Theology, Speculative. This title has come into use, particularly in Germany, to designate that method in systematic theology which, availing itself of all the helps subsidiary to theology, collects its material under the guidance of a philosophical, or speculative, survey of the field, and combines it into a systematic whole.
1. The necessity for such a term is shown by the fact that neither systematic theology nor Christianity itself can be compressed within the compass of a system of practical doctrines only. Christianity is designed to benefit the entire man, his intellect as well as his feelings and will Indeed, Christian piety is based on the truth; and Christianity is the revelation of the truth and the absolute religion. To attain a direct objective knowledge of God, as distinct from the indirect knowledge obtained from the contemplation of his works, etc., is evidently the work of speculation; and the same is true of that defense of Christianity which not only undermines the arguments of assailants, but establishes the reasons for Christianity in truth.
2. The material of speculative theology is gathered from the realm of experience everywhere, mundane and super mundane, and more directly still from the Christian faith. The task of speculative theology is to combine the experimental facts of the religious life into a harmonious system in which thought and scientific knowledge are the other elements. Its method is to seize on the historical facts connected with Christianity and trace them up until it arrives at the great central fact — the divine life incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ. Faith, by which we mean an immovable footing on the truths and realities of Christianity, is therefore a prerequisite for this science; but this can never become fanaticism, because the science is equally based on the safe ground of known historic fact.
Christianity is specially adapted for speculative treatment by reason of its possessing a point of internal unity which combines both idea and fact, God and man, and therefore concentrates in itself the power to overcome all contrasts. The ancient Church correctly fixed that point in the incarnation of the Logos (Ignatius, Irenius, Origen, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa). The dangers of speculation in theology are well illustrated in the intellectualism of contemplation as displayed in the Eastern Church. The more practical and ethical tendency of the West served to complete, and, to some extent, correct the Eastern intellectualism. Tertullian and Augustine gave themselves to practical speculation; but Anselm was the father of genuine Christian speculation (Cur Deus Homo ?). Aquinas and Duns Scotus, though inferior to him, rendered good service in the same field. The Reformation was concerned rather with the distinctively religious than the speculative interests of Christianity, though Auselm's ideas were carried forward and established in its progress. Not until after fundamental inquiries into the philosophy of knowledge and into the facts connected with God and the world which we possess had been made 'was it entirely possible to utilize, for speculative purposes, the treasures of Christianity for defense, attack, and positive development. The fruitage of such investigations may be seen in the works of Schleiermacher, Damib, Marheinecke, Rothe, Martensen, etc. SEE PHILOSOPHY.
Upon the whole subject consult Baur, Chrisfl. Gnosis (1835); Ritter, Gesch. d. christl. Philosophie (1841-51, 6 vols.). See Herzog, Real- Encyklop. s.v.