Journal of Religious Ethics 24 (1):141 - 167 (1996)

Troeltsch and Simmel both feared that the loss of religion on a cultural scale would deprive the modern European world of a potentially effective resource for ethical and spiritual unity. To conserve this resource, Simmel argued for a purely formal spirituality that depended upon no doctrines and no institutions. Troeltsch concluded that on a cultural scale, Simmel's program was a recipe for spiritual and ethical suicide; he recommended instead the possibility of a liberal Christianity. In developing this possibility, Troeltsch used Simmel's analysis of symbols of exchange to present a fruitful new sociological conception of the symbol of Christ as a model for shaping the interaction of Christianity and society.
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