Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich

by Stephen Barkley | Dynamics of Faith is a very thoughtful book which deserves a careful reading. There are elements on every page to evaluate theologically.

One of the greatest books ever written on the subject, Dynamics of Faith is a primer in the philosophy of religion. Paul Tillich, a leading theologian of the twentieth century, explores the idea of faith in all its dimensions, while defining the concept in the process.

Faith is a big word which points towards an even bigger concept. In the New Testament, faith stands for a deep trust and belief. In Dynamics of Faith, Tillich offers his take on this concept. Put succinctly:

Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned” (1).

This, of course, is an expansion on the New Testament’s idea of deep trust and belief in a person—Tillich’s faith comes from a philosophical viewpoint which engages all religions. While Christian faith in the person of Jesus Christ falls under his definition of “being ultimately concerned,” so do many other faiths, even secular and national faiths.

Dynamics of Faith is a very thoughtful book which deserves a careful reading. There are elements on every page to evaluate theologically.

Tillich does a fine job at clearing away some of the misunderstandings of faith. Faith is no mere “act of knowledge that has a low degree of evidence” (31), nor is it “the feeling of unconditional dependence” (38) à la Schleiermacher.

Another strength of this book is Tillich’s acceptance of doubt as part of faith. Consider this argument (that has been picked up today by Peter Rollins):

If faith is understood as belief that something is true, doubt is incompatible with the act of faith. If faith is understood as being ultimately concerned, doubt is a necessary element in it. It as a consequence of the risk of faith” (18).

What a powerfully pastoral idea! Doubt could actually be part of faith rather than an enemy of it.

My biggest problem with Tillich’s argument came with his separation between the ultimate and other fields of study. When explaining potential conflicts between faith and science, history, and philosophy, he strongly asserted the need to keep these realms separate:

Science has no right and no power to interfere with faith and faith has no power to interfere with science. One dimension of meaning is not able to interfere with another dimension” (81-2).

Of course, if you understand the incarnation as the hypostatic union between God and humanity, then dimensional interference is precisely what happened!

Dynamics of Faith was published in 1957. Now, over 62 years later, it is still a good way to spark meaningful theological discussion and thought on one of the biggest theological categories in scripture.

Stephen Barkley is a writer who pastors a great congregation in Bracebridge, Ontario—the heart of cottage country. He plays several instruments, read plenty of books, and paddle his canoes into remote locations….where he get inspirations. Stephen is blessed with a loving wife and two boys who kept him very busy. You can follow Stephen on his website at http://stephenbarkley.com/ or on Twitter .



The Life and Teachings Of Jesus Christ

by Bible Scripture | “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Gospel of John 1:14 (Image of Raphael of Urbino, Italy – St. Paul preaching in Athens at the Areopagus before – biblescripture.net)

The point of origin and central figure of the Christian faith is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem (Luke 2), in fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures such as Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2. St. Joseph took his wife Mary and the infant Jesus on the Flight to Egypt to avoid Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2). Upon their return, the Holy Family settled in Nazareth, where Jesus grew and spent his childhood and early years as an adult. Hardly anything is known of his life at that time except that he was called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23) and that at age 12 he was found teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:46).  

The life of Jesus is best described in the Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, while his teachings are presented by all the writers of the New Testament of the Bible. 

Jesus of Nazareth began his public ministry when he was about thirty years old. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus gave us the Eight Beatitudes, affirmed the Ten Commandments of God, and taught us the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule. He spent much of his ministry by the Sea of Galilee, preaching in such towns as Capernaum (John 6:59), Bethsaida (Mark 8:22), and Magdala (Matthew 15:39), and surrounding places such as Cana (John 2:1-11) and Tyre (Mark 7:24-30). He revealed to us the mystery of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20), known as the Holy Trinity in the Church. When his hour came near, he headed toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).  

Jesus often taught in parables, an ancient Eastern literary genre. A parable is a narrative that presents comparisons to teach an important moral lesson. The Parables are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Some parables are common to all three Synoptic Gospels, such as the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, and Luke 8:4-15). Examples of parables unique to each Gospel are the Weeds Among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30) and the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16); the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29); the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), and the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). 

