MAX 1000 Words – Process and Secular Theology Essay:
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Write an essay investigating connections between the theology of Tillich and process theology, and the connections between the thoughts of Bonhoeffer and secular theology. Evaluate process theology and secular theology with regard to whether or not their view(s) of the nature of God are valid.
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Tillich and Process Theology – Panentheism
Panentheism is the view that all is contained within the divine, although God is also more than the world. In the first place, then, it is a way to conceive the God–world relation. Yet panentheism has implications for other classical theological loci, including the question of divine action, Christology, the Holy Spirit, theological anthropology, and eschatology. The term entered into modern Christian theology through the work of K. Krause (1781–1832), though F. Schelling (1775–1854) had already used the phrase ‘Pan + en + theismus’ in the Freiheitsschrift of 1809. Since then it has grown to be one of the major systematic understandings of the God–world relation in twentieth-century philosophical theology, including among its advocates C. Hartshorne (1897–2000), J. Macquarrie (1919–2007), J. Moltmann (b. 1926), J. Cobb (b. 1925), M. Suchocki (b. 1933), E. Johnson (b. 1941), S. McFague (b. 1933), G. Jantzen (1948–2006), A. Peacocke (1924–2006), and M. Borg (b. 1942).
The theologies of many modern theologians have been called panentheistic (e.g., F. Schleiermacher, P. Tillich, K. Rahner, and H. von Balthasar), whether or not the term actually occurs in their writings. Although the etymology of the word places emphasis on all things being ‘in’ God, panentheism actually stands for the whole group of positions that seek a closer relationship between God and world than more traditional understandings of divine transcendence provide, yet without falling into pantheism or atheism.
Contemporary panentheists often distinguish their theologies from what they call ‘classical theism’, ‘classical philosophical theism’, ‘perfect-being theology’. They express concern about the way in which the notion of substance functions in the later patristic and medieval periods, especially what they see as the way in which some theologians construe God and individual things as substances. Such ‘philosophies of substance’, it is alleged, have more trouble allowing for two things to be present at the same place and make it correspondingly more difficult to conceive relations of deep ontological interdependence.
Panentheists hold that creation takes place, and remains, within the being of God. Thus, God does not first create a world of separately existing substances and then enter into this world to carry out the divine will. Such a view would be foreign to the biblical model of God, the God ‘in whom we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 19:28). Also, developments within modern science make it harder to conceive of divine agency within the world unless the world already exists within and is permeated by the divine Spirit.
It is helpful to distinguish between ‘specific’ and ‘generic’ senses of panentheism. Panentheism, broadly conceived, stands for any emphasis on the closeness of God and divine immanence within theology. Much of the Bible could be said to be panentheistic in this sense; one thinks of many of the psalms, the Wisdom literature, Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:16, and the phrase ‘in Christ’, which is repeated over ninety times in the NT. Those theologians and mystics across the entire Christian tradition who stress the immanence of God might also be generic panentheists in this sense. In particular, the Orthodox tradition might be taken to affirm an eschatological panentheism in its doctrine of theosis, the gradual deification of the world.
Panentheism in the specific sense involves those theologians since 1800 who have used modern philosophical and theological sources to resist the isolated, transcendent God (deus ex machina) of modern theism and to recover a more balanced theology of divine transcendence and immanence. Influential schools of theology have drawn, for example, on the resources of German Idealism, Romanticism, British neo-Idealism, Boston Personalism, and the many branches of process thought (see Process Theology). Understood in this way, panentheism is a contribution to modern philosophical or ‘constructive’ theology, and not necessarily a competitor to classical doctrinal theology.
Panentheism implies a twofold ‘in’: all created objects are in God, and God is in all things. Some, including A. N. Whitehead (1861–1947) and Hartshorne, interpret the twofold ‘in’ as a full symmetry; in their dipolar panentheism all that pertains to the divine side applies equally to the creaturely side. Others (e.g., Moltmann and the present author) strongly emphasize the asymmetries between the divine and the human sides, often by relying on Trinitarian categories. Some make the correlations between God and world metaphysically necessary; others make it a result of the free divine choice to create.
