Friday, May 28, 2010

Paul Tillich - The Protestant Era

Introduction

1. One can take an outside view and an inside view of Protestantism, but there is no "objective" view. Unconcerned detachment in matters of religion implies an a priori rejection of the religious demand to be ultimately concerned. It denies the object which it is supposed to approach "objectively" (xi). The Protestant principle is the ultimate criterion of all religious and all spiritual experiences; it lies at their base, whether they are aware of it or not (xii). Protestantism as a principle is eternal and a permanent criterion of everything temporal. The Protestant era might come to an end. But if it came to an end, the Protestant principle would not be refuted.

2. The task of theology is mediation between eternal criterion of truth and the changing experiences of individuals and groups (xiii). Theos (mystery) + logos implies mediation. Protestant principle = justification by faith, which refers not only to the religious ethical but also to the religious intellectual life. Not only he who is in sin but also he who is in doubt is justified through faith. The situation of doubt, even of doubt about God, need not separate us from God (xiv). Thus, he who seriously denies God affirms him. In the status of doubt you are in the status of truth. There is thus a paradoxical presence of "meaning in meaninglessness" (xv).

Religion gives an inexhaustible depth to life. No realm of life can exist without relation to something unconditional, to an ultimate concern. Three ages: 1) the heteronomy of the late Middle ages, 2) the theonomy of classical Protestantism, 3) the autonomy of the modern. Theonomy = a culture in which the ultimate meaning of existence shines through all finite forms of thought and action (xvi).

3. Tillich's interpretation of history -> religion is the substance of culture, culture is the expression of religion (xvii). Religious socialism = a problem not of wages but of a new theonomy in which the question of wages, of social security, is treated in unity with the question of truth, or spiritual security. Break with philosophical idealism and theological transcendentalism -> opened eyes to religious significance of political Calvinism and social sectarianism, over against the predominantly sacramental character of my own Lutheran tradition.

Three elements of a Protestant interpretation of history = theonomy, kairos and the demonic (xix). Kairos = the fulness of time, the moment in which the eternal breaks into the temporal, and the temporal is prepared to receive it. The Protestant principle demands a method of interpreting history in which the critical transcendence of the divine over against conservatism and utopianism is strongly expressed and in which, at the same time, the creative omnipresence of the divine in the course of history is concretely indicated (xx). The demonic = positive evil. The "Storm of our times" -> recognition of the destructive mechanisms determining the unconscious trends of individuals and groups (xx). If evil has demonic or structural character of limiting individual freedom, its conquest can come only by the opposite, the divine structure, that is, by what we have called a structure or "Gestalt" of grace. The Protestant principle cannot admit any identification of grace with a visible reality.

4. How can critical and formative power be united in the reality of Protestantism? The answer is: In the power of the New Being that is manifest in Jesus as the Christ (xxii). Unfortunately in Protestantism, Christ is interpreted as a religious personality and not as the basic sacramental reality, the "New Being" (xxiii). Jung: the separation of our consciousness from the universally human "archetypes" that are present in the subconscious of everybody. Protestants have replaced the great wealth of symbols appearing in the Christian tradition by rational concepts, moral laws, and subjective emotions (xxiii).

An ethics out of the kairos is an ethics of love, for love unites the ultimate criterion with the adaptation to the concrete situation (xxv). Love is basically not an emotional but an ontological power, that it is the essence of life itself, namely, the dynamic reunion of that which is separated (xxv).

Theology = theonomous metaphysics -> method of correlation (xxvi). This method tries to overcome the conflict between the naturalistic and supernaturalistic methods. There is an interdependence between the ultimate questions to which philosophy is driven and the answers given in the Christian message (xxvi). It is opposed to the supernaturalism of the later Barthianism as well as to any other type of orthodoxy or fundamentalism.

Two trends in theology: 1) dialectical/neo-orthodox, 2) liberal/humanist. Tillich's theology = an attempt to overcome the conflict between these two. Protestant principle is liberal/humanist in encouraging critical methods of historical research, in encouraging Christianity to be considered along with cultural, psychological and sociological development, in destroying the dualism between nature and grace. But the Protestant principle is dialectical/neo-orthodox in looking at Scripture as Holy Scripture, in showing history as a history of permanent demonic distortions and idolatry, in acknowledging that man is estranged from God (xxviii). Making a path between cynical realism and utopian hope.

