Saturday, June 27, 2009

True Faith's Paradox

I am going to be talking to a couple of young men in the next few weeks about philosophy and theology. Both are thoughtful, intelligent, youth pastors at conservative churches. When I think about what is essential to faith and what is not I keep coming back to the Tillich quote below. It is helpful to frame it by first considering a point well expressed in a comment, posted on the Templeton Foundation’s Big Question site—one I agree with while being unambiguously Christian. It’s important to get one’s head around this “point” if we are to have a compelling approach to our faith in our multicultural society.

RE: Whole Series
I don't think that science makes belief in God obsolete. We will simply never be able to prove or disprove the existence of God. However, I think science (and history) DO make religion obsolete. It is simply an arrogent and psychological flaw to believe that God endorses a specific group's particular beliefs (and traditions) over others.

That a universal creator would share his divine secret among one group (or actually a select group, which preaches to the rest of the group) and allow the rest of the world to be fooled by "false" or "lesser" religions is utterly ridiculous.

This quote from Paul Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith forms a nice counterpoint to “David’s” comment above.

“[Christian faith] must also apply against itself the criterion which it uses against other forms of faith. Every type of faith has the tendency to elevate its concrete symbols to absolute validity. The criterion of the truth of faith, therefore, is that it implies an element of self-negation. That symbol is most adequate which expresses not only the ultimate but also its own lack of ultimacy. Christianity expresses itself in such a symbol in contrast to all other religions, namely, the cross of Christ. Jesus could not have been the Christ without sacrificing himself as Jesus to himself as the Christ. Any acceptance of Jesus as the Christ which is not the acceptance of Jesus the crucified is a form of idolatry.”

It will be fun--and I hope productive and helpful--to talk to Jeremy and Alex about this point of view.

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