In virtually all cases, the ‘in’ is neither (merely) spatial or logical, but rather dialectical and ontological. Often an argument is presupposed that was first developed by G. W. F. Hegel: since God as infinite must be that which encompasses all things, finite beings cannot exist outside the infinite God. Finite things do not thereby become infinite or become God; the result is emphatically not pantheism. Instead, panentheists advocate a dialectical (‘both–and’) framework in which co-inherence or ‘internal relations’ are possible (cf. classical Trinitarian perichoresis). The point of the dialectical framework is to allow persons to be so closely linked to God that one can speak of them as being ‘within’ God, yet without being identified with, or identical to, God.
Panentheism represents a powerful means for conceiving divine action. If the world lies outside God, God would break natural law by intervening in its processes. By contrast, panentheists understand the regularities of the natural world as themselves expressions of the regularities of God’s nature, somewhat like the autonomic functioning of the human body. Special divine action then represents God’s intentional actions –roughly analogous to individual conscious actions by human agents.
Many of the details of panentheistic theologies vary among thinkers. It is important not to confuse specific proposals with necessary conditions for panentheism. For example, panentheism in the Orthodox tradition denies change in God but emphasizes the absolutely unique status of humans as imago Dei. Process panentheism in the Whiteheadian tradition emphasizes the temporality of God and God’s responsiveness to the world. Some panentheists draw sharper distinctions between the human and divine natures. M. Brierley (b. 1973) identifies seven themes frequently found in panentheism: the cosmos as God’s body; language of ‘in and through’; the cosmos as sacrament; language of inextricable intertwining; God’s dependence on the cosmos; the intrinsic, positive value of the cosmos; passibility; and degree Christology – though he acknowledges that panentheists respond differently to these topics.
Finally, some scholars are now using panentheism as a means for fostering dialogue between Christianity and other traditions. One finds significant panentheistic elements in parts of Judaism (Kaballah, certain forms of Hasidism, and various strands in twentieth-century Jewish theology), Islam (especially Sufism), and Hinduism (especially in the ‘Brahman with personal attributes’ school of Ramanuja).
Clayton, P. (2011). Panentheism. In Ian A. McFarland, David A. S. Fergusson, & Karen et. al. Kilby (Eds.), Cambridge dictionary of Christian theology. Retrieved from http://library.gcu.edu:2048/login?qurl=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com.library.gcu.edu%3A2048%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fcupdct%2Fpanentheism%2F0
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HTH 469 – Lecture 3 Notes: Rubrics and Reading Chapters Follow:
1. 20th-Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age
Read chapter 4.
2. A Layman’s Guide to Protestant Theology
Read chapters 8 and 10.
Process and Secular Theology Essay:
The Deepening of Immanence and Immanence Within the Secular (Tillich, Process Theology, Bonhoeffer, Secular Theology).
All theological thought begins with the idea of God. Traditional theism asserts that God is omnipotent, unchangeable, and transcendent. Process theology and secular theology describe God in different terms. The aim of this lecture is to understand the essential teachings of both process and secular theology.
Process Theology (Neotheism)
Process theology is closely related to neotheism, also known as open theism, as well as free will theism and the openness of God. Both process theology and neotheism assert a temporal, changing, and complex God who is fallible in the knowledge of future free choices and reactive to those choices rather than sovereign over them. Neotheism ostensibly affirms God’s infinity, necessity, ontological independence, transcendence, immutability, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. However, it does so by explicitly or implicitly redefining and qualifying the original theistic meanings of these divine attributes of God asserted by traditional theism. For example, omnipresence is redefined as God sharing the experience of each creature and each creature experiencing God. Omnipotence is redefined as most powerful,omniscience as most knowing, and immutability as most unchanging. Divine infinity is asserted, yet it is a limited infinity akin to the infinity with limits of one half of a plane in geometry. The neotheistic God is also so quintessentially relational that the events of the world affect God’s very being, causing God to change over time, though less than the world in general, thus redefining the transcendence of God from the theistic meaning of independence from creation (the world). In neotheism, the world is in God and God is so immanent as to contain all things in the world (panentheism), though God is not totally contained by the world (pantheism).
