Schleiermacher, famously, regards religious faith and theology as grounded in religious consciousness, and thus as broadly empirical. This is the source of much of the fascination of his religious thought, and also of many of the objections that have been raised against it. The aim of this chapter is to provide a critical analysis of Schleiermacher's epistemology of religion and its theological implications. In the limited space available we will concentrate on his masterpiece, the Christian Faith, looking from time to time for relevant background in other works.
RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS AND ITS OBJECT
Schleiermacher has been accused of replacing God with human consciousness as the object of theology and religious thought. The charge is not exactly groundless. He himself said (in a text from the period of the Christian Faith) that “it can rightly be said that in religion everything is immediately true, since nothing at all is expressed in its individual moments except the religious person’s own state of mind” (KGA, 1.12, 136; OR, Oman, 108). An important motive for this claim is explicit in the statement: to the extent that religion does not go beyond the religious person’s own state of mind, it can hope to have the certain truth commonly ascribed to direct (“immediate”) experience of one’s own consciousness. The accusation of anthropocentrism or subjectivism thus has some relation to Schleiermacher’s focus on experience.
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