Contemporary Theology I: Hegel to Death of God Theologies

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1 Contemporary Theology I: Hegel to Death of God Theologies ST503 LESSON 16 of 24 John S. Feinberg, Ph.D. Experience: Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. At the end of my last lecture, I began to discuss Paul Tillich s theological method, which is known as the Method of Correlation. I want to pick up that discussion at the outset of this lecture and explain how his method works and then illustrate it. And then after we ve talked about his Method of Correlation, I want to begin discussing Tillich s Concept of God. But before we do any of that, why don t we bow for a word of prayer. Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings to each of us, each and every day, the ways in which you show your goodness and your care and your concern for us. Thank you now for the privilege of study. We pray that as we continue to reflect upon systematic theology and how it should be done and can be done, that you would give us insights into the best way to do it. As well, Lord, we re going to be reflecting upon Paul Tillich s concept of Yourself. We pray that You would help us to understand what he is saying and to be able to see ways in which it is helpful in our thinking, as well as the ways in which it is problematic. So bless our study this time together. For it s in Christ s name we pray it. Amen. Well at the end of our last lecture, I noted that Tillich says, The Method of Correlation is a method for doing systematic theology that is not peculiar to him. He says that this method has always been used to some extent, to some degree, in systematic theology. I then noted that he tells us there are three different senses in which the term correlation can be used, and I explained those and pointed out what he says about why and how they are important for systematic theology. But none of that, per se, tells us how this Method of Correlation actually works, and so I want to turn to that right now. Tillich says that this method begins with an analysis of the human situation. Now it s out of this analysis that the existential questions arise. By that he means it s out of this analysis that the questions concerning the nature of existence arise. So first of all, 1 of 13

2 then, you do the analysis of the human situation or condition. But then, in the second place, systematic theology demonstrates that the symbols that are used in the Christian message are answers to these questions. Well, so far this may sound pretty good to you, but you may wonder where in the world we get this analysis of the human situation. Where do the principles, where do the questions come from which we analyze things? Well, he says that this is a Method of Correlation and he says very clearly that today the analysis of the situation is done in terms which are called existential. That is, they try to penetrate to the very meaning of existence. Now, I m sure as you reflect on this, you ll see how close this is to what Bultmann says as well. Perhaps the only difference is that Bultmann makes it very clear that the form of existentialism he s presupposing is Heidegger s existentialism whereas Tillich doesn t make things quite that specific, he just says that existentialism gives us the questions, it gives us the principles for this analysis of the human condition. Now the analysis of the human condition employs materials that are made available by man s creative self-interpretation in all realms of culture, such as philosophy, poetry, drama, the novel, therapeutic psychology, and sociology, according to Tillich. So you use whatever materials are at hand to help you analyze the human situation. The theologian then organizes these materials and the analysis of the human situation made in terms of them, in relation to the answer that is given by the Christian message. Well, this is the theory, but you might wonder how this actually works in a concrete case. Well, let me give you a few examples of how this method works according to Tillich. And these are his own examples. First of all, he takes up the problem of finitude. He says you begin with an analysis of the human situation and as you do that, you become aware of human finitude. You recognize that this means that man is faced with the threat of nonbeing. Now that s the analysis. What s the answer? Well, Tillich says that the answer is God. The notion of God in correlation with this problem makes it the case that God must be called the infinite power of being which resists the threat of nonbeing. This is being-itself, and being-itself is hyphenated between the words being and itself. This is being-itself in classical theology. According to Tillich, this is the Christian messages answer to the existential problem of finitude. Let me give you another one of his examples: the problem of 2 of 13

