Monday, September 26, 2016

Absolute Dependence

Friedrich Schleiermacher. Yes, I know. You never heard of him. He died in 1834. He is sometimes called the father of modern liberal theology.

The German theologian was on my mind a couple of weeks ago because I was teaching a class on the origins and content of liberal theology; not something I do that often. When I googled him to see if his name was showing up in any recent articles, oddly, there it was in a June 27 Washington Post article about Donald Trump. 

But in preparing to teach, I was reminded of something I learned about Schleiermacher more than 40 years ago: He emphasized the idea of “absolute dependence on God.”  There is considerable debate about what he really meant by that and even if it faithfully translates what he wrote in German.

However, after preparing to do my “academic thing,” I took away, on a personal level, the basic idea that real life is found in absolute dependence on God. Even from liberal theology, that we may disagree with, we can find some nuggets.

A day or two later, while in prayer I confronted the usual amount of things we have no control over, and I found, again, that this thought served me well.  It gave rest for my soul. “Whatever the circumstances,” we can rest in our “absolute dependence” on God (Philippians 4:11-13).

Of course, that is not really the whole story. I don’t think Schleiermacher talked much, if at all, about absolute surrender, but the life of wellness is found when you put the two together.


  1. This is making me really think about some things, especially as I'm studying Mathew 5. Thanks again Tom.

  2. Very timely Tom. My heart had to wrestle with some very challenging issues today.

  3. I think that's why we are told to be joyful in affliction because trials and pain cause us to cry out to God in total dependence, and it is in His bosom that we find peace,safety, contentment, assurance, rest for our souls and yes, Joy!

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  6. I am going through a tough time this year, I hear God calling me to bigger things and want to please him but i am distracted. I have begun rereading your Mind Change book and are feeling encouraged thank you for being there when I needed the advice to Overcome my thoughts of discouragement.