The Theological Edifice of Modern Experiential Protestantism: Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, and Palmer’s Reconstruction of nineteenth Century Pietism
The aim of this work is to address the development of experiential Protestantism in the nineteenth century, commonly called Pietism, through the theological contributions of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Søren Kierkegaard, and Phoebe Palmer. While an emphasis on experiencing God exists in all forms of Christianity, including Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and the various forms of Protestantism, the expression and development of experiential Protestantism faces interesting historical challenges. The first challenge is grounded in the community’s conception of itself, primarily the desire to remain an outsider movement. Unlike the other expressions of Protestantism, such as Scholasticism and Rationalism, Pietism’s early history in the development of Protestantism began as a counterweight to these intellectual movements. As a result, the necessity to remain outside of the established power structures became rooted in the habitus of Pietism. Pietism seeks to remain a countercultural movement that fashions itself as the authentic expression of Protestant Christianity. Pietists within Lutheranism, Reform, and Anglicanism view themselves as the preserved remnant of God’s people within those denominations and the primary objects of God’s covenant, as well as the true church. Opposing the need to remain outsiders, the covenantal relationship with God is coupled with eschatological hopes for success. In many ways this success occurred with the institutionalization and denominational formation of Pietism that emerged in the eighteenth century. This success produces a new challenge for Pietism in the nineteenth century, namely how to remain outsiders after relative success. Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, and Palmer all produce distinct theologies that seek to answer this dilemma and they each reinterpret and reconstruct experiential Protestantism. Their theologies also demonstrate the radicalizing tendency of experiential Protestantism that must constantly reimagine the world and prioritize new experiences of the divine, serving to reinforce both their status as outsiders and reinforce their covenant with God. The emphasis on experience within Protestantism differs from its Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox counterparts since an established ecclesial hierarchy and value of tradition is absent or can be eliminated. New radical sect formation becomes expected rather than hindered by the established churches.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Ancestry of pietism: mysticism and early modernity -- Foundational pietism: Perkins, Arndt, and Spener -- Institutional pietism - Francke and Zinzendorf -- Denominational pietism: Wesley and the impact of institutionalized pietism -- Friedrich Schleiermacher: 1768-1834 -- Reform theology of Schleiermacher -- Soren Kierkegaard: 1813-1588 -- The Lutheran theology of Kierkegaard -- America, a holy mess -- Phoebe Palner: 1807-1874 -- The Anglican theology of Palmer -- Liberal ternds and consequences of nineteenth century pietism -- Conservative trends and consequences of nineteenth century pietism -- Conclusion, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, and Palmer pietism or pietisms