The concept of faith has been an extremely crucial pillar in the contemporary theology and religion. This is especially with regard to Christianity, which is primarily built on Christian faith in a supreme being. While there is an element of abstractness in the definition of faith, which makes it difficult to grasp the concept entirely, one cannot escape this abstruse problem either as it is extremely crucial to comprehend in rational terms. Varied scholars have explored the concept of faith and given varied views on the same. In “The Dynamics of Faith”, Paul Tillich states that faith goes beyond or “precedes all attempts to derive it from something else, because these attempts are themselves based on faith”.
This statement is based on the notion of faith as the ultimate concern, where Tillich sees it as a centered act that revolves around an individual’s entire being. In essence, faith incorporates the both the unconscious, as well as conscious elements (Tillich 2). For faith to be genuine, it should not simply have the unconscious as its driving force, rather it has to emanate from human freedom, otherwise it would not involve faith but compulsion. He notes that faith does not merely revolve around obedience to, what he calls, “the internalized image of the Father” since faith comes with the power to transform the image. He underlines the fact that faith, instead, is ecstatic, a statement that underlines the fact that it transcends or goes beyond both the unconscious and the conscious reasoning. On the same note, as much as faith incorporates both the unconscious and the conscious elements, it does not bear stark identity with either of them.
Tillich dismisses the notion pertaining to a “will to believe” stating that it seems to underline the capacity to step over all resistance and merely make a declaration of faith as revolving around willpower (Tillich 2). He opines that faith is not a creation of an individual’s will nor is it something that an individual merely decides to undertake. In fact, he notes that faith can never result from human will, which means that there exists no single psychological mechanism that can render an explanation as to the manner in which faith comes about. He is apprehensive and against any religious psychology that claims to incorporate the capacity to reduce the concept of faith to the predisposing psychological processes (Gerhart and Fabian 663).
In supporting the notion of faith as preceding all efforts to derive develop it from something else, Tillich examines the source of faith or rather the ultimate concern. He states that as much as human beings belong in the finite and temporal realm, they incorporate an intuitive or innate sense of an entirely different realm, which he calls “the realm of the unconditioned” (Tillich 2). It is noteworthy that the eternal realm or the realm of the unconditioned is not subject to time and space, rather it goes beyond individuals yet individuals feel that they belong to it. He underlines the fact that the awareness of infinite realm to which an individual belongs drives him to faith. It is worth noting that man, despite the consciousness of the infinite realm to which he belongs, does not own it like he would a possession (Cooper 124). The experience revolves around the depths of life, or rather a fascination, as well as a yearning for the mysteries pertaining to the existence. In essence, faith, which must exist in the finite and conditioned world, revolves around the unconditioned and infinite world.
On the same note, symbols have to be used in any discussion pertaining to the unconditioned world. This is because all language is finite or restricted and conditional, which implies that that languages are socially, culturally, as well as historically situated thereby coming with all the marks pertaining to finitude. It is impossible to have the realm of the unconditioned translated using vocabularies pertaining to the conditioned. Symbols come with the ability to open up to an entirely new realm of existence or being (Cooper 125). As much as it is impossible to take symbols literary, it is worth noting that they take part in the reality to which they point. Tillich notes that there is nothing that individuals can say about the Divine that is true in its literal meaning, thanks to human finitude and temporality. There is no way that religion can exist without the language of symbols. As much as there is truth in the statement that all faith incorporates a content, the content must be comprehended in a symbolic manner. These symbols must point to something beyond themselves, take part in the reality that they point to, and open up realities’ levels that are not available ordinarily (Cooper 126). In addition, symbol cannot be invented nor can they be intentionally produced, rather they grow from the individual, as well as the collective conscious.
This view is entirely different from the perspectives outlined by other Marx and Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach opines that theology is essentially an external picture of the human psyche. He notes that religion reveals individuals to themselves not to God, telling them about their metaphysical realm. It is worth noting that human beings are a reflection of their best qualities onto the image of a divine being, with the projection being unconscious. He states that human beings created God out of their own psyches, which is why human beings feel empty while worshiping their own abilities in an imaginary God. Unfortunately, this results in massive self-alienation. Feuerbach opines that all the good and desirable aspects of human beings are projected to God, while they have psychological leftovers, which are what human beings condemn. This means that God, in a way robs human beings of their goodness as they are preoccupied with handing it over to Him. They personify their own projected perfection as a deity that is entirely independent from them and then make a miserable comparison to the image. In essence, religious beliefs and faith give no metaphysical message, rather they tell human beings about their own alienated potential, as far as psychology is concerned. In essence, God does not become human, rather God emanates from human imagination. Human beings can only regain their rightful place in the universe through taking back the goodness that they gave to God, thereby affirming their own potential. This is the same idea that is outlined by Karl Marx, who states that religion is merely an expression of the economic injustices and material realities. In essence, problems are essentially problems within the society. It is a symptom and not the disease. Oppressors use religion to make people feel better with regard to the distress that they experience thanks to being exploited and poor.
However, Tillich rebuffs Feuerbach’s notion of projection of images of God stating that these are images of subhuman powers or human power that has been elevated to superhuman realms. He noted that the fact is essentially the basis for all “projection” theories that underline the notion that gods are merely imaginary projections or reflection of elements of finitude, which are human and natural elements. He states that theories such as the ones underlined by Feuerbach disregard the fact that any projection must be made on something, which can be a screen, wall, another realm or being (Cooper 127). It is undoubtedly illogical and meaningless to place that which the projection is realized on in the same class as the projection itself. He notes that screens receive projections but are not projected. In the same way, the realm on which images of the Divine are projected cannot be placed in the same class as the projection itself. It is essentially the realm of the ultimate concern, the experienced ultimacy pertaining to meaning and being or existence. As much as the will be some elements of the human psyche that will be projected on the images of the Divine, this can never amount to a sufficient basis for dismissing the reality pertaining to the transcendent realm on which the projections are made. This state of becoming ultimately concerned is what is faith. On Karl Marx’s ideas, Tillich states that human beings are concerned about numerous things especially those on which their existence is pegged. However, they go beyond the concerns of other living creatures and clamor for spiritual things that are political, social, cognitive and aesthetic. Some concerns are extremely urgent, thereby demanding ultimacy or the total surrender of the individual with other concerns being relegated to the periphery. If spiritual concerns claim ultimacy, other things such as justice and humanity, cognitive truth, aesthetic, family and health have to be sacrificed.
Cooper, Terry D. Paul Tillich and Psychology: Historic and Contemporary Explorations in Theology, Psychotherapy, and Ethics. Macon, GA: Mercer Univ. Press, 2005. Print.
Gerhart, Mary, and Fabian E. Udoh. The Christianity Reader. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. Print.
Tillich, Paul. Dynamics of Faith. New York: Harper, 1985. Print.