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Religion as a dimension in man's spiritual life


This brings us, lastlly, to the third charge, that God is morally intolerable. Again, it is a charge that stands. A being who 'sends' the worst into the lives of individuals or who stands aside to 'permit' it is a God who must die. But that is precisely what the Christian faith proclaims happened at Calvary. The God who could have sent 'twelve legions of angels' and did not is exposed as the God who failed even his Son. The obituary read by the atheist is valid, even if sometimes shrill.

Nothing in the Christian faith implies the rehabilitation of that God. Yet the Christian, as he looks back on the Cross from the other side of the Resurrection, sees not a world without God at its border but a world with God at its center. What it means to believe in love as the final reality is to be discerned not in the absentee controller who allows the suffering but in the crucified transfiguring figure who bears it. The New Testament 'answer' to the problem of evil is given, not majestically out of the whirlwind but agonizingly out of the darkness. As Bonhoeffer saw, in that situation 'only a suffering God chelp'. The God of the Christian faith, who alone can be 'our' God, can ultimately be revealed and responded to only as love hich takes responsibility for evil - transforming and victoriously.

For men to adjust to life in a world with that as its central reality is no intellectual exercises: it is, in Bonhoeffer's words again, to 'range themselves with God in his suffering'. That is the test he saw distinguishing Christians from unbelievers. And even among professed unbelievers there may at the point of dereliction, where the choice of our ultimate allegiance stands forth most starkly, be many who find that they cannot rail.

'For Christians, heathens alike he hangeth dead.' Such is the reality Bonhoeffer recognized as the common presuposition of our age -- replacing what he called 'the religious premise' atheists and Christians start there together. And on their walk from the tomb, sharing the disenchantment of other more facile hopes, the dialogue can begin.


Creative element of human spirit vs divine revelation. Lasting

quality of human spirit vs effect of conditions.

irrational and compulsive affirmations or negations

religion != element of man's spiritual life? gift. cannot seek out god.

diversity of religions. creation of human spirit

religion - relation to divine beings. beings - external. god -

thing beside other things?

dimension of depth in all of its functions

religion is not a separate area

tragic separation depth in the totality of the human spirit

points to the ultimate, infinite, unconditional

this is what you are willing to die for passionate longing for ultimate reality science

we can, however, reject the _symbols_

narrower sense of religion

estrangement myth, cult, symbols secular/profane split

depth, usually covered

awe inspiring. ultimate meaning. self forgetting

Ultimate concern

Validity of depth

We speak of the gravity of situations.


God is personal

... but the images merely point to the

I find


Ultimate concern

Religion as a dimension in man's spiritual life

ACWrite atheist's point of view - page 2 (2002.08.31)
ACWrite believer's point of view - page 3 (2002.08.31)
ACWrite atheist's counterview - page 4 (2002.09.02)
ACFormat references - page 5 (2002.09.04)
ACRevise paper (2002.09.05)
ACPrint reflection paper (2002.09.05)
AXDecide which article I want to reflect on (2002.08.19)
AXReview of related literature (2002.08.24)
AXSummarize article (2002.08.31)

I think I'm going to focus on Robinson's article, "Can a truly contemporary person not be an atheist?" I find it more understandable - more true to my own experience. And perhaps it can give me some hope.

John A. T. Robinson is the author of Honest to God. Wrote The New Reformation? with a chapter titled "Can A Truly Contemporary Person Not Be An Atheist?"

"Atheism In Our Time", Robert J. McCracken

Theology Today. Vol 23, No. 3. October 1966. http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/oct1966/v23-3-article1.htm:McCracken Last visited: August 23, 2002

More radical Christian thinkers: Paul van Buren, William Hamilton, Thomas J. J. Altizer.

Vatican II Rufus Jones once wrote a book which he called The Church's Debt to Heretics.

"In what sense is he alive for us?"

They deny the existence of God but nothing is plainer from their writings that they are obsessed by him, as we are not.

Practical atheism

Theoretical atheism

Doubt doubt before you doubt faith.

"Exploring faith in a changed world", Radical Faith

http://homepages.which.net/~radical.faith/subjects/atheism.htm Last visited: August 22, 2002

Atheists' arguments are on no weaker ground than believers' are.

If it's your experience that God exists, I must acknowledge the validity of your inner truth.

Emil Fackenheim: Faith in this sense can "never be destroyed by tragedy, but only tested by it." Paul Tillich and Bishop John Robinson. Established by Paul Tillich. God is the "Ground an epth of Being" who is "out there" as the sustaining basis of the universe and "in here" as a divine personal presence. Radically transcendent, versus inner experience

Honest to God

Our images of God are interpretations we make, an we must take full responsibility for them anthropomorphism

Robert Funk (Honest to Jesus)

Martin Buber, I and Thou

D. Z. Phillips in Faith After Foundationalism (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995), pp. 102-106 raises specific objections to Van Til's a

Bertrand Russell, Why I am Not a Christian

Don Cupitt

Robinson draws heavily upon Tillich


What do I believe?

What don't I believe?

How does that relate to Robinson's article?


So if

I find myself not alone in searching for meaning.

I have lost my belief in the symbols that

Radical theologians

In his essay entitled "Religion as a dimension in man's spiritual life", Paul Tillich reintroduces the idea of God as the depth and ground of our being. He highlights the tragic estrangement and narrowing of religion into a sphere separate from our daily lives, but leaves us with

"Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt. *.It is the state of being concerned about one's own being and being universally. "

"If we define religion as the state of being grasped by an infinite concern, we must say: Man in our time has lost such infinite concern."

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Sit down and smile. Don't shout.

Religious experience - Antoine Vergote

Key insight

The religious experience is the encounter with the Other, the sudden opening of our minds to the immediate presence of the sacred. It is something that you don't create; it happens to you. Vergote says that a religious experience is an encounter with the divine. During a religious experience, we become aware of the sacred through symbols that are human and terrestrial. In this encounter, we experience such contrasting feelings - tremendum and fascinosum. We are afraid and in awe, but at the same time we wonder and want to draw near.

Relationship of faith with reason

Reason, if it ends with the symbols and does not open itself to that which lies _beyond_ the symbols, is a reason that can never be reconciled with faith. A faith that relies on dogma or ritual without being the product of reflection on actual experience is a faith that cannot go hand in hand with reason. Likewise, it is all too easy to project reason or faith beyond symbols in an incorrect manner because of the ambiguities in religious experiences (hence the danger of the sacred blending with the cosmic, sexual, or demonic).

However, Vergote says that the religious experience and the feelings of awe, wonder, dependence, creatureliness, and gratitude come from our own subjective reflection about our experience. In that case, reason - our reflection on our genuine experiences - leads to faith, and faith to reason.

Faith is necessary for you to be open to the sacred realities behind the symbols.

How has this affected your life?

The sacred and the profane

key insight

the sacred manifests itself symbols are sacred because of the sacred reality they manifest. absolute reality in contrast to unreality nonhomogeneity break in space and time

relationship between faith and reason

A reason-dominated world, emptied of religious symbolism, is a world that is 'opaque and exhausting' - it reveals no meaning,

it is unreal.