Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

As a didactic and spiritual treatise, Aids to Reflection aimed to guide those looking for a more theological and spiritual Christianity than that offered through strict adherence to orthodoxy, or an overreliance on rationalism to “explain” the Christian mysteries.

Coleridge’s condemnation of contemporary divinity is striking, but especially so is his call for a revised theology and the challenge for greater reflection on spirituality. He casts himself as singular among his contemporaries, a lone prophet heralding a need for revitalization of doctrine that merely follows the letter of the law rather than the spirit.

Coleridge holds that the two greatest mysteries of Christianity are Original Sin and redemption. His linguistic argument concerning Original Sin as originating with the individual will requires that individuals alone take responsibility for their sins. Yet it is still a mystery, and its concept is not unique to Christianity—a similar philosophy can be found in almost every patriarchal faith. Yet it is Christianity alone, Coleridge concludes, that provides redemption from the power of sin. Through Christ’s voluntary sacrifice for the sins of humanity, the power of sin is conquered by the power of the spirit, and thus though the individual will is separate from this higher spirit, the will and the spirit become partners through the saving grace of the redemptive spirit.

Redemption, for Coleridge, is something truly transcendental. Since the Resurrection of Christ, redemption has been an overriding state; that is, it is not something that occurs at a certain point, but rather is an ongoing condition of the Christian soul. It is the absolute that complements the reason of the individual will, and it is what enables the will to cooperate with the higher spirit. The transcendental redemption is a purifying and personal experience, and so it is most important for the true Christian to attest to the truth of religion, rather than “prove” the redeeming power of Christ through the evidence of miracles. These evidences, Coleridge vehemently argues, must not be substituted for the truth of Christian grace, which is realized through reflection and by reflection cooperating with the higher spirit of God.