3 anxiety. Tillich says anxiety is to be defined as the awareness of being finite and, of course, that awareness suggests to us the threat of nonbeing. What s the answer to that? Well it s God, but not just God pure and simple. Tillich says God must be called the infinite ground of courage. Now in classical theology, Tillich says this idea was encapsulated in the notion of universal providence. You could take care of your anxiety by the thought that God was in control of all things. Now Tillich says under the aegis of existential analysis, we have an answer to the problem of anxiety; but it is the answer which says God is the infinite ground of courage. Let me mention one more example from Tillich as to how this Method of Correlation works. The third problem that he talks about is the problem of our historical existence. And he says here that if this riddle appears in correlation with the notion of the kingdom of God, then the kingdom of God must be called the meaning, fulfillment, and unity of history. Now from what I ve just said, I think you can see what the problem of our historical existence is. It s the question of whether history in general is going anywhere. Does it have a purpose? And more specifically in terms of my own personal history, is that going anywhere? Is there any purpose, any reason for which I was born and for which I m living? Well, Tillich says that when you correlate the message of the Christian faith with this particular problem, you come up with the notion of the kingdom of God, but not just that notion pure and simple. You come up with the notion of the kingdom of God as the meaning, the fulfillment, and the unity of history. Well, these are several examples that I think give you some idea of how this Method of Correlation works. On the surface of it, we may say, you know, that sounds pretty good. After all, systematic theology is supposed to reflect the Christian message, but it is also supposed to be relevant to our day and to our time. Biblical revelation is complete. It is perfect. We don t need to change it or supplement it at all, but that doesn t mean that our theological reflections about that biblical revelation cannot be done and redone with great profit. So this sounds pretty good and, per se, I think there s much in favor of this sort of method. The right thing, as we ve suggested, is that systematic theology needs to be sensitive to the issues of its day. The problem with the way Tillich handles it and encourages us to use it is that he wants us, in the first place, to analyze the human situation in terms that existentialist philosophy gives us and secondarily, he wants us to answer those questions also in existentialist terms. Yes, he wants to appeal to the Christian message, but he wants to formulate it 3 of 13

4 in ways that fit with existentialist philosophy. And then in the third place, you always sense that if there is a conflict between what the Christian message says, what Scripture says, and what existential philosophy says, we re going to yield to existential philosophy rather than to Scripture. Well, Tillich not only tells us how this method works and illustrates it, but he then goes on to say that his Method of Correlation replaces three inadequate methods that theologians at one time or another have been inclined to use and have used. The first method that he thinks is inadequate, he refers to as the Supernaturalistic Method. This method, he says, takes the Christian message to be the sum of revealed truths which have fallen into the human situation like strange bodies falling from a strange world. Now, he says the problem with this kind of approach is that these truths create a new situation before they can be received at all. Man must become something else than what he is in order to receive the divine answer. This method also forces man to receive answers to questions he s never asked. You can tell what he s after here. This is indeed, I think, a good bit of his complaint against traditional Orthodox theologies. They have looked at Scripture as God s answers to all problems, sort of dropped into our lap from another world, and what Tillich is saying is that in terms of the Bible, it s not written at our time in history, it s written at other points in history in other cultures. And the problems that were confronting those other cultures, the analysis of the human situation that was found in those other cultures, is not necessarily like ours. And yet we are asked to take this material and apply it to ourselves. Well, Tillich says what typically happens with this kind of theology is that it forces you to become someone who you aren t. You re forced to become someone who is living in a world that is like first century AD. But, of course, we re not living in that kind of world and if we re looking at answers that apply to that kind of world, well we re getting answers then from Scripture that are answers to questions that people in the 20th century AD aren t asking at all. And, of course, that s a real problem, Tillich says, for this type of theology. So the Supernaturalistic Method of theology is an inadequate method according to Tillich, but his Method of Correlation will clear up all the problems that are left over from this method. There s a second method of theology which is also inadequate according to Tillich and that is a method that he refers to as the 4 of 13

