What is ‘religious experience’ in Schleiermacher’s Dogmatics, and why does it matter?

Andrew Dole


Schleiermacher is often credited with elevating the notion of ‘religious experience’ to prominence in theology and the study of religion.  But his position on religious experience is poorly understood, largely because he is typically read through the lens of his later appropriators.  In this essay I make a set of claims about what ‘religious experience’ amounts to in Schleiermacher’s mature dogmatics, The Christian Faith (or Glaubenslehre).  What is noteworthy about Schleiermacher’s position is its calculated coherence with religious naturalism, understood as the position that religious phenomena have natural causes.  I then argue that Schleiermacher’s understanding of religious experience is actually promising for contemporary discussions– partly because it allows for productive conversation with religious naturalists, and partly in virtue of the utility of Schleiermacher’s claim regarding the kind of religious experience at the heart of Christian religious identity.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12978/jat.2016-4.001322031404a


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