Tillich's Dynamics of Faith

Tillich's "Dynamics of Faith" by Jack Kilcrease


A. Book Synopsis

In his work "Dynamics of Faith" theologian and philosopher of religion, Paul Tillich examines the nature of what it means for a person to have faith. In the first chapter entitled "What Faith is" Tillich argues that faith is a state of being ultimately concerned about something unconditionally. On the first page Tillich states "Faith is the sate of being ultimatelly concerned......If it (the object of faith) claims ultimacy it demands the total surrender of him who accepts this claim, and it promises total fulfillment even if all others have claim to be subjected to it or rejected in its name" (Tillich, 1). Tillich goes on to explain that this unconditional concern can take religious or non-religious form. He gives the example of Jewish faith in the Lord God as a form of ultimated concern expressed religiously, and the concern for money and social status as a non-religious form of faith. For the individual faith is concern with what is considered to be of infinite importance.

He goes on to further develop the theme by stating that faith is a centering act of the entire personality. Tillich states "Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements " (Tillich, 4). Therefore to Tillich, faith is something integrative to the life of the person. He says that includes all elements of the personality, both conscious and unconscious, although it is a conscious act, it causes the unconscious elements of the personality are taken into the center of the personality and they transcend themselves.

This integration ever takes on doubt. Doubt is integrated with all other elements of the personality. An elements of doubt is important to faith because it gives a "inspite of" character to faith. The individual continues to have faith although they do not have total surety as to whether or not their faith is misplaced. This makes faith an act of courage.

Having defined what faith is, Tillich then describes what faith is no. To Tillich, faith is completely emptional. He says this is a false distortion that has arisen for Schleimacher's notion of a felling of absolute dependence; this notion of faith has relegated to the emotional and cut out the intellectual. It is not merely an intellectual assent to certain beliefs as was the scholastic distortion and it is not volintaristic as was the Protestant distortion. Tillich holds the being an act of the total personality it incorporates all of the above elements into the creation of true faith.

Tillich goes on to discuss the object of faith which are symbols which expresses the ultimate concern in a concert finite way. The symbols work in a story form and express a mythology. Symbols arise from the collective unconscious and genuine standing in the human mind. Only myth can express the ultimate concern and broken myth (which is a myth properly interpreted) can continue to express the ultimate concern in so far as it is understood properly.

He discuses different kinds of faith and tells us that they have unity in so far as they focus on the ultimate concern. He also discusses the relationship between faith and science, history, and philosophy. He states that if the ultimate concern is really ultimate it will not be bothered by the conclusions history, science or philosophy. After all, the symbolic form which the ultimate concern is not he ultimate itself, but only a way to expres that which is ultimate. A faith is true only if it expresses that which is ultimate.

In the last section, Tillich discusses the nature of the life of faith. In it he discusses the nature of faith as having courage. That is there is an "inspite of" element of faith. Secondly, he restates faith's integrative quality. Faith is an integrator of personality. Finally, he states that faith always excises in community with others and that the community's faith and symbols are expressed in the indivudual.

B. Analysis and Criticism

Overall, Tillich's argument about the nature of faith seems to be consistent. Nevertheless, there seems to be problems with the understanding of symbols. If a community recognizes its symbols in the form of a broken myth, do no those symbols cease to have power? He believes that they continue to have power because they merely mediate between what is really ultimate and the finitude of the behavior. Although this may work in the case of Judaism and Christianity, which are religion based purely on the intervention of God in history?

Christianity and Judaism both point to specific acts of God in history as sources for their religions. For Christians in particular the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are a matter of ultimate concern. If not, many Christian apologist have argued-the first one being St. Paul - our faith is in vain, God has no given us any kind of relevation or salvation from Jesus Christ. When the story that has given the community meaning has lost it's empirical basis, the community tends to find another concert element to focus on. Christian communities for example, that have relegated the resurrection to the status of myth usually cease to see it as a matter of ultimate concern. Instead as most liberal Protestant denominations have done, social progress becomes the ultimate concern.

Overall, Tillich fails to provide an empirical basis for religion. The non-historical religions as were mention before have an empirical basis for religion in meditation, that is to say their experience of the ultimate is concert because they have empirically experienced it. The. Judeo-Christian tradition was provided with such a basis by history. If their "Sacred History" is relegated to myth they have no concert basis for religion.