5 Naturalistic or the Humanistic Method. Now this method derives the Christian message from man s natural state. You see, if the Supernatural Method of theology derives the Christian method from God s revelation being dropped into our laps, now the Naturalistic or the Humanistic Method, on the other hand, derives the Christian method not from God but from man s natural state. It derives the Christian message from human existence, unaware that human existence itself is the question. Well Tillich says the problem here is obvious, or at least it should be. It makes the answer come from what actually is the question. It makes everything as an answer said by man to himself rather than an answer that God says to man. Revelation, though, is spoken to man, not by man to himself. It s spoken by God. And so this kind of theology is not going to be adequate because it leaves out God. Well then there s a third method of doing theology, which Tillich says is also inadequate and he refers to this method as the Dualistic Method. Now this method, Tillich says, builds a supernatural structure on a natural substructure. This method realizes that in spite of the infinite gap between man s spirit and God s spirit, there must be some sort of relationship between them. And, of course, Tillich says it s good in that respect. Its problem, though, comes when it tries to express this relation by positing a body of theological truth which man can reach through his own efforts. That is, through the use of natural reason. Now Tillich gives as an example of how this kind of theological method might work: An argument or the arguments if you will the naturalistic type of arguments for the existence of God. Tillich, as we re going to explain, thinks that that term existence of God is a contradiction in phraseology, but for right now, I just want to focus on his point about arguing for God s existence as an example of the Dualistic Method. Now Tillich says that these arguments are true in so far as they analyze human finitude and the question involved in it, but they are false in so far as they derive an answer from the form of the question. In other words, they don t get the answer from God. They get the answer from reason, which was also the tool that was used to derive the question. Tillich says that his Method of Correlation solves this problem by resolving natural theology into the analysis of existence and by resolving supernatural theology into the answers given to the questions implied in existence. So Tillich thinks that his Method of Correlation avoids all the problems that come up with the Supernatural Method, with the Naturalistic Method, and with the Dualistic Method. 5 of 13

6 Now, Tillich closes his discussion of the Method of Correlation by talking about the importance of this method for the form of systematic theology. Tillich says that this method requires that every part of the system of a systematic theologian should include one section in which the question is developed by analyzing the human situation and by analyzing existence in general. And then you should add another section in which the theological answer is given on the basis of the sources, the medium, and the norm of systematic theology. Tillich says that s the form that systematic theology should take and he says that s the form I m going to use in my systematic theology. What we re going to see as we look at some of Tillich s specific theological views is that indeed he does follow this basic form, this basic method of theology. Well, let me turn and begin to illustrate that by looking specifically at Tillich s concept of God. Of course, my point is not simply to illustrate that he does, in fact, use his own Method of Correlation, but also more specifically to see how he conceives of God. Well, true to his Method of Correlation, Tillich begins his discussion of the concept of God by talking about the question of being. See, first of all, you have to analyze the human situation and see what questions it raises, and Tillich says that as you do that, the question that arises is the question of being. This is the question he says to which God is the answer. And, of course, this is an ontological question. It s the question of what is beingitself? Now Ontology is the area of philosophy that deals with what there is, the nature and structure of being. Now Tillich says this question then is What is being-itself? What is it which is not a special being or a group of being, not something concrete or something abstract, but something which is always thought implicitly and sometimes explicitly if something is said to be. So that s the way he poses the question of being. We re not asking for a specific being. We re not asking for something that would incorporate a group of beings. Not asking for something concrete or abstract. But we re asking for the very basis, the very nature of being-itself. Now, Tillich says that the question of being-itself, which is the ontological question, arises in something like what he refers to as a metaphysical shock. Metaphysics and Ontology again deal with the nature and structure of being. So that to have a metaphysical shock would be to be aware of the fact that you have being, but your being might cease to exist. In fact, this metaphysical shock is itself, according to Tillich, the shock of the possibility of nonbeing, the realization that we might go out of existence. We might die; 6 of 13

