“Religion is the outcome neither of the fear of death, nor of the fear of God. It answers a deep need in man. It is neither a metaphysic, nor a morality, but above all and essentially an intuition and a feeling. … Dogmas are not, properly speaking, part of religion: rather it is that they are derived from it. Religion is the miracle of direct relationship with the infinite; and dogmas are the reflection of this miracle. Similarly belief in God, and in personal immortality, are not necessarily a part of religion; one can conceive of a religion without God, and it would be pure contemplation of the universe; the desire for personal immortality seems rather to show a lack of religion, since religion assumes a desire to lose oneself in the infinite, rather than to preserve one’s own finite self.” Friedrich Schleiermacher
I didn’t read any Schleiermacher in seminary, but maybe I should have. When I read this quote of his in Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity After Religion (which is a must-read for anyone who care about the future of churches), I felt like I had found someone who “gets” me.
I’ve never had a burning bush encounter with God. Many people can point to a moment in their life when they had a tangible feeling of God’s presence with them, but that’s not me. I’m a pretty Enlightenment-minded, rationale, logical kind of guy. I don’t believe in ghosts, Atlantis, Bigfoot, government conspiracies to hide aliens, or honest politicians. I like empirical evidence.
There are times when logically, I don’t understand how I became and remain a Christian, let alone a Christian minister. The Vulcan part of me realizes that I have no evidence or proof of God. The practical side of me says that my life could be easier without my faith – I would have more money, time and energy to spend on myself and my family rather than on pesky stuff like ‘loving your neighbor’ and taking care of ‘the least of these.’
By several different standards that I use in my life Christianity just doesn’t make sense to me.
Yet, here I am.
This is where the Schleiermacher quote comes in, because when you press me to tell you why I’m a Christian, then I will say that at some deep level inside me it just feels right. Not in an emotional, touchy-feely sort of way, but in an intuitive “this is how the world is” sort of way. And even in the face of some pretty deep theological and existential crises, that intuitive feeling has not left me.
This is how my faith happens. Thanks for helping me articulate it, Freddy.