Sunday, May 30, 2010

Paul Tillich - Systematic Theology Introduction

A. The Point of View

1. Message and Situation: Two poles, the eternal truth and the temporal situation (3). The confusion of the eternal truth with the temporal expression of this truth = fundamentalism/orthodoxy. Fundamentalism fails to make contact with the present situation and has demonic traits. Theology is neither preaching nor counseling; the popularity of fundamentalism does not imply its goodness. The "situation" to which theology must respond is the totality of man's creative self-interpretation in a special period.

"Kerygmatic" theology is related to fundamentalism and orthodoxy. Luther and Barth made serious attempts to rediscover the eternal message within the Bible and tradition, over against a distorted tradition and a mechanically misused Bible. Barth's criticism of the neo-Protestant bourgeois synthesis achieved by liberal theology, his rediscovery of the Christian paradox, and, at the same time, the freedom of his spiritual exegesis of the Epistle to the Romans and his acceptance of radical historical criticism were a genuine kerygmatic theology. Barth's greatness is that he corrects himself again and again in light of the "situation," unlike many of his followers (5). Kerygmatic theology needs apologetic theology.

2. Apologetic Theology and the Kerygma: Apologetic theology is "answering theology." Apologetics presupposes common ground, which worried someone like Barth, who is concerned with the uniqueness of the message. Worries about "surrender of the kerygma" help effective preaching but don't fulfill the task of theology. Kerygmatic theology must use the tools of its period. Kerygmatic theology must give up its exclusive transcendence and take seriously the attempt of apologetic theology to answer the questions put before it by the contemporary situation (7).

B. The Nature of Systematic Theology

3. The Theological Circle: Every understanding of spiritual things is circular, moving between a mystical a priori and its discovery based on the mystical a priori. The Christian theologian enters into the circle with a concrete commitment (the message). Every theologian is committed and alienated; his is always in faith and in doubt; he is inside and outside the theological circle.

4. Two Formal Criteria of Every Theology: The religious is ultimate; it excludes all other concerns from ultimate significance; it makes them preliminary. The object of theology is what concerns us ultimately. Only those propositions are theological which deal with their object in so far as it can become a matter of ultimate concern for us (12).

There are three possible relations of preliminary concerns to ultimate concerns: 1) mutual indifference, which contradicts the universal character of religious concern, 2) elevation of the finite to the infinite, which is idolatrous, 3) preliminary concern is a vehicle for the ultimate, which is good (13).

Our ultimate concern is that which determines our being or non-being. Only those statements are theological which deal with their object in so far as it can become a matter of being or not-being for us. Man is infinitely concerned about the infinity to which he belongs.

5. Theology and Christianity: Man would not be spiritual without thought and words. It was a mistake of Schleiermacher's definition of religion when his successors located religion in the realm of feeling as one psychological function among others. Christian theology is subject to the revelation of Logos become flesh. Christian theology is the theology in so far as it is based on the tension between the absolutely concrete and the absolutely universal (16). It seems paradoxical if one says that only that which is absolutely concrete can also be absolutely universal and vice versa, but it describes the situation adequately (16). Half-God Jesus of Arianism (Nicea) deprives Jesus of both absolute universality and absolute concreteness (17).

6. Theology and Philosophy: A Question: Philosophy is that cognitive approach to reality in which reality as such is the object (18). Philosophy asks the question of reality as a whole; it asks the question of the structure of being. Theology necessarily asks the same question, for that which concerns us ultimately must belong to reality (21). The systematic theologian must be a philosopher in critical understanding even if not in creative power.

7. Theology and Philosophy: An Answer: Philosophy deals with the structure of being in itself; theology deals with the meaning of being for us (22). Points of divergence: 1) cognitive attitude toward object, 2) difference in sources (logos v. Logos become flesh), 3) content (being v. new being). The theologian speaks of self-estrangement of the subject, about the spiritual center of personal life, and about the community as a possible embodiment of the "New Being." Every creative philosopher is a theologian in the degree to which his existential situation and his ultimate concern shape his philosophical vision (25). Neither is a conflict between theology and philosophy necessary, nor is a synthesis between them possible. It is a disgrace for the theologian and intolerable for the philosopher if in a philosophical discussion the theologian suddenly claims an authority other than pure reason (26). But no philosophy which is obedient to the universal logos can contradict the concrete logos, the Logos "who became flesh."

C. The Organization of Theology

Theology is the methodical explanation of the contents of the Christian faith (28). The criterion of every theological discipline is whether or not it deals with the Christian message as a matter of ultimate concern. Theology has historical and constructive disciplines.

Problems of systematic theology: 1) Usually divided into "natural theology" and "philosophy of religion." The present system accepts the philosophical and theological criticism of natural theology in its traditional sense. It also accepts the neo-orthodox criticism of a general philosophy of religion as the basis of systematic theology. It takes a third way: the method of correlation. 2) Apologetics, answering theology. Systematic theology embraces apologetics, dogmatics and ethics. It is also a practical theology in dealing with the institutions through which the nature of the church is actualized and its functions are performed (32). The practical theologian must be a bridge between the Christian message and the human situation, generally and specially (33).

D. The Method and Structure of Systematic Theology

8. The Sources of Systematic Theology: The word of God is not limited to the words of a book (35). Systematic theology needs a biblical theology which is historical-critical without any restrictions and, at the same time, devotional-interpretative, taking account of the fact that it deals with matters of ultimate concern (36). Systematic theology cannot jump out of church history. Protestant theology protests in the name of the Protestant principle against the identification of our ultimate concern with any creation of the church (37). A broader source of systematic theology than all those mentioned so far is the material presented by the history of religion and culture (38). Theology of the history of religion and a theology of culture, the attempt to analyze the theology behind all cultural expressions (39).