The neotheistic God does not have the power to coerce, but gently woos creation toward God’s ultimate aim. The deity of neotheism exhibits a “nescience,” an ignorance or lack of awareness of the future actions of free agents. The result is that the deity of neotheism can only react to the acts of free agents because these future events can be known by this deity only as they occur within the context of infinity potential actions. The deity of neotheism does not know what will happen, only what might happen. Thus, the omniscience of the God of theism is redefined and reduced to a knowledge of infinite potentials that becomes real (actual) only on the actualization of the contingent future choices of free agents.
Two traditional problems of theism are supposedly resolved by neotheism: the problem of evil and problem of prayer. The problem of evil asserts that the existence of evil is inconsistent with a God whose attributes include goodness and omnipotence. Neotheism resolves the problem by asserting that though God’s goodness is unlimited, God’s finite power and contingent knowledge of the acts of free creatures (finitism) prevent God from destroying evil. The problem of prayer asserts that God’s omniscience as defined by traditional theism makes prayer useless. If God knows future events contingently rather than necessarily (they may happen as opposed to they are going to happen), God’s knowledge does not necessitate the actuality of the event, for God cannot know something as true that is false.
These and other limits on the traditional theistic attributes of God are postulated by neotheism. They are either due to a divine finitism antithetical to traditional theism or self-imposed limitations similar to the limitations imposed on God’s actions by God’s nature in traditional theism, e.g., God’s holiness limits and God’s omniscience to the knowledge of evil that is non-experiential (potential). Thus, the theistic God does not know evil from experience (actual), just as someone may know what skydiving is without ever having experienced it.
Secular theology’s foundation begins with the theological movement of neo-orthodoxy. Bultmannn’s demythologization of scripture was a springboard for many theologians’ movement towards secular theology. Humanity is continuously being transformed by developments in technology and science. Modern man, according to many, no longer needs the crutch of religion. Through science and technological advances, God has been replaced. Before these advances, when a woman was barren, she would pray to God for a child, but now a baby can be grown out of a test tube. “The human race has come of age. It is capable of dealing with its problems without superhuman aid” (Erikson, 2000, p. 913). Here in lies the problem for modern theologians: how does God become relevant in a modern age?
For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the answer was “worldly” Christianity. He believed that God’s goal was for humanity to one day become independent of Himself. He did not believe that God had left the world or that He did not exist at all; he believed that we grew up and no longer have a need for God. Thomas J.J. Altizer contended that
…secularism has an ontological basis. The primordial or transcendent God has become fully immanent in the world. This was a long process that culminated in the incarnation of Jesus. God now has no independent status outside of the world and the human race (Erickson, 2000, p. 914).
God is Dead
One of the short-lived but important branches in secular theology is known as the “God is dead” movement. A heavy emphasis on God’s immanence was a major aspect of this theology. This movement took place in the mid-1960s and was led by thinkers such as Thomas J.J. Altizer and William Hamilton.
Thomas Altizer had one of the more systematic approaches in the God is dead theology. He believed that the Philippians 2:7-8 description of the incarnation of Christ shows Jesus empting Himself of His divine attributes. Altizer taught that once Jesus had emptied himself of his divinity he then became fully man. David Smith explained, “In the Incarnation, God annihilated Himself in Christ, steadily receding into a lifeless nothingness” (1992, p. 169).
William Hamilton did not believe that God died during the incarnation of Christ, but over the process of hundreds of years. Hamilton taught that God’s death took place in three different stages. “It occurred at Calvary in the death of the Incarnate God; secondly, in the 19th century collapse of faith; and, thirdly, in modern humanity’s loss of the sense of God’s reality” (Smith, 1992, p. 170). For Hamilton, God is dead, and He will never return to interact with humanity again.
Who is God today? That question is what process and secular theologies try to answer. For process theologians, God is ever changing and adapting to modern man. Secular theologians see God as relatively obsolete in today’s modern culture. He has been able to step away from humanity since He is no longer needed. Both of these theological movements have stepped away from the traditional immutable God of orthodox theology.