7 we might cease to be. Well Tillich says that to deal with the question of being, we have to be aware of the basic ontological concepts and what they mean for theology. And Tillich says there are four of them, four basic concepts. And I want to share those with you at this point. Some of them will be more elaborate than the others, but there are these four basic ontological concepts that he talks about. The first one is the basic ontological structure which is the implicit condition of the ontological question. Well, we might say, What is that basic ontological structure? Tillich says that that basic ontological structure is the subject/object structure of being. What this means is that there is a subject, a person, who asks the question and there is an object to be asked about. What this means is that there are not just people who ask questions about the world when there s really not a world out there. In fact, there really is a world out there, but there are also people to ask questions about it. That s what he means when he talks about the subject/object structure of being. He says that this subject/object structure of being also presupposes the self-world structure as the basic articulation of being. Here the idea is that there is an eye, there is a person, there is a cell, but there s also a world outside of the self and that the realization that the self interacts with the world and the world with the self is part of the very structure of being. Now the relation of God to this self-world subject/object structure is detailed by Tillich on page 172 in Volume 1 of The Systematics. Now let me read to you what he says about God s relation to all of that. Tillich says, The terms subject and object have had a long history during which their meanings practically traded places. Originally, subjective meant that which has independent being, a hypostasis of its own. Objective meant that which is in the mind as its content. Today, especially under the influence of the great British empiricists, that which is real is said to have objective being, while that which is in the mind is said to have subjective being. We must follow the present terminology, but we must go beyond it. In the cognitive realm, everything toward which the cognitive act is directed is considered an object. Be it God or a stone; be it oneself or a mathematical definition. In the logical sense, everything about which a predication is made is, by this very fact, an object. The theologian cannot escape making God an object in the logical sense of the word. In other words, God really has to be a something distinct from the contents of our mind and 7 of 13

8 of our mind s thinking of Him. He has to be something external to the mind then. Tillich says then, The theologian cannot escape making God an object in the logical sense of the word, just as the lover cannot escape making the beloved an object of knowledge and action. The danger of logical objectification is that it never is merely logical. It carries ontological presuppositions and implications. If God is brought into the subject/object structure of being, He ceases to be the ground of being and becomes one being among others. First of all a being besides the subject who looks at him as an object He ceases to be the God who is really God. Religion and theology are aware of the danger of religious objectification. They attempt to escape the unintentional blasphemy implied in this situation in several ways. Prophetic religion denies that one can see God, for sight is the most objectifying sense. If there is a knowledge of God, it is God who knows Himself through man. God remains the subject, even if He becomes a logical object (compare 1 Corinthians 13:12). Mysticism tries to overcome the objectifying scheme by an ecstatic union of man and God, analogist to the erotic relation in which there is a drive toward a moment in which the difference between lover and beloved is extinguished. Theology always must remember that in speaking of God, it makes an object of that which precedes the subject/ object structure and therefore it must include in its speaking of God, the acknowledgement that it cannot make God an object. So there are a couple of things that Tillich is saying here. On the one hand, he is saying that God is not just a figment of our imagination; He s not just a psychological projection. He really is something independent of the mind. But on the other hand, He s not a something like a specific object, a specific being. If you think of Him that way, you just make Him a being in relation to a number of other beings. He s just one of among many. Instead God really has being. He really is in existence outside of our mind, but He is in existence not as a specific being, but as the ground of everything that has being. So anything that we can incorporate into the subject/object structure of existence, owes its existence ultimately to God not as one of those other objects that we could look at, but rather as the ground of being for that object that enters into the subject/object relationship. So Tillich then is saying two different things that are very important. Both that God is outside of the mind, but not as just another object among many. He s the ground of every specific object, the ground of everything that exists. Well, that s the first of the four basic ontological concepts 8 of 13

