Theology Thursday: Friedrich Schleiermacher

by Max Andrews

Theologian: Friederich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

More about his theology:  Schleiermacher develops a philosophy of religion whereby theology arises from the critical analysis of human piety or religious feelings. This means that there is no received content.  Theology cannot be apologetic. Schleiermacher’s methodology:  Examining the feelings…

This made the nature of religion not thinking (scientific approach eliminated by Kant).  Here he is attacking the historic Christian position that theology is a science.  Also, the religious nature is not ethics (acting morally) either  rather, it is feeling which works its way out in the absolute dependence.  The absolute dependence is the a priori form of self-consciousness that then works its way out from feelings.The human being is central here, rather than God as self-revealed.  There is no “Thus says the Lord.”  Also, theology is simply the outworking of prior religious feelings which are then subsequently analyzed.  As a result, religion is only confessional.  What I believe in the subject sense of the term, according to my religious feelings. There is no place for apologetics because I know my feelings and that’s all that matters.  This is reflected in the hymn “He Lives.”

God is experienced as primarily immanent in me and this is a kind of subjective variation of natural theology. Schleiermacher abandoned all appeal to authority above the human because for him Christianity is based wholly upon religious experience or empirical piety.  Therefore he rejected the historical Christian position that the truth of revelation rests on an authority higher than human reason.  For FS experiential considerations, i.e. my feelings, can only give very tentative, highly flexible conclusions about God in relation to us.  God’s place [in his revelation] as central to theology is taken by human religious experience which becomes the decisive fact and final court of appeal to test the validity of any religious concept.

One Comment to “Theology Thursday: Friedrich Schleiermacher”

  1. It is common sense that in the so-called “Dark Ages” of the medieval Europe, theology predominated in all the area from theocracy to regalia and became the absolute authority in the spiritual world of European. Science was left no space in the magnificent palace ruled by theology and was seen as heterodoxy. At that time, the conflict in relations between science and theology was serious, or more exactly, the oppression theology put on science was cruel. For instance, Italian philosopher and scientist Bruno because of his insistence on scientific truth was burned at the stake by the Inquisition in Rome in 1600. Great physicist Galileo, for believing in and publicizing Copernicus’ heliocentricism, was put into prison for life.1 Under the great pressure and in the context of Western European fanaticism, there was hardly possibility and space for science to emerge. Up to 17th and 18th centuries, science began to advance rapidly and defeat theology eventually. God became “master not at home” and Newton became “chamberlaine in the world”. Why did it happen in Europe? The key is to find out the origins for the rise of modern science. To see it, we first look into Western traditional weltanschauung.

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