9. Experience and Systematic Theology: Experience is the medium through which the sources "speak" to us, through which we can receive them (40). Augustinian prnciple: esse ipsum = verum ipsum. Interpreted properly, Schleiermacher's definition of religion as feeling means the immediate awareness of something unconditional in the sense of the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition. Schleiermacher's "feeling of absolute dependence" was rather near to what is called in the present system "ultimate concern about the ground and meaning of being" (42). On the other hand, criticism must be made of Schleiermacher's attempt in the Christian Faith to derive all contents of the Christian Faith from what can be called the "religious consciousness" of the Christian (42).

Three definitions of experience: 1) ontological, reality = experience, James, Dewey. If this is the case, nothing can appear in the theological system which transcends the whole of experience. 2) experience = the positively given, science. The object of theology is not an object of science and cannot be tested by scientific methods of verification. 3) mystical experience by participation. Experience as the inspiring presence of the Spirit is the ultimate source of theology. "Open experience" is the source of systematic theology. Neo-orthodoxy denies that experience can become a source of systematic theology. But Tillich holds that Christian theology is based on the unique event Jesus the Christ, and in spite of the infinite meaning of this event it remains this event and, as such, the criterion of every religious experience. This event is give to experience and not derived from it. Therefore, experience receives and does not produce (contra Schleiermacher) (46).

10. The Norm of Systematic Theology: The question of the norm again becomes crucial in Protestantism as soon as the ecclesiastical authorities lost their standing (47). The norm grows; it is not produced intentionally. The norm must be positive and constructive; it must be concrete.

It is not an exaggeration to say that today man experiences his present situation in terms of disruption, conflict, self-destruction, meaninglessness, and despair in all realms of life. It is a question of a reality in which the self-estrangement of our existence is overcome, a reality of reconciliation and reunion, of creativity, meaning and hope. We shall call such a reality the "New Being." This New Being is manifest in Jesus the Christ. The material norm of systematic theology is the "New Being in Jesus as the Christ" (50). If the Bible itself is called the norm of systematic theology, nothing concrete is said, for the Bible is a collection of religious literature written, collected, and edited throughout the centuries. The Bible as such never has been the norm of systematic theology. A way must be found which lies between the Roman Catholic practice of making ecclesiastical decisions not only a source but also the actual norm of systematic theology and the radical Protestant practice of depriving church history not only of its normative character but also of its function as a source (51). The attempts of biblicism and orthodoxy to create an "unconditioned" theology contradict the correct and indispensable first principle of the neo-orthodox movement that "God is in heaven and man is on earth" - even if man is a systematic theologian. The attempt of neo-orthodox theologians to escape this mark of finitude is a symptom of that religious arrogance against which these very same theologians are fighting (52).

11. The Rational Character of Systematic Theology: We shall call the organ with which we receive the contents of faith "self-transcending," or ecstatic reason, and we shall call the organ of the theological scholar "technical" or formal reason. Ecstatic reason is grasped by an ultimate concern. Reason is overpowered, invaded, shaken by ultimate concern (53). Principles of the rational character of theology: 1) semantic rationality = clarity of meaning. 2) logical rationality = both formal and dialectical logic. Does accept the paradox through. Paradox points to the fact that in God's acting finite reason is superseded but not annihilated (57). There is, in the last analysis, only one genuine paradox in the Christian message - the appearance of that which conquers existence under the conditions of existence. 3) methodological rationality.

Three attacks on system: 1) Not possible to have a system of deduced assertions as in Spinoza. But a system is a totality of consistent, but not deduced statements (59). 2) Systems are closed. No they are not. 3) System works against emotions. Not they don't. In short, system stands between summa and essay. Today a need for systematic form has arisen in view of the chaos of our spiritual life and the impossibility of creating a summa.

12. The Method Correlation: Correlation in three senses: 1) correspondence (problem of religious knowledge), 2) logical interdependence (problems of correlation between infinite and finite, God and world), 3) real interdependence. The last gets Barth angry, who is afraid that any kind of divine-human correlation makes God partly dependent on man (61). Symbolically speaking, God answer's man's questions, and under the impact of God's answers man asks them. Being human means asking the questions of one's own being and living under the impact of the answers given to this question. And, conversely, being human means receiving answers to the questions of one's being and asking questions under the impact of the answers (62). Systematic theology makes an analysis of the human situation out of which the existential questions arise, and it demonstrates that the symbols used in the Christian message are the answers to these questions (62). The Christian message provides the answers to the questions implied in human existence. God is the answer to the question implied in human finitude. God must be called the infinite power of being which resists the threat of non-being.

The method of correlation replaces three inadequate methods: 1) the supranaturalistic, which takes the Christian method to be the sum of revealed truths which have fallen into the human situation like strange bodies from a strange world (64). 2) The naturalistic or humanist method, which derives the Christian message from man's natural state -> liberal theology. 3) Dualistic method, builds supranatural structure on a natural substructure (65).

13. The Theological System: The method of correlation requires that every part of the system should include one section in which the question is developed by an analysis of human existence and existence generally (66). 5 sections: 1) Being and God, 2) Existence and Christ, 3) Life and the Spirit, 4) History and the Kingdom of God, 5) Reason and Revelation.

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