Jesus performs many miracles, demonstrating his power over nature and spirits, and thus confirming that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). In a physical miracle, such as making the blind see, or walking on water, or calming a storm, the laws of the universe are suspended through divine intervention. In a moral miracle, such as forgiveness of sins or driving out demons, the blessing of Jesus purifies the spirit. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus performed a physical miracle, healing the paralytic, to demonstrate a moral miracle, the forgiveness of sins. Only three miracles appear in all four Gospels – his own Resurrection, the greatest miracle of them all, the healing of the blind, and the feeding of the 5000 through the multiplication of the loaves.  

His public ministry lasted about three years, prior to his Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. Jesus taught transformation of the inner person. His mission was one of love, mercy, and peace (John 15:12-13). 

Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of salvation history and the mediator and fullness of all revelation. See our home page Jesus Christ for further discussion. 1-10

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Leaving Patriarchy in the Past

Book Title: Our Rating: 4 Stars – Excellent
Book Title: Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism
Author: by John G. Stackhouse Jr. 
Publisher: IVP Academic
Release Date: November 2, 2015
Pages: 208
Price: $16.61
Buy Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism from Amazon
 
What are the proper, God-ordained roles for men and women—within the church, the family, the workplace, and broader society? In answering these questions, conservative evangelicals often identify as “complementarians” (men and women have distinct, complementary roles), while their counterparts call themselves “egalitarians” (men and women collaborate in fulfilling responsibilities given equally to both).

John G. Stackhouse Jr., the Canadian evangelical scholar and commentator, cuts across these familiar alignments in his new book. As a self-styled “conservative egalitarian,” he parts company with liberal feminists who reject Scripture for promoting a timeless patriarchy. But he also finds fault with evangelical egalitarians who reinterpret numerous passages to say something other than what the church has historically believed them to say.

In Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism (IVP Academic), Stackhouse acknowledges that various New Testament passages advance a sweepingly complementarian viewpoint. He maintains, however, that once a culture has left its patriarchal origins behind, these passages are no longer meant to be obeyed.

The book identifies a double tradition in Scripture regarding slavery and the status of women. In each case, there are passages that appear to bless the status quo, while other words and themes gesture in liberating directions. Stackhouse resolves the tension by viewing affirmations of the status quo as temporary—meant to be superseded, in time, by the larger message of liberty.

Stackhouse recognizes that most egalitarians will find his position too conservative. In mainstream Muslim cultures, for instance, he discourages Christians from trumpeting women’s rights too loudly, for the sake of preserving evangelistic opportunities. Nor will “soft complementarians” find Stackhouse a reliable ally, since he insists that “problem passages” from Paul and Peter mean what the vast majority of Christians in history understood them to mean: significant restrictions on women’s leadership roles inside and outside the church, and submission to male headship in marriage.

Stackhouse also dismisses the standard approach of biblical feminists, who point to historical, cultural, and linguistic reasons for not taking these passages as patriarchal in their original settings. Why, he asks, would God allow the church to misunderstand them so completely for so long?

Today, at least in the West, Stackhouse would have us jettison complementarian approaches because of the likelihood that they will impede the spread of the gospel. Women who are appropriately gifted and trained must step up to the plate and lead. Stackhouse has an excellent catalog of reasons why women often fail to lead, even when men want them to. Men, he concedes, are often at fault, because they insist that women conform to male leadership styles.

Stackhouse’s analysis always repays careful consideration. But disagreements are sure to arise. Strong complementarians will no doubt object that Stackhouse fails to demonstrate that the key New Testament passages should be set aside as societies embrace new gender norms. Egalitarians will probably point to times when Christians led the way in emancipation efforts. They’ll caution that if believers wait for societies to progress beyond patriarchy before supporting women’s rights, the wait will be intolerably long.

With few exceptions (he occasionally labels opposing views as “ludicrous”), Stackhouse writes with a self-effacing, respectful spirit. He does not pretend to have the final word on gender roles and male–female relationships. Partners in Christ encourages believers to adopt the position with the fewest practical problems, rather than the one that ties up all loose ends. As important as it is to analyze (and debate) the Bible’s take on gender roles, our disagreements shouldn’t prevent us from coming together to love, serve, and advance the kingdom of God.

Craig L. Blomberg teaches New Testament at Denver Seminary.