Criteria for the interpretation of charismatic experience: An epistemology of charismatic experience

Middlemiss, David (1995) Criteria for the interpretation of charismatic experience: An epistemology of charismatic experience. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis is an attempt to discover ways of assessing the cognitive claims made on the basis of charismatic experience. The thesis argues that the charismatic movement is an 'enthusiastic' movement, in the older seventeenth and eighteenth century sense of the word. According to writers such as Locke, Edwards, Lenin, Wesley and Swift, the essence of enthusiasm is a substitution of reasonable assessment in favor of claims to be the recipient of divine revelation. The thesis argues that it is this distinctive epistemology that is also the starting point and determining feature of many parts of the modern charismatic experience. In order to assess the charismatic movement, one must consequently focus on this determining epistemology. Its other features are implications, or symptoms of this essential trait. To effect this analysis, the thesis sifts through the available epistemological options and concludes that the best available means of achieving this is by the use of a 'cumulative case' argument. The complexity of this process is significantly increased because the competing theories involved are based in different paradigms. Although it is not easy to do, it is possible in principle to make a rational choice between competing paradigms, again by the use of a cumulative argument. The thesis illustrates the necessity of cumulative argumentation by demonstrating the equivocal results of attempting to assess charismatic experience on the basis of a single criterion of assessment. This is important to note because a significant proportion of the contemporary literature written both in support of and in opposition to charismatic experience does not allow for the necessity of cumulative argument, and is consequently undermined by the conclusions of the thesis. A number of criteria are suggested which can aid in making a judgment between different theories in the context of charismatic experience. These are more commonly used in epistemology, but it is original to apply them to charismatic experience. The thesis is also original in its main thrust, which is an attempt to assess the epistemology of charismatic experience. This central quest is the result of another significant aspect, which is to demonstrate the notable similarities between 'enthusiasm' and charismatic experience, thereby opening up a whole body of older literature which is directly applicable to the charismatic movement. The use of a cumulative 'case argument' has become more widely accepted in the field of epistemology, and in some attempts to assess religious experience in general, but it is unique to apply this specifically to charismatic experience.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: David Houston
Keywords: Religion
Date of Award: 1995
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1995-71697
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 09:31
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71697

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