Erickson, M. (2000).Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.
Smith, D. (1992). A handbook of contemporary theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.
Process and Secular Theology Essay
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–45) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who began his career as a promising academic, but is chiefly remembered for his leadership in the Confessing Church movement and his involvement in a political conspiracy to assassinate A. Hitler (1889–1945), for which he was executed.
Bonhoeffer showed an early desire to reclaim the Church at the centre of Protestant theology. Written at the age of twenty-one, his first book, Sanctorum Communio, develops the social dimensions of God’s self-revelation, in sympathetic correction to tendencies in the dialectical theology of K. Barth. Bonhoeffer’s thesis – ‘the church is Christ existing as community’ – proposes to describe the shape of community from God’s act of revelation. His second dissertation, Act and Being, secures the thesis by arguing that God’s act for the world is nothing other than the community of persons created by and shaped in the Person of Christ.
As he became involved in the interwar ecumenical movement, Bonhoeffer found himself personally confronted by the Sermon on the Mount, especially its teaching of peace. Bonhoeffer pressed Churches and Christian organizations to more robustly and concretely proclaim Christ’s command to peace.
After Hitler came to power Bonhoeffer helped organize a ‘Confessing Church’ in opposition to Nazi attempts to restrict ordained leadership to those of ‘Aryan’ descent. While most resisters objected to violation of a Lutheran ‘two kingdoms’ distinction between political and ecclesial spheres, Bonhoeffer also wanted the Confessing Church to address the worsening plight of Jews in Germany. His own break from antisemitism, however, remains a question of debate. His essay, ‘The Jewish Question’, pursues the dangerous strategy of subordinating the theological treatment of Judaism to a more formal analysis of the obligations of the Church to the State; at the same time, in that essay Bonhoeffer also suggests that a time may come for the Church ‘to put a spoke in the wheel’ of State oppression.
Bonhoeffer wrote the lectures that became Discipleship and Life Together for Finkenwalde, the secret seminary that he directed. Discipleship presents Christ’s call to obedience, railing against the ‘cheap grace’ of religion without cost and Christ without discipleship. Life Together meditates on community as context for discipleship. Both underscored the concrete commitment of the life of faith.
After the seminary was disbanded, Bonhoeffer briefly accepted a lectureship in the USA, but felt compelled to return to share Germany’s fate. Family connections obtained him a clandestine appointment to a military intelligence agency, where from 1938 to 1943 Bonhoeffer secretly worked in support of a coup plot. During this time Bonhoeffer wrote his Ethics, which articulates a discerning Christian responsibility for the world. The pattern of responsibility is christo-morphic: ‘vicarious representative action’ that bears the burdens of others, without regard for one’s own goodness or justification, but only the reality of the world’s reconciliation in God.
Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in 1943, and his prison letters offer provocative theological fragments, including meditations on a ‘religionless Christianity’ (see Death of God Theology). Here, thinking the incarnation anew, Bonhoeffer envisions a Church that can address a ‘world come of age’ by finding God in its midst, participate in God’s sufferings at the edges of the world, and revive the ancient tradition of ‘secret discipline’ (disciplinaarcani) through which the mysteries of the Christian faith are protected from commodification.
Jenkins, W. (2011).Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. In Ian A. McFarland, David A. S. Fergusson, & Karen et. al. Kilby (Eds.), Cambridge dictionary of Christian theology. Retrieved from http://library.gcu.edu:2048/login?qurl=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com.library.gcu.edu%3A2048%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fcupdct%2Fbonhoeffer_dietrich%2F0
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PAUL TILLICH (1886—1965)
Paul Tillich was born in Starzeddel, Germany (now part of Poland). His father was a Lutheran pastor. He attended the universities of Berlin, Tübingen, and Halle, where he wrote a dissertation on Schelling and received his licentiate in THEOLOGY. He wrote a second dissertation on Schelling for his doctorate of PHILOSOPHY from the University of Breslau. After ordination he undertook pastoral service in a working-class section of Berlin. He served as an army chaplain in World War I. From 1919 to 1924 he was privatdocent at the University of Berlin. He taught briefly at Marburg and then at Dresden and Leipzig before becoming professor of philosophy and cofounder of the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt in 1929. After a brief first marriage, Tillich remarried and had two children. In 1933 he was suspended by the Nazi government. He was allowed to leave the country for a temporary position arranged by Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. Tillich remained in the United States and became a citizen. This transition initially slowed his work, as it forced a restatement of his thought in a new LANGUAGE and intellectual context.