9 that Tillich puts forth. Let me turn to the second one. The second ontological principle, or basic ontological principle, is that the elements which constitute the ontological structure or the structure of being need to be set forth and Tillich talks about them. These elements, he says, share the basic polar structure of being. Each pole is meaningful only in so far as it refers by implication to the opposite pole. In the polarities, he says, the first element expresses the selfrelatedness of being, it s power of being something for itself, while the second element expresses the belongingness of being that is it s character of being a part of a universe of being. Now Tillich then says, There are three pairs of elements, of polar elements, which are the following: Individuality and Universality. He also thinks of Universality as participation, so the difference between being an individual or isolated, on the one hand, or being a participant. The second polar element is Dynamics and Form, and the third he refers to as Freedom and Destiny. Now let me just share with you what he says about each polarities. First of all, Individuality and Participation: that one, he says, is really pretty easy to understand. Each person is an individual, but at the same time, each individual also participates in a whole. As to Form versus Dynamics, well that one s a little more difficult to understand, but let me tell you what Tillich has to say about that. Having form means being something: something specific, something that is static reality. Dynamics, on the other hand, is what Tillich calls the potentiality of being. It is not something that is or something that is not, but instead it s the potentiality of becoming or being something new. How about Freedom and Destiny? Well, freedom he says is experienced as deliberation, decision, and responsibility. Things don t have freedom, but people do have freedom. Now parts of people, like their wills, also cannot be said to have freedom. Instead it s the whole person who has freedom. What about Destiny? Well, Tillich says destiny refers to one s self as given, as formed by nature. It refers to that which is history, that which is one s self. It is that out of which our decisions arise, but it s not the decision-making itself. Now in order for there to be freedom, Tillich says there must be destiny. There must be some thing which is already a self, something which has been formed in order for that thing to then be able to form a new self. Well, these then are the ontological constituents, if you will, the 9 of 13

10 ontological elements that constitute the ontological structure of being these three polarity. Well, the third element that s involved in Tillich s basic ontological concepts refers to the characteristics of being, which are the conditions of existence. Now, this level of concepts deals with the power of being to exist and also with the difference between essential and existential being. Tillich distinguishes here between two types of nonbeing as opposed to being. And here, if you know Greek, the concepts will become a little bit clearer, though not a whole lot, but you ll at least understand the terminology a little bit better than if you don t know Greek. The first kind of nonbeing he refers to as oύk on, transliterated, we would write that o-u-k and then another word o-n. And he distinguishes that kind of nonbeing with what he calls me on. And that second phrase is spelled m-e and then o-n. Now the word on is the present participle from the Greek verb eimi, which means to be. The word oύk is the Greek word for not. The word me is also the Greek word of not, but me is a stronger form of negation than oύk. Well, what is oύk ontic nonbeing and what is me ontic nonbeing, according to Tillich? Well, oύk ontic nonbeing is the nothing which has no relation at all to being. It is the absolute opposite of being. This kind of nonbeing is the total absence of any kind of being. It s absolute nothingness. Obviously it s the most radical form of nothingness. What about me on or me ontic nonbeing? Well, Tillich defines this as the nothing which has a dialectical relation to being. Now nonbeing in this sense is finitude or finiteness. In other words, there is something that s there, but it s a finite something. And so it is appropriate to refer to that finite thing as participating in nonbeing, but it s also appropriate to refer to it as participating in being. And that suggests that it is finite. Finitude unites with being in a dialectical way to form me ontic nonbeing. So you can see that oύk ontic nonbeing is absolute nothingness. There s no being there whatsoever. Me ontic nonbeing involves some kind of being, some amount of being, a finite amount. Well, Tillich says that man is a combination of being and me ontic nonbeing. Now being, Tillich says, limited by nonbeing is finitude. Everything that participates in being, he says, is mixed with nonbeing. That is, it is in the process of coming from and going toward nonbeing. As a result of that, it s finite. 10 of 13

