He is realistic and idealistic, individualistic and universalistic, monistic and dualistic, sensationalist and intellectualist, naturalist and supernaturalist, rationalist and mystic, gnostic and agnostic. He is the prince of the Vermittler in philosophy, ethics, religion and theology.
Lessing's publication also helped to demonstrate the weakness of the older rationalist position, a position which really belongs to the 18th century, though its best-remembered exponent, Dr H.
Its first note is struck by Ennius in his translation of the Sceptl- Sicilian rationalist Euhemerus, who explained the genesis m, of the gods as apotheosized mortals.
Messina was the birthplace of Dicaearchus, the historian (c. 322 B.C.); Aristocles, the Peripatetic; Euhemerus, the rationalist (c. 316 B.C.); Stefano Protonotario, Mazzeo di Ricco and Tommaso di Sasso, poets of the court of Frederick II.
But if Erasmus was unlike the 18th century rationalist in that he did not declare war against the church, but remained a Catholic and mourned the disruption, he was yet a true rationalist in principle.
Pusey indeed studied under Eichhorn, and in his Historical Enquiry into the probable causes of the Rationalist Character lately predominant in German Theology (1828-1830) speaks sympathetically of the attitude of the Reformers on the question of Scripture and in condemnation of the later Protestant scholastic doctrine; but even in this book he shows no receptivity for any of the actual critical conclusions of Eichhorn and his successors, and subsequently threw the weight of his learning against critical conclusions - notably in his Commentary on Daniel (1864).
It deserves to be noted here that the former, the theology of the Aufklarung, was, like that of the deists, destined to a short-lived notoriety; whereas the solid, accurate and scholarly researches of the rationalist critics of Germany, undertaken with no merely polemical spirit, not only form an epoch in the history of theology, but have taken a permanent place in the body of theological science.
It would be difficult even to prove any ground of affinity among them beyond a desposition to take sense as a prime factor in the account of subjective experience: their common interest in physical science was shared equally by rationalist thinkers of the Cartesian school, and was indeed begotten of the time.
The rationalist spirit is, of course, coeval with human evolution; religion itself began with a rational attempt to maintain amicable relations with unknown powers, and each one of the dead religions succumbed before the development of rationalist inquiry into its premises.