Tillich chose the motif of being “on the boundary” to organize his autobiography of that name, as his LIFE and thought moved between disparate realms: between his attraction to NATURE and his attraction to urban life, between the cultural heritage of his homeland and the greater openness of his adopted land, between his ecclesiastical affiliations and his appreciation of culture. His thought sought to navigate between theology and philosophy, RELIGION and culture, and to chart their intersection. Such is reflected in its apologetic and systematic CHARACTER. His theology was apologetic in the sense of being open to the existential SITUATION and in the way it spoke to this situation. His thought was systematic not solely in building systems but also in the way he faced methodological issues confronting theology, in his consistent methodical procedure, and in his treatment of issues in cognizance of their interconnection within an overarching context.
Writing during the 1920s and 1930s on the PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION, Tillich describes religion as a pure state of being-grasped by the unconditioned. FAITH is the orientation toward the unconditioned that is effective in all functions of the human SPIRIT. Faith is not a state of being grasped or overwhelmed by a particular thing or state of affairs, by any conditioned reality, but by that which grants BEING to any particular being, by that which transcends every conditioned thing or state of affairs—the unconditioned. Tillich immediately confronts the predicament of reflection upon religion: religion intends the unconditional, yet reflection upon religion makes this intention relative and thereby treats the unconditional as conditional. In the philosophy of religion reflection treats an OBJECT that strives not to be an object of philosophy, an object that claims to be elevated above philosophy. If philosophy ignores this resistance on the part of religion, it loses the object it intended to grasp. Yet if it acquiesces, it obviates its own justification as philosophy of religion and endangers the justification of all reflection: if there is an area closed off to philosophy, then philosophy could not draw the boundaries between this and other areas of reflection.
In response to this predicament, Tillich appeals to what he calls the systematic use of paradox. Every assertion, by saying something about something, involves the schema of SUBJECT and object, which is the form of conditioned being. Thus, in order to speak of the unconditioned, of what is beyond the subject—object structure, assertions about the unconditioned must use the form of assertion in a way that exposes its very inadequacy—they must use the form of systematic paradox. Every assertion about GOD takes the form of an objective assertion but can be true only as a paradoxical assertion. A positive paradox marks the opening of the religious to philosophical reflection, for it means that philosophy of religion is not based primarily upon a critical decision about the nature of religion but upon the experienced paradox of the irruption of the unconditional into the finite structure of being. This relationship entails that there is a critical moment intrinsic to faith, a critical moment against the conditioned reality through which the unconditioned is experienced. This critical moment offers a validation of doubt that is beyond any simple NEGATION of faith.
In Dynamics of Faith, Tillich defines faith as the state of being ultimately concerned. The term “concern” has both a subjective and an objective meaning; concern can signify both an act of the self (the act of caring) and the object intended in that act (the object of concern). In the term “ultimate concern,” Tillich sees these two sides to be united: faith is both the centered act of the self and the referent of this act, the ultimate or unconditioned itself. Faith, as a centered act of the self, cannot properly be confined to any one aspect or mode of being of the self or their summation; it is operative in all functions of spirit and is not reducible to any one in particular. If faith is no longer seen as a cognitive endeavor, then cognitive uncertainty or doubt cannot stand as an opponent to faith. Faith entails the participation of the whole self in ultimate concern and thus does not deal with theoretical certitude about a given or even probable state of affairs but with existential certitude about the ultimacy of one’s ultimate concern. It is existential doubt, as the doubt concerning the very meaning of one’s EXISTENCE—in distinction from scientific-methodological doubt and skepticism—which is implied in faith. Such doubt exposes the risk present in faith, yet it does not represent an annulment of faith. Through courage, faith can accept the risk inherent in itself as ultimate concern.
