Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – Hebrews 11:1, KJV

Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. — Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, 5, 1957

Certainly God is more than “a name for that which concerns man ultimately.” Only saints are ultimately concerned with God. What concerns most of us ultimately is our ego. — Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 127, 1955

Faith, like terrorism, has many definitions. Indeed, claims of faith have motivated both ancient and the current wave of modern terrorism. But then it is not surprising that faith would be so abused. Faith is part of the human condition. You cannot prove that life is worth living, you simply take it on faith. Most of what you think you know you might be able to prove to yourself, but you have not done it nor are you likely to do so. You take that on faith, too. A basic existential faith enables you to go on, no matter how skeptical you may be. Faith is compulsory.

Some might object that this is a kind of faith that fills in the gaps left by science. But the gaps are really giant ocean floors around tiny islands of explanation. Science offers explanations of what, where, when, and how. Faith answers questions of why. The land and the water are separate domains. It is a mistake to try to make one encroach on the other.

The question is not whether we have faith. The question is how we live with it. And while Tillich may have been incorrect in describing God as the object of every person’s ultimate concern, he was right in noting that being ultimately concerned with anything less than ultimate is idolatry and will generate dread, despair, and rage if one’s idol is challenged or threatened. Consider that the Islamofascists and their enablers have conflated honor-shame culture with Islam, and consequently become violent when modernity challenges that culture. Because they seek comfort in an imagined past that they try to re-create by force, they destroy relics of the actual past that might challenge their fantasies, from the statues at Bamyan almost to Muhammad’s tomb.


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