Catholic Dictionary




The view that Christianity is essentially a religion of feeling. It was systematically developed by Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) in his Christian Faith, which dates an epoch in the history of modern theology. While rationalists and supernaturalists carried on their struggle, Schleiermacher took the ground from under their contention by removing its main presupposition. The Christian faith, he said, does not consist in any kind of doctrinal propositions. It is a condition of devout feeling and, like all other experience, simply an object to be described. Against the supernaturalists he maintained that Christianity is not something to be received on authority from without, but an inward condition of our own self-consciousness. Against the rationalists, he said that religion is not a product of rational thinking, but an emotion of the heart, a feeling that occurs independently of the mind. Moreover, this feeling is not merely personal but social in its Protestant form, since it is the common experience of a historical community derived from the Reformation.