III. Kairos

1. Kairos = a summons to a consciousness of history (32). Chronos (formal time) v. kairos: time is an empty form only for abstract, objective reflection, a form that can receive any kind of content; but to him who is conscious of an ongoing creative life, it is laden with tensions, with possibilities and impossibilities, it is qualitative and full of significance (33). A spiritual outlook that is unaware of history may be rooted in a) an awareness of the eternal (transcendence) or b) bondage to this world (immanence). In the Occident, the present opponent of historical thinking is the naturalistic attitude, which turns to worship a philosophy that excludes meaningful history and accepts a meaningless natural process (34).

2. Absolute philosophy of history: an early expression of man's historical consciousness (35). a) The revolutionary-absolute type: No to the past, Yes to the future! b) The conservative type: the event has already happened. Problem here is that a special historical reality is set up as absolute. Kairos must rather be conceived in universal terms. Especially the revolutionary-absolute type can lead to blindness about the past. Both forms of absolute philosophy of history are judged by the absolute itself. The unconditional cannot be identified with any given reality, whether past or future. To do so is idolatry -> the message of the so-called "theology of crisis" represented by Barth's Epistles. A third type of absolute philosophy of history appears in this doctrine of permanent "crisis," the indifference type = divine humor, God's strange acting.

3. Relative philosophy of history: Loss of absolute tension. a) The classical type: in every epoch, in every nation, an eternal idea of God is realized (39). Leibniz, Goethe, Ranke. b) The progressive-relative type: emphasizes restricting elements in the idea of progress. Lessing. c) The dialectical type: Hegel, Marx. A positive valuation of all periods. Dialectical thinking subjects every moment of time to its "Yes and No." It does not negate the past unconditionally, and it does not affirm the future unconditionally.

4. Two demands: from the absolute types, demand for absolute tension in the historical consciousness; from the relative types, demand for universal historical consciousness. Tension + universalism -> paradox. What happens in the kairos should be absolute, and yet not absolute, but under judgment of the absolute. This demand is fulfilled when the conditioned surrenders itself to become a vehicle for the unconditional (42). Where there is an acceptance of the eternal manifesting itself in a special moment of history, in a kairos, there is openness to the unconditional (43). An age turned toward the unconditional is one in which the consciousness of the presence of the unconditional permeates and guides all cultural functions and forms. The divine, for such a state of mind, is not a problem but a presupposition (43). Religion is the life-blood, the inner power, the ultimate meaning of all life. We shall call such a situation theonomous. What makes theonomy disappear? Autonomy (obedience to reason, replaces mystical nature with rational nature) (44). Autonomy is the dynamic principle of history. Theonomy, on the other hand, is the substance and meaning of history (45). The difference between autonomy and theonomy is that in an autonomous culture the cultural forms appear only in their finite relationship, while in a theonomous culture they appear in their relation to the unconditional (45). Heteronomy = alien law. If religion acts heteronomously, it ceases to be the life-blood of a culture. Theonomy does not stand against autonomy as heteronomy does. Theonomy is the answer to the question implied in autonomy. Autonomy turns to theonomy in impotent longing.

Unique kairos = Jesus. General kairos = turning-point. Special kairos = coming of a new theonomy (47). How can the absolute categories which characterize a genuine kairos be united with the relativity of the universal process of history? History comes form and moves toward periods of theonomy. Theonomy unites the absolute and relative element in the interpretation of history, that demand that everything become the vehicle of the absolute and the insight that nothing relative can ever become absolute itself (47). Against conservative-absolute, it is wrong to identify the absolute with the historical church. Against the revolutionary-absolute, no kairos bring the fulfillment in time. Against the absolute method in general, everything can be a vessel of the unconditional, but nothing can be unconditioned itself. Against the classical-relative, have to accept absolute categories. Against the progressive-relative, no law of universal progress. Against dialectical-relative, no final stages, both vertical and horizontal processes, and no logical, physical or economic necessity.

5. In present day socialism are brought together the revolutionary-absolute and the dialectical-relative, but a balancing of the two has not been achieved. In denying religion, socialism did not see how it itself shared the basic presuppositions of bourgeois science, the purely objectifying relationship to the world, to spirit and to history (49). It was thereby adopting the basic attitude of its enemies. It strengthened the attitude towards economics and life in general characteristic of materialistic capitalism. Religious socialism wishes to carry the criticism deeper. It wishes to make socialism conscious of the present kairos.

Is it possible that the message of the kairos is an error? The message is always an error; for it sees something immediately imminent which, considered in its ideal aspect, will never become a reality and which, considered in its real aspect, will be fulfilled only in long periods of time (51).