In The Courage to Be Tillich presents an analysis of three different types of ANXIETY: of fate and DEATH, of GUILT and condemnation, and of emptiness and meaninglessness. He interprets three epochs of human HISTORY in terms of the predominance of one type of anxiety. In our modern age, anxiety of meaninglessness predominates: the awareness of the threat of the loss of all meaning. Such a threat of radical existential doubt would seem to undo the very possibility of faith, for any concrete reality in which one finds ultimate meaning could be dislodged in its certitude by the despair of meaninglessness. Tillich’s response is absolute faith, which does not seek to avoid the anxiety of meaninglessness but rather accepts this despair. It is the acceptance of oneself as accepted not by anyone or anything in particular and despite one’s very despair about the meaning of this acceptance. Such faith is absolute in the literal sense of being disconnected from any finite, conditioned reality—for any such concrete reality is dislodged in its claim to ultimate meaning by the radicalness of the despair of meaninglessness. The concept of God that corresponds to absolute faith is the concept of the God beyond or above God, beyond the disappearance of any particular deity in the anxiety of doubt. For such a God there can be no concrete realization in a symbol; nevertheless, absolute faith is the state of being grasped by the God beyond God, who is the source of the most extreme form of the courage to be.
REVELATION designates the way the unconditioned, which, as such as remains concealed, is given in the religious act. Revelation occurs upon natural things or events that become bearers of revelation—or symbols. Symbols point beyond themselves toward something else; they participate in the reality they intend. In contrast to signs, the connection of symbol to referent is not established by convention. Symbols are rooted in the LIFE of a COMMUNITY and are capable of opening up dimensions of the WORLD and possibilities of our selfhood of which we were not previously aware. Religious symbols are characterized by their referent, which is a matter of ultimate concern, the unconditioned. Religious symbols represent, or give concrete, objective form to, that which transcends ultimately every such representation or objectification.
Tillich addresses the truth of religious symbols through subjective and objective criteria. The subjective or pragmatic criterion asks whether the symbol is able to express an ultimate concern for someone. The objective criterion asks whether the ultimate intended in the symbol is the ultimate. This criterion expresses the self-critical principle in religious symbols and counteracts the idolatrous tendency to elevate the finite, conditioned, symbolic material to the level of ultimacy itself. Thus, the most true symbol would be the most radically self-negating, which recognizes the conditional status of its own materiality and denies its ability to represent the unconditioned—and so points the more clearly to the unconditioned.
Tillich’s major English-language work is his three-volume Systematic Theology; this is one of several systems. His earlier System der Wissenschaften offers a comprehensive presentation of the sciences and situates theology within this context. He divides the sciences as (1) sciences of thought or ideal sciences such as mathematics and logic, (2) sciences of being or empirical sciences such as physics and psychology, (3) sciences of spirit such as the humanities. Norms, as the synthesis of formal principles and material content, provide an indication of the standpoint of the thinker, an indication that is required of the human sciences. The object of the sciences of spirit is the self either as it receives reality or as it shapes reality. METAPHYSICS seeks the unconditioned basis of the conditional forms of the theoretical sphere, and ETHICS seeks the unconditioned in the practical. Theology enters into this scheme by virtue of the distinction of the two possible attitudes of the sciences of spirit: theonomy, direction toward the unconditioned for the sake of the unconditioned; and autonomy, direction toward the unconditioned for the sake of providing a foundation for the conditioned. In the broadest sense, one could speak of theology as theonomous metaphysics and theonomous ethics, not as distinct sciences alongside others but as a different attitude within the same scientific endeavor.
