• Faith and Its Language

    Karlfried Froehlich (see profile)
    Experience (Religion), Faith, Language and languages, Hermeneutics, Christian life--Biblical teaching
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    Jonathan Edwards, Drewerman, creeds, liturgy, experiential faith, inspired Bible, Conversion, biblical language, Spirituality, Galatians 1
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    Starting with Jonathan Edwards for whom this lectureship is named, the author highlights the central role of experience in the understanding of the Christian faith in Edward's own century, in Schleiermacher und Karl Barth, and the re-emergence of the emphasis on experiential faith in recent theology where it is a reaction to the erosion of the blind trust in scientific progress. In Biblical studies the exclusive reliance on historical-critical exegesis is being questioned by critics such as Eugen Drewermann as well as feminist and liberation theologians who stress the need for introducing experiential reality into the process of exegesis in order to regain the dynamics of revival and conversion in church and society. The author cautions, however, that experience alone is not sufficient as the basis for faith because it is ambiguous by nature and calls for discernment, which happens in language. Experience must be expressed, spelled out. Experience, he submits, aims at language. Over the centuries, the Christian community has developed options for something like a "mother tongue" of faith: creeds, liturgy, catechisms, hymns, poetry—even theology as a peculiar linguistic phenomenon. The author argues that all these forms have their "matrix" (from mater, mother) in the "inspired" language of Scripture—inspired in the sense in which early Christians understood the term. As human language, the biblical Word has its own ambiguities the solution of which requires hard exegetical work, but it should be treated as an open, an "invitational" language. With its implied spiritual character it has the amazing potential of becoming the primary language of a Christian's experiential faith, the house in which his or her faith is at home and can grow.
    This was the 1995 Jonathan Edwards Lecture delivered at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Center, MA, on March 2, 1995
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