VI. Philosophy and Theology

What is philosophical theology? Some would say high treason against theology. Some would say an impure mixture. There are two types of theology: 1) philosophical, 2) kerygmatic (a theology that tries to reproduce the content of the Christian message in an ordered and systematic way, without referring to philosophy) (84). This duality is natural: theos = kerygma, logy = philosophy. The most radical attempt at a merely kerygmatic theology in our period is Barth's (84).

Philosophy asks the ultimate question that can be asked, namely, the question as to what being, simply being, means. This is first philosophy, dealing with the meaning of being. This concept of philosophy can be attached from the standpoint of metaphysics, from that of epistemology, from that of empiricism. But you can't refute the question of the meaning of being.

The task of theology is to ask for being as far as it gives us ultimate concern. It deals with it not as far as it is but as far as it is for us. Theology must deal with its subject always as far as it concerns us in the very depth of our being. Theology is existential, in Kierkegaard's sense. Existential is what characterizes our real existence in all its concreteness, in all its accidental elements, in its freedom and responsibility, in its failure, and in its separation from its true and essential being (88).

A theological element gives the impulse to philosophy. A philosophical element is implied in theology - the question of the meaning and structure of being and its manifestation in the different realms of being. But philosophy is able to neglect its existential basis and to deal with being and beings as if they did not concern us at all. And this is the reason that theology is able to neglect its theoretical form and to become mere kerygma. Philosophy w/o theology -> logical positivism, mere epistemology, history of philosophy. Theology w/o philosophy -> existence of God reduced to existence of chemical element, or else it separates nature from man.

We have found a convergence and a divergence between theology and philosophy with respect to the question asked by both of them. There is another convergence and divergence with respect to the way the question is answered by both of them (90). Truth, aletheia - in man, the meaning of being can become manifest because man has the word revealing the hiddenness of being. Philosophers have long tried to figure out for whom truth is manifest. For Christians, only in one man has logos appeared completely, full of grace and truth. An exclusively kerygmatic theology, like that of Barth, denies this appearance of logos.

Philosophy, in spite of its existential and concrete basis, turns directly to the meaning of being. Quite differently, the theologian is bound to the concrete and existential situation in which he finds himself and which is not only the basis but also the subject of his work (92). The philosophical theologian, as a Christian, tries to show in his work that the existential situation of the Christian church is, at the same time, the place where the meaning of being has appeared as our ultimate concern. In other words, he tries to show that Jesus as the Christ is the logos. Revelation = the existential problem implied in reason. God = the existential problem implied in being. Christ = the existential problem implied in existence. Spirit = the existential problem implied in life. The Kingdom of God = the existential problem implied in history.

XI. The Protestant Principle and the Proletarian Situation

1. In so far as socialism is the expression of the proletarian situation, it poses for Protestantism the question concerning the meaning and the validity of its own unconditional and universal claim (162). The Protestant principle = the divine and human protest against any absolute claim made for a relative reality, even if this claim is made by a Protestant church (163). It is the theological expression of the true relation between the unconditional and the conditioned, or, religiously speaking, between God and man. The quality of pointing beyond themselves and their finite existence to the infinite, inexhaustible and unapproachable dpeth of their being and meaning. The inadequacy of Protestantism in the face of the proletarian situation is the result of the contradiction between the Protestant principle and Protestantism as it actually is (164). The proletarian situation is the typical situation of a certain group in capitalistic society.

2. The Protestant principle implies a judgment about the human situation, namely, that is is basically distorted (165). Both the fateful character and the guilt of human existence are due to the self-assertiveness of the finite being in its pride. In its negative judgment about man's actual existence, the socialistic evaluation of the proletarian situation and the Protestant understanding of the universal human situation agree. The basic distortion of the human situation involves all men (168). Mankind universally is in the bondage of self-estrangement. The Reformation struggled against two ideologies, the Catholic and the humanist (heteronomy and autonomy). Theology that remains aloof from the concrete proletarian struggle is ideology. The proletarian situation provides a fundamental vindication of the Protestant principle and the most serious judgment of historical Protestantism. Justification by faith -> man the unholy is holy, namely, in the judgment of God, which is not based on any human achievements but only on the divine, self-surrendering grace (171). The paradox inherent in Protestantism indicates the character of the relation of the infinite and the finite in the light of the Protestant principle and the idea of justification: possessing and not possessing at the same time. The anticipation of the proletariat expresses both the non-possession of what is anticipated, the living in the proletarian situation, and the anticipatory possession of what is hoped for, the creative tension in which the present is potentially overcome (172). The Protestant principle provides the possibility for understanding the paradoxical character of anticipation as it is found in the proletariat, and besides this, it has to power to guard against a distortion that threatens all anticipation (utopianism) (172). Since man is in the bondage of existential self-contradiction, he is, according to Christian and Protestant teaching, unable to overcome this situation by himself. The bondage to "demonic structures" can be released only by a bondage to "divine structures" (173). The "calling" of the proletariat to overcome the class society is something that the proletariat is always in danger of losing. Similarly, Protestantism might miss its calling and be rejected by the judgment of its own principle.

