And then that odd Danish hunchback, a man who pre-emptively dumped the love of his life because he thought he (not she) had a bad personality. Bow down to Soren Kierkegaard, sarcastically arguing for a passionate, struggling faith, one full of “fear and trembling,” in Paul’s phrase, and a radical submission to a God that is absurd.
And then all this Otherness is watered down, in a gradual process, like a cat growing old. Hegel and Baruch Spinoza talk about a God that – far from being utterly apart from creation – actually was creation; that God and matter are the same. And the so-called first Quest for the Historical Jesus, wherein brave souls such as David Strauss get fired and die in shame-based circumstances simply for arguing that miracles don’t happen.
Miracles do happen, my friends. Just not to you.
And for the record, Thomas Jefferson, most elegant of Founding Fathers, did not believe that Jesus was divine. (Some modern political parties would be shocked – outraged – to discover just how skeptical the Framers were.)
We’re in the 19th century. And religion is getting anonymized. That is Deism, Natural Theology, academic Protestants – everyone in a rush to define the big Faith under all the little faiths. We can blame the Reformation, I think: with no command center, no network of monasteries and convents to contain the passions of the devout and the insane, it gives an impression of confusion.
As we move on, we find the German Friedrich Schleiermacher writing On Religion, a beautiful little book that begins the very same Liberal theology Barth rejects a century later. Schleiermacher has a kind of soft, mystical quality that we here at the God Project Dot Net find very appealing. What he says is hard to deny: that religion is never wholly rational, that it is a “feeling of ultimate dependence.”
Note that feeling?
Now, we’d like to skip over Kant because we don’t quite get him. We never will. What can we say about a person who discovered the space-time continuum just by thinking hard enough? Yikes. He defended God, “proved” there was life after death. Surprised?
The 18th century. A few, very few, philosophers and men of independent means become more skeptical, even as there’s the Second Great Awakening, and the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Jewish Hasidism.