The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches Themes

Ernst Troeltsch

Christian Themes

Which of the three types canvassed above is the correct form of Christianity? Troeltsch answers: all three. The church-type expresses the universality of Christianity, but the sect-type preserves the early meaning of Jesus’ Gospel, while the mysticism-type conveys the idea of inner communion of the soul with its God. All are scriptural, legitimate, and once-united components driven asunder by the conflicts of historical development. Observing the increasingly secularized and industrialized Europe of the early twentieth century, Troeltsch wonders how Christianity would sustain itself and its culture. The greatest achievement of the early church had been the construction of the Church itself as an enduring institution grafted onto an alien pagan world that it had outlived. In the modern world, however, Christianity finds itself in the same situation, searching for its place in an increasingly alien and religiously fragmented world. The future of each of the three types does not look promising: Neither an increasingly ineffective form of hierarchical authority, nor a sectarian rejection of the world, nor an institutionally indifferent mysticism seemed to offer realistic avenues for enduring cultural engagement. The future is open, Troeltsch argues, and he ends his book wondering whether a new institutional form or a new combination of the three types would emerge soon enough to help resolve the religious and cultural dilemmas of Europe.