3. Why the failure of historical Protestantism to address the proletarian situation? a) Hardening into dogma of the Protestant principle, b) ideal of religious personality cut off from the vital basis of its existence, c) historic alliance of Protestantism with emerging middle class, d) Protestantism's surrender to nationalistic ideology.

XIV. The Formative Power of Protestantism

1. Formative power = the power of creating a form; Protestantism is the attitude of protest against form. How can they be united? Protest cannot exist without the "Gestalt" to which it belongs. Union of protest and creation = the Gestalt of grace (207). Problem with Barthians is that they seem only interested in the form of doctrine of Protestantism. It is a real danger to the future of Protestantism that the prophetic spirit of the original theology of crisis will be abused in favor of the re-establishment of an orthodoxy that feels safe against the Protestant protest (208).

2. If Protestantism tries to protect the majesty of the unconditional against every attempt of a finite reality to set itself up as unconditioned, it must somehow participate in the unconditional. Participating in the infinite means living in the reality of grace = Gestalt of grace, the sacred structure of reality. But then we worry that the grace of forgiveness is replaced by a conditioned, immanent structure which might be constructed by human activity. Protestant theology shows an inclination to intellectualize religion. But the words of the Bible and of preaching claim to speak not only about the reality of grace but as an expression of this reality, not detached from their object but grasped by it (211). The emphasis on the reality of grace protects theology against orthodox (and rationalistic) intellectualism. In every theology there is the danger that the reality of grace will be interpreted in terms of an "objective" reality. But the Gestalt of grace is not a Gestalt besides others. The divine appears through the humanity of the Christ, through the historical weakness of the church, through the finite material of the sacrament. Forms of grace are finite forms, pointing beyond themselves. The Protestant protest prohibits the appearance of grace through finite forms from becoming an identification of grace with finite forms. Such an identification is demonic hybris.

3. The Protestant protest against itself must become concrete, and it has, in fact, become concrete in its history: it is concrete in the very existence of the secular world (213). Protestantism, but its very nature, demands a secular reality. Four principles of Protestantism form-creation:

a) In every Protestant form the religious element must be related to, and questioned by, a secular element.
b) In every Protestant form the eternal element must be expressed in relation to a "present situation." It cannot, of course, mean bondage to the moment. Not the appearance but the depth of the present is decisive (214).
c) In every Protestant form the given reality of grace must be expressed with daring and risk (215).
d) In every Protestant form the atittude of a belief-ful realism must be expressed (216). Self-transcending or belief-ful realism cuts through to the ultimate level. In this way, belief-ful realism liberates from cynical realism as well as from utopian realism (215). The really real is what limits me.

4. Religious knowledge is knowledge of things and events in their religious significance, in their relationship to their transcendent ground. Religious knowledge is the knowledge of the really real (217). The profoundest demand of all is that we learn to speak of God in such a way that he appears not as an object above all other objects, nor a a mere symbol, but as the really real in everything that claims reality. Protestant formative power is at work wherever reality is interpreted with respect to its ground and ultimate meaning (218).

5. Religious action in contrast to ethical action is "cultus." Cultus becomes the term for the perceivable expression of the Gestalt of grace. According to the Protestant principle, these forms through their beauty and sacred tradition are temptations to identify grace with some special expressions of grace. Protestant formative power is at work wherever reality is transformed into an active expression of a Gestalt of grace.

6. The more Protestantism is able and willing to accept secular criticism of itself, the more it acquires the right and the power to criticize secularism (219). For this "dialectical" relation between the secular world and the Gestalt of grace I like to use the word "theonomy." Protestant formative power is needed in a secular world; and it is at work wherever the autonomous forms become bearers of ultimate meaning (221).

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