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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Dymanics of Faith- my first thoughts

     The mark of a gifted writer or thinker is the enduring legacy of their work. By that standard, Paul Tillich is a profoundly gifted philosopher and theologian, with work that has only just begun it's half-life.  Tillich's The Dynamics of Faith, originally published in 1957, is as coherent and though provoking as it was over fifty years ago.  
     Tillich wrote this seminal work on the nature and characteristic of faith during the heyday of scientific modernism, in which the supremacy of the human mind and limitless nature of scientific inquiry were virtually unquestioned in academic circles, Tillich wrote with whit and substance about the ethereal subject of faith.  His words read with a remarkable air of freshness in this postmodern age.  
     Faith was and still is one of most misunderstood words in the English language.  "There is hardly a word in the religious language . . . which is subject to more misunderstandings, distortions, and questionable definitions than the word, "faith. (introduction)"'  Is this not true to the extreme?  The definition of faith is a totally individual one, devoid of any ultimate meaning from which we draw our own personal understanding.  However, when anything has infinite meaning, it essentially has no meaning.  Faith has essentially become meaningless because to many because it has no defined character.  Tillich in this book begins to attempt to define for us again the essential character of faith.  [Faith] "belongs to those terms which need healing before they can be used for the healing of men."
     So the question naturally follows, what is faith for Tillich?  He opens his first chapter like this, "Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned: the dynamics of faith are the dynamics of man's ultimate concern.(p.1)"  Faith then is basically one of the most foundational elements of our being.  It would follow then that all human beings are deserving of the moniker, "person of faith," even atheists.  For, as Tillich later claims, the content of your faith is inconsequential, belief is inescapable.
     If his assertion that faith is a foundational element of human existence is true, isn't the the pursuit of an ultimate standard of the definition of faith vitally important.  Our definition of who we are as people of faith, is tantamount to who we are as beings created in the image of God.  This book then serves a much more important function then mere philosophical inquiry.  It serves as an explanation of the paradigm for how we approach our creator God, faith.
     Obviously, I have a very high regard for this work.  I will be spending some time in the next couple of weeks really pouring over the content of this book.  You are more than welcome to join, conversation is more interesting than lecture anyway right?
     

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