6. Immediate Revelation or the Basest Idolatry? Theology and Religious Experience
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
In this paper, we will explore theology’s ambivalence towards religious experience as a ‘particular set of distinguishable experiences’. It will consider the fact that ‘experience’ of some sort or another has been crucial in Christian history, but that this has not necessarily been the primary consideration in the formation of systematic theology. Augustine will be considered as an example of this, demonstrating that the reading of Augustine’s experiences has been skewed by William James’s analysis of religious experience and that alternative readings are possible. We will then move to epistemological considerations which might suggest how religious experience can contribute to theological discussion before looking at a particular example from the work of Catherine Barsotti who claimed to have had a formative religious experience while watching a film.