11 Now on page 191 of volume 1 of The Systematics, Tillich talks about the relationship of finitude to infinitude and to beingitself. Let me just read you from what he says about that topic and you ll get some idea further as to how he understands these concept. Being-itself is not infinity. It is that which lies beyond the polarity of finitude and infinite self-transcendent. Being-itself manifests itself to finite being in the infinite drive of the finite beyond itself, but being-itself cannot be identified with infinity, that is with the negation of finitude it precedes the finite and it precedes the infinite negation of the finite. So here the thought is that if finite is a limited amount of being and the infinite is an unlimited amount of being, that which is being-itself is even beyond the category of the infinite, it s the ground of this infinite amount of being. Well, let me turn now to the fourth of what Tillich has referred to as the basic ontological concept. The fourth one deals with the categories of being and knowing. Here he s discussing, then, the basic forms of thought and being. Here s what Tillich has to say about this. He says that These participate in the nature of finitude and can be called structures of finite being and thinking. Now Tillich says that the four of these structures that are theologically important are time, space, causality, and substance. Now Tillich talks about each one of these and let me just sketch for you what he says. Tillich says that Time is the central category of finitude. On page 193 and 194 of volume one of The Systematics, he tells us about the importance of time. He says, As experienced in immediate self-awareness, time unites the anxiety of transitoriness with the courage of a self-affirming present. The melancholy awareness of the trend of being toward nonbeing, a theme which fills the literature of all nations, is most actual in the anticipation of one s own death. What is significant here is not the fear of death, that is the moment of dying, it is anxiety about having to die, which reveals the ontological character of time. In the anxiety of having to die, nonbeing is experienced from the inside. This anxiety is potentially present in every moment. It permeates the whole of man s being. It shapes soul and body and determines spiritual life. It belongs to the created character of being quite apart from estrangement and sin. It is actual in Adam, that is man s essential nature as well as in Christ, that is man s new reality. Well, that s what he has to say about the importance of time. What 11 of 13

12 about space? Well, Tillich says being spatial means being subject to nonbeing. Finitude means having no definite place. It means having to lose every place finally and, with it, to lose being-itself. What about causality? Well, Tillich says that the question of the cause of a thing, or event, presupposes that it does not possess its own power of coming into being. This, of course, is man s state as finite and it causes him anxiety. This, on the other hand, is not God s case. He is His own cause. He doesn t need to be brought into being by anything else. He can t go out of being, so God doesn t have that problem. What about substance, the fourth of these elements? Substance points to something underlying a flux of appearance, something which is relatively static and self-contained. Now, Tillich says that everything finite is innately anxious that its substance will be lost. And this, of course, refers to continuous change as well as to final loss. We re afraid not only that we ll eventually go out of existence, but we re afraid that we ll lose one stage or another of our existence and we ll grow older. Now on page 198, Tillich gives a summary of these four categories in relation to God, and I want to just read that to you so that you ll see what he said. He says, The four categories are four aspects of finitude in its positive and negative elements. They express the union of being and nonbeing in everything finite. They articulate the courage which accepts the anxiety of nonbeing. The question of God is the question of the possibility of this courage. So that sets it there for you. Now, Tillich then says that because man is finite rather than infinite, although he s estranged from the infinite as well, and because man has all the anxieties that arise with finitude, he asks the question about being. Because nonbeing threatens man, in his finitude he must ask the question of being and it must be a question where he asks whether being can conquer nonbeing. Tillich says that the answer is given by God, but it s not the god of philosophical arguments. For example, the god of the cosmological argument, the first cause, is still a being whose cause must be sought somewhere else, according to Tillich, and therefore the god that you get at the end of the cosmological argument is a finite god. Well, the question then of being arises because of our finitude and the answer, says Tillich, is God. Next time we re going to turn more specifically to look at what Tillich has to say about God. 12 of 13

13 We ve seen that he says as you analyze the human situation, you recognize that there s a question about your own existence and nonexistence and God answers that question. Next time, we ll see who that God is. Christ-Centered Learning Anytime, Anywhere 13 of 13

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