Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Problem of Addressing Medieval Religion

The requirement to consider medieval religion and its relationship to medieval architecture can be difficult for contemporary minds. The difference between the two periods in time can be extraordinary. After the medieval period serious doubts arose about the objective claims of religion, and of Christian revelation. The support of religious faith no longer exists, especially after critiques of the proofs for God's existence. The nature of the mind ceased to reflect the nature of the divinely ordered cosmos, and man was expected to order the world around himself. It follows that man is autonomous, and no place is allowed for God, as any notion of an order above man intrudes upon man's autonomy.

To adequately consider medieval religion we must restore theoretical support for religious faith, and understand what role subjective experience plays within religion. Furthermore we must come to some consideration of what subjective religious experience can tell us about objective reality. For the medieval thinker, God was sought as the object of religious experience, and not only as a keystone within a philosophical system. Religious man sought a complete surrender to a totality which transcends the self, although the self is part of it. The religious search for God is a search for God as he is in himself, that is, insofar as he is transcendent.

Contemporary thinkers have attempted to solve the problem of legitimating religious experience. Schleiermacher showed how feeling overcomes the subject-object opposition, and Kierkegaard challenged Kant's view of freedom. Autonomous freedom, for Kierkegaard, was bound to fail, and in its failure inevitably encounters the question of transcendence.

Medieval Christian religion held religious experience to be the exclusive source of objective knowledge, even though such terminology would not have been used. It follows that medieval architecture would be a physical manifestation of the knowledge gained from religious experience and Christian revelation.