Wil Roese's Reviews > Dynamics of Faith

Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich
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Sep 23, 10

Read in October, 2009

Paul Tillich defines faith as being in a state of ultimate concern or loving something with all our mind, body and spirit Examples of an object of our ultimate concern include money, success, God, and our nation. The object of our ultimate concern becomes our god. If we put our faith in something other than the ultimate, than that faith can be destructive. Therefore, there is always a risk in faith and this risk causes doubt. This doubt is overcome by courage which is one aspect of faith. Faith involves the whole personality: our intellect, our will, and our emotions. Faith must be distinguished from belief although belief is an aspect of faith. Therefore arguments for a belief or even a will to have a belief can not produce faith alone. The emotional aspect of faith is the feeling of unconditional dependence but again faith can not be limited to an emotional feeling.

We can only express the object of our ultimate concern symbolically as the object itself is beyond our grasp. Here Tillich makes the distinction between a sign and a symbol. Wile both point to some reality beyond themselves a sign does so only by convention while a symbol participates in that reality to which it points. Symbols reveal a reality that can not be understood without them and also reveal a before hidden, corresponding area of our soul. Works of art can act as symbols in these ways. Symbols can not be invented but come to have a life of their own. Faith goes beyond belief in a story/myth to acceptance of the ultimate concern to which the story symbolically points. Accepting the story literally destroys its symbolic meaning and makes it unable to point us to the ultimate. The literal interpretation of the story comes from belief in a god confined to space and time and makes the symbol an idol.

Tillich next discusses two types of faith; ontological faith and moral faith. Oncologic faith is the faith of being. It is the experience of the ultimate. Moral faith is the faith to be what the ultimate intended us to be. There is a constant tension between these two forms of faith.

Faith and reason are thought to be in conflict with each other only by those who misunderstand the true meaning of faith. Reason is what makes us human and any "faith" that tries to destroy reason is dehumanizing. Faith is built on reason for it takes reason to distinguish our ultimate concern from our other concerns. Tillich defines reason as the "meaningful structure of the mind and reality." Although faith is based on reason it is not confined to reason but reaches out to that with is beyond the grasp of reason, for our reason is finite. Faith is the ultimate fulfillment of reason. Science deals with the physical universe and faith deals with our ultimate concern which is beyond the physical universe. Conflicts occur when science tries to deal with issues beyond the physical universe or faith tries to deal with issues of the physical universe. The relationship between faith and philosophy, in the traditional sense, is more complicated because they both deal with ultimate reality but faith uses symbols and philosophy uses concepts. The reason for the different tools is the fact that the philosophy remains distinct from the ultimate reality/concern. In the symbol of God are the concepts of life, being, sprit, and love. In the symbol of the fall is the concept of man's estrangement from his essential nature.

The truthfulness of our faith can be looked at subjectively and objectively. Our faith is subjectively true if it what we are really ultimately concerned about and it is objectively true if it what is really the ultimate. There can be no faith without the participation of that which is ultimate. If there is no revelation of the ultimate, than man can not have faith in this ultimate. Faith, as our ultimate concern, integrates all other aspects of our life. Love is an inseparable aspect of faith. True love contains both eros and agape. Acton is the expression of love. Not only does faith exist in community but there can be no community of any kind without a shared faith. One faith can only be attacked by another faith.
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