict this as “mercy.” This is instead anomianism: there can be no Judge and no Judgment, for there are no laws. This mentality denies God His sovereignty to do otherwise than His subjects determine should be done. For Semler, God is dead, executed by nice. And this perspective lives on in many liberal quasi-religious-themed social groups (a.k.a. “churches”). The historic Christian perspective is that not only will there be sheep and goats, at right hand and left, Abraham’s bosom and Gehenna, the Banquet or Wedding Chamber and outer darkness, but there are also those fearsome words: “Truly, I tell you, I do not know you.”
That’s not Christianity, but a quasi-religious social construct of the bourgeoisie. In Semler’s day and afterward it was precisely the burgeoning middle class, or bourgeoisie, newly prosperous and wishing to continue to increase in prosperity, that were the greatest source of support for such liberal ideas as Semler’s. The royalty, nobility, and the lower classes were almost universally conservative in religious, social, and political outlook. But the middle classes saw greater opportunity in loosened restrictions socially and economically, and they desired to advance such agendas for the firmer establishment of their own selves, primarily through their wallets. The ethics, such as they are, of such desires, come to be debated not in relation to traditional mores (Church or custom), but in relation to the newly constructed and very, very conveniently permissive ideas promulgated by supporters of their movement. And while the situation is nowadays different, some still parrot the liberal anomianism of two hundred years ago (or forty), as though this were some refreshing new breeze of the intellect. It’s not. SSDD: same stuff, different day. In any number of “mainline churches”, in any number of “megachurches”, in any number of “emergent churches”, whether any of these would call themselves by these or any other names that might remotely imply ownership by His Lordship (for to be Κυριακου is Not A Good Thing), we see and hear of a comfortably bourgeois existence extolled as Christian, the Gospel of Mammon instead of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Woe. Woe. Woe.