How can we make sense of Goethe's seemingly self-contradictory views on religion? On the one hand, he makes no pretense of being a Christian, and yet on the other hand, he views the Christian Bible as the source of ultimate spiritual truth. Faust is filled with Biblical allusions. Christianity has both spiritual doctrines and moral doctrines, and Goethe endorses some of both. What is he up to?
One possible way to interpret Goethe would be to say that he is making the historical distinction between Christianity and the church. Christianity is a set of concepts and the actions entailed by the belief in those concepts. The church, on the other hand, is an institution. Goethe rejects both Christianity and the Church, but he rejects them separately, and differently. His rejection of the Church is absolute. His analysis of Christianity is more tentative and wavering. He seems attracted to some facets of Christian spirituality, but unable to embrace them.
We can trace these two through history, and see that often, Christianity opposed the church in many situations. In other situations, Christianity clearly sided with the church. Can you think of concrete historical examples?
So perhaps this was what motivated Goethe's somewhat schizophrenic views. Was Goethe trying to embrace the some of the views of Christianity, reject others, and at the same time distance himself from the church? Which sentences in Faust would be evidence for this?
Goethe had, in the final analysis, an inability to commit, either to a woman, or to a system of belief. He rejected both Christianity and atheism, used the word "pagan" to describe himself, and was nevery quite able to formulate a specific statement of what he actually did believe.
When we study about Goethe, we can take two approaches:
on the one hand, we can study about Goethe's life, his friends and business acquaintances, the influential thinkers of his day, and look at photographs of his house and how he decorated it, and then see how these things influenced, or are reflected in, the text of "Faust".
on the other hand, we can strictly ignore all the background information about Goethe and the times he lived in, and instead focus on the text of Faust alone, examining it carefully for clues about what Goethe thought and what he meant.
Which approach is the correct one?
What do the words "isogogics" and "hermeneutics" mean?