Guide Pauls language about God

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The story of salvation concerns the entire cosmos; and it is a story of invasion, conquest, spoliation and triumph.

Paul's Language about God

In the Letter to the Galatians, he even hints that the angel of the Lord who rules over Israel might be one of their number. Whether fallen, or mutinous, or merely incompetent, these beings stand intractably between us and God. But Christ has conquered them all. In descending to Hades and ascending again through the heavens, Christ has vanquished all the Powers below and above that separate us from the love of God, taking them captive in a kind of triumphal procession.

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God himself, rather than wicked or inept spiritual intermediaries, will rule the cosmos directly. Sometimes, Paul speaks as if some human beings will perish along with the present age, and sometimes as if all human beings will finally be saved. He never speaks of some hell for the torment of unregenerate souls. And, in varying registers, so do most of the texts of the New Testament. As I say, it is a conceptual world very remote from our own.

For one thing, the ancient picture of reality might be in many significant respects more accurate than ours. But, before we decide anything at all about that story, we must first recover it from the very different stories that we so frequently tell in its place. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Templeton Religion Trust.

Funders to Aeon Magazine are not involved in editorial decision-making, including commissioning or content approval. Kate Kirkpatrick. Nigel T Rothfels. Become a Friend of Aeon to save articles and enjoy other exclusive benefits Make a donation.

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Life remains ambiguous as long as there is life. The question implied in the ambiguities of life derives to a new question, namely, that of the direction in which life moves.


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This is the question of history. Systematically speaking, history, characterized as it is by its direction toward the future, is the dynamic quality of life. Therefore, the "riddle of history" is a part of the problem of life.

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Tillich stated the courage to take meaninglessness into oneself presupposes a relation to the ground of being: absolute faith. The first element is the experience of the power of being which is present even in the face of the most radical manifestation of non being. If one says that in this experience vitality resists despair, one must add that vitality in man is proportional to intentionality.

The vitality that can stand the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning. The second element in absolute faith is the dependence of the experience of nonbeing on the experience of being and the dependence of the experience of meaninglessness on the experience of meaning. Even in the state of despair one has enough being to make despair possible. There is a third element in absolute faith, the acceptance of being accepted. Of course, in the state of despair there is nobody and nothing that accepts.

But there is the power of acceptance itself which is experienced. Meaninglessness, as long as it is experienced, includes an experience of the "power of acceptance". To accept this power of acceptance consciously is the religious answer of absolute faith, of a faith which has been deprived by doubt of any concrete content, which nevertheless is faith and the source of the most paradoxical manifestation of the courage to be. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , Tillich believes the essence of religious attitudes is what he calls "ultimate concern".

Separate from all profane and ordinary realities, the object of the concern is understood as sacred, numinous or holy. The perception of its reality is felt as so overwhelming and valuable that all else seems insignificant, and for this reason requires total surrender. Man, like every living being, is concerned about many things, above all about those which condition his very existence If [a situation or concern] claims ultimacy it demands the total surrender of him who accepts this claim Tillich further refined his conception of faith by stating that, "Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality.

It is the most centered act of the human mind An arguably central component of Tillich's concept of faith is his notion that faith is "ecstatic".


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That is to say:. It transcends both the drives of the nonrational unconsciousness and the structures of the rational conscious In short, for Tillich, faith does not stand opposed to rational or nonrational elements reason and emotion respectively , as some philosophers would maintain. Rather, it transcends them in an ecstatic passion for the ultimate. It should also be noted that Tillich does not exclude atheists in his exposition of faith.

Everyone has an ultimate concern, and this concern can be in an act of faith, "even if the act of faith includes the denial of God.

Everything you know about the Gospel of Paul is likely wrong | Aeon Ideas

Where there is ultimate concern, God can be denied only in the name of God" [43]. Throughout most of his works Paul Tillich provides an apologetic and alternative ontological view of God. Traditional medieval philosophical theology in the work of figures such as St. Anselm , Duns Scotus , and William of Ockham tended to understand God as the highest existing Being [ citation needed ] , to which predicates such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, goodness, righteousness, holiness, etc. Arguments for and against the existence of God presuppose such an understanding of God. Tillich is critical of this mode of discourse which he refers to as "theological theism," and argues that if God is Being [das Seiende], even if the highest Being, God cannot be properly called the source of all being, and the question can of course then be posed as to why God exists, who created God, when God's beginning is, and so on.

To put the issue in traditional language: if God is 'being' [das Seiende], then God is a creature, even if the highest one, and thus cannot be the Creator. Rather, God must be understood as the "ground of Being-Itself". The problem persists in the same way when attempting to determine whether God is an eternal essence, or an existing being, neither of which are adequate, as traditional theology was well aware.

The question then becomes whether and in what way personal language about God and humanity's relationship to God is appropriate. In distinction to "theological theism", Tillich refers to another kind of theism as that of the "divine-human encounter". Such is the theism of the encounter with the "Wholly Other" "Das ganz Andere" , as in the work of Karl Barth and Rudolf Otto , and implies a personalism with regard to God's self-revelation.

Tillich is quite clear that this is both appropriate and necessary, as it is the basis of the personalism of Biblical Religion altogether and the concept of the "Word of God", [46] but can become falsified if the theologian tries to turn such encounters with God as the Wholly Other into an understanding of God as a being. Tillich's ontological view of God has precedent in Christian theology. Many theologians, especially those in the Hellenistic or Patristic period of Christianity's history that corresponds with the Church Fathers, understood God as the "unoriginate source" agennetos of all being.

Their views in turn had pre-Christian precedents in middle Platonism. Tillich further argues that theological theism is not only logically problematic, but is unable to speak into the situation of radical doubt and despair about meaning in life. This issue, he said, was of primary concern in the modern age, as opposed to anxiety about fate, guilt, death and condemnation.

If God is not the ground of being itself, then God cannot provide an answer to the question of finitude; God would also be finite in some sense. The term "God Above God," then, means to indicate the God who appears, who is the ground of being itself, when the "God" of theological theism has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.

The possibility thus exists, says Tillich, that religious symbols may be recovered which would otherwise have been rendered ineffective by contemporary society. Tillich argues that the God of theological theism is at the root of much revolt against theism and religious faith in the modern period. Tillich states, sympathetically, that the God of theological theism.

I revolt and make him into an object, but the revolt fails and becomes desperate. God appears as the invincible tyrant, the being in contrast with whom all other beings are without freedom and subjectivity. He is equated with the recent tyrants who with the help of terror try to transform everything into a mere object, a thing among things, a cog in a machine they control. He becomes the model of everything against which Existentialism revolted. This is the God Nietzsche said had to be killed because nobody can tolerate being made into a mere object of absolute knowledge and absolute control.

This is the deepest root of atheism.

It is an atheism which is justified as the reaction against theological theism and its disturbing implications.