The hallmark of Systematic Theology is its method of correlating the ontological and the religious, which reflects Tillich’s exposure to HEIDEGGER. The method of correlation proposes to analyze the human situation in order to expose the questions implicit there and then to interpret religious symbols insofar as they respond to these questions. Correlation entails the reciprocal illumination of the philosophical and the religious without equating them or reducing one to the other. It interprets the content of faith through the mutual interdependence of existential questions and theological answers. This interdependence means that the questioning is not silenced or stilled, for the answers make sense only in terms of the questions, and the questions drive toward their answers. Systematic Theology proceeds by elaborating, through existential-ontological analysis, the questions implied by the human condition and then shows how Christian religious symbols respond to these questions. The basic question can be put as the question of Being. Hence, each volume develops the correlation in terms of a distinct moment of the question of Being. The first volume correlates the question of the ground of the self-world structure with the symbol of God. The second correlates the quest to be anew amid existential estrangement with the symbol of Jesus as the Christ, who, as someone not estranged while yet living under the conditions of estrangement, is able to overcome that estrangement. The third volume correlates the quest for essential being amid the ambiguous mixture of ESSENCE and existence in life with the symbols of the divine Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and Eternal Life.
System der Wissenschaften identifies ethics as the correlative endeavor to metaphysics on the part of practical reason; ethics unites the formal aspects of law with the content expressed in communal solidarity as it seeks the unconditioned in action. There can be theological ethics only insofar as one posits an unresolvable conflict between autonomy and theonomy. Theonomous ethics do not represent a separate division of ethics in relation to a particular religious confession but, rather, ethics undertaken with the theonomous attitude. In later writings, Tillich describes the essence of the ethical as the inherently religious task of actively being and becoming a fully centered self in a community. The religious dimension of the moral imperative, as the command to be the self one most truly is, lies in its unconditional character. This command exposes the split between our actual and essential selfhood but cannot heal this rift. Grace, the acceptance of one’s essential selfhood as an unearned gift, in at least a fragmentary way reunifies the self and constitutes the religious or transmoral dimension in moral motivation. The transmoral conscience recognizes the motivational insufficiency of the moral imperative and accepts that it must break with any formal legalism by following the principle of LOVE in unity with a sense of the right TIME. In so doing, the transmoralCONSCIENCE aims to fulfill the essence of MORALITY by reconstituting it on a higher level, yet it faces the risk of degenerating into a form of anomie.
Tillich’s political writings, which, in part, led to his suspension from his professorship by the Nazi government, are characterized by his espousal of religious socialism and by the continuing affinity with ontological concerns. Religious socialism was Tillich’s response to his sense of the kairos in post—World War I Germany. The awareness of the kairos is the sense that the moment is pregnant with possibility, a possibility of unconditional significance and a possibility for which one must be open as to a demand and promise. This sense of the fullness of time is combined with the notion of the demonic, as a creative, yet ultimately form-destroying, expression of the unconditioned. The new possibility demanded by the situation of that time was religious socialism, the reinterpretation of socialism in terms of theonomy and the awareness of the kairos. Tillich did not seek to connect socialism to a church, nor did he connect Christian religious symbols to specific policies or parties but rather sought to grasp and interpret the theonomous or unconditional element in the current political situation. Religious socialism offered a means of resistance to the destructive tendencies of capitalism and nationalism. He did not see religious socialism as a viable possibility in America, nor did he so clearly again give a reading of the kairos. He did remain politically active.
Tillich’s proposal to interpret the social-political realities of his time from the point of view of theonomy connects to his theological interpretation of culture. He holds that the unconditioned is equally the foundation of both religion and culture and thus can come to expression in two forms—directly in a religious form or indirectly in a cultural form. Consequently, the unconditioned can be interpreted in both a church theology as well as a culture theology. Both religion and culture use conditioned cultural forms to express the unconditioned, but the intention of religion is the unconditioned, whereas culture intends those conditioned forms themselves: culture is religious in its import or substance, but not in its intention, whereas religion is cultural in its form but not in its intention. Tillich distinguishes the depth content, or the unconditional significance, from the form and the surface content, through which the import or what is depicted comes to expression. He envisioned an interdependence of ecclesiastical theology and theology of culture. Church theology tends toward irrelevance and antiquarianism as it clings to past cultural forms that may express the unconditioned to only a small religious community. Cultural theology has contemporaneity and immediate relevance that allow it to address a larger community, yet it tends toward faddishness. Ecclesiastical theology can thus give cultural theology the normative viewpoint to resist being swept up in the latest fads, and the theology of culture can keep church theology open to the present situation in its fullness.
