Schleiermacher and Romanticism: Ignored Antecedent of Postmodernism?

Christianity and Society 7 (1):40-51 (2007)
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No serious discussion of the forces shaping Schleiermacher could overlook the influence that Romanticism had on the formulation of his thought. Seeing the Enlightenment’s confidence in human reason as an obstacle to the effective communication of the gospel, he contrastingly understood Romanticism as an ally, for it emphasized passion over reason — imagination and inspiration over logic. The Enlightenment’s enshrinement of human reason as the autonomous source for truth had advanced naturalistic rationalism as its sole determinant. With the ascendancy of this rationalism came an attendant depreciation of other avenues of knowledge, leaving no possibility for its existence outside of the empirical. This state of affairs produced a climate that had starved the soul. In the Romanticists, Schleiermacher found others that shared his views: a great value placed on inward feeling and the importance of the growth of the individual. Schleiermacher’s efforts sought to gain a hearing among his contemporaries by contextualizing the Christian faith within the paradigm of Romanticism, bringing about the emergence of a movement that would embrace a subjectified view of truth. This work advances the proposal that much of the thought currently associated with postmodernism finds its first cogent expression in the writings of the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). Widely hailed as the Father of Modern Theology, his influences in the areas of thought that would eventually combine to produce postmodernism have been ignored by both Christian and non-Christian scholars.
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