Schleiermacher on the outpourings of the inner fire: experiential expressivism and religious pluralism

Religious Studies 40 (2):125-143 (2004)
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Both in the Speeches and in The Christian Faith Schleiermacher offers a comprehensive theory of the nature of religion, grounding it in experience. In the Speeches Schleiermacher grounds religion in an original unity of consciousness that precedes the subject–object dichotomy; in The Christian Faith the feeling of absolute dependence is grounded in the immediate self-consciousness. I argue that Schleiermacher's theory offers a generally coherent account of how it is possible that differing religious traditions are all based on the same experience of the Absolute. I show how Schleiermacher's programme can respond successfully to three related contemporary objections to religious pluralism: (1) different religions make competing truth-claims about the nature of reality and they cannot all be right; (2) differing traditions cannot all be based on a similar religious experience because all experience is interpreted; and (3) the pluralist needs to have criteria in place distinguishing real and illusory religious experience, but such criteria are elusive. (Published Online April 21 2004).
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