In summary, Tillich conceived of theology in a universal manner, not tied to a religious community, both in the way he saw religious symbols as capable of responding to existential-ontological questions and in the way he sought the theonomous depth of secular culture. His phenomenological approach to the essence of religion and his manner of addressing existential concerns with a sense of their timely and historical character enabled him to appeal to a contemporary audience of broad intellectual interests.
Prudhomme, J. (1999). Paul Tillich (1886–1965).In Hayim Gordon (Ed.), Dictionary of existentialism. Retrieved from http://library.gcu.edu:2048/login?qurl=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com.library.gcu.edu%3A2048%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fgwexist%2Fpaul_tillich_1886_1965%2F0
SERMON ON THE MOUNT
The longest continuous discourse attributed to Jesus in any of the canonical Gospels, the Sermon on the Mount runs from Matthew 5:3 to 7:27. Within the context of Matthew, the Sermon portrays Jesus as a new Moses who, like his predecessor, goes up a mountain (Matt. 5:1; cf. Exod. 19:3) to expound God’s law (Matt. 5:17; cf. Exod. 19:7). It begins with the nine beatitudes (5:3–12), which describe the characteristics of Jesus’ disciples that render them ‘blessed’ (i.e., happy) in the kingdom of God. These are followed by Jesus’ interpretation of the Mosaic law (5:17–48), in which he contrasts established teaching (‘You have heard that it was said’) with his own understanding (‘But I say to you’). The Sermon continues with a series of contrasts between true and false piety (6:1–18) that includes the Lord’s Prayer (vv. 9–13), followed by teaching on material goods (6:19–34). It concludes with a combination of warnings and exhortations about the practice of discipleship (7:1–27).
The Sermon has proved influential among non-Christians like M. K. Gandhi (1869–1948) as well as within the Church, though its proper interpretation continues to be a matter of debate. A central point of contention is how commands like the prohibition of oath-taking (5:34–7) and non-retaliation (5:39) are to be understood. In Catholic theology such principles have been understood as evangelical counsels that are binding only on those with a particular (viz., religious) vocation, in distinction from evangelical precepts (e.g., the Ten Commandments) that are binding on all Christians. During the Reformation this view came under sharp criticism. Anabaptists insisted that the Sermon’s commands were binding on all Christians, and, correspondingly, refused to bear arms or swear oaths (see Mennonite Theology). Lutheran and Reformed theologians also insisted that Jesus intended his words to apply to all Christians, but they argued that his purpose was not to encourage obedience; rather, it was to show the impossibility of perfect obedience, so that they would come to rely on Christ’s righteousness rather than their own.
The modern period has seen the emergence of still other approaches. Drawing on renewed appreciation of the degree to which Jesus’ thought was shaped by eschatological expectation, A. Schweitzer (1875–1965) argued that the Sermon was meant to be taken literally, but that it represented an ‘interim ethic’ that presupposed an imminent end to the world. By contrast, D. Bonhoeffer challenged his own Lutheran tradition by reading the Sermon as a permanent summons to Christians, who can share in Jesus’ grace only if they follow his path. From another perspective, R. Niebuhr argued that the Sermon represents an ethical ideal that can motivate social reform even though it is unrealizable in practice. He has been opposed by a range of thinkers, including W. Wink (b. 1935), who sees in Jesus’ teaching a practical programme of resistance to imperial power, and S. Hauerwas (b. 1940), who interprets the Sermon as a means of schooling Christians in how to live in ways that challenge the assumptions of secular society.
Ian A. McFarland
McFarland, I. (2011). Sermon on the mount. In Ian A. McFarland, David A. S. Fergusson, & Karen et. al. Kilby (Eds.), Cambridge dictionary of Christian theology. Retrieved from http://library.gcu.edu:2048/login?qurl=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com.library.gcu.edu%3A2048%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fcupdct%2Fsermon_on_the_mount%2F0