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Paul Tillich: The New Being


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Kshewfelt, I’m not a churchgoer, but your description reminds me of when I went to a women’s bible study group, which was supposedly open and non-denominational, and in discussing the cross, I suggested an alternative interpretation to substitutionary atonement. Reactions about particular beliefs can be disturbing. Yet as friends, hosts, they couldn’t have been nicer.

 

Just a couple further responses on chapter 2. I wondered if Tillich uses the term “New Being / Creation” as equivalent to the “kingdom of God/ Heaven”—to avoid the cultural baggage associated with the word kingdom. Or is there a distinction of meaning?

 

Also thought this phrasing, from another work, was clarifying – “Jesus is considered the bearer of the New Being, but Tillich suggests he isn’t necessarily the only saving power. Jesus is the standard for salvation— not the exclusive entry point into it. He stands as a model for anything that brings hope, healing, reconciliation, and love.”

 

Since these meditations are so short, maybe we could cover one a week - ?

 

Chapter 3 “The Power of Love” focuses on Elsa Brandstrom, known for courageously helping prisoners of war in Russia. Tillich’s point about her life seems straightforward. Many humanitarian contributions, big and small, are made all the time by people who ‘abide in love’ but have no allegiance to Christianity or any religion.

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Also, if anyone has a nook, you can download it for free from B&N

I agree the bible story could apply to anyone who identifies as a misfit or outsider.   Dutch wrote, "Tillich's portrayal of the righteous is always a challenge, but does it mean that one must be bo

I come back periodically to see what is happening here. For the most part I don’t see much change in the dynamics here that caused me to leave some time ago and so I don’t intend to become real acti

rivanna wrote: Just a couple further responses on chapter 2. I wondered if Tillich uses the term “New Being / Creation” as equivalent to the “kingdom of God/ Heaven”—to avoid the cultural baggage associated with the word kingdom. Or is there a distinction of meaning?

 

I'd have to agree with you on that idea, both in what I think Jesus meant, and how I think Tillich is presenting it here.

Jenell

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I guess I'll be the first to comment on Ch. 3. :)

 

I think this is at the core of the difficultly many struggle with, in both directions, in the matter of any importance, relevance, of religion, particularly Christian theology and doctines of "salvation" through belief in Jesus, which requires first knowledge of the Jesus story.

 

I think it is at the core of controversy and often discomfort among Christians toward such texts as Romans, particularly Ch 2, and the book of James.

 

I know that it has been a crucial element in my own journey of faith, and feeling my way toward reconciliation between my beliefs and my faith.

 

Jenell

 

ps..I'm a bit disappointed in myself that I had not read Tillich before, having put it off...I'm finding so far his views and ideas are tracking quite closely to those I have come to, as well. .

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I think he does a fair job in bringing out the point that our bitterness, feelings of rejection by life and its fears and horrors is not a result of "its objective darkness" but rather our seemingly separation from its power and source of life. Forgiveness in my own experience is key to awareness of that source.

 

 

Joseph

I've certainly found this to be true in my own life. When I first deconverted from fundamentalist Christianity, I was still very angry at the church and the bible for many years because of the way they treated me and I felt like I had been decieved and maliciously lied to. I wanted nothing to do with Jesus and I blamed all religion as being responsible for all my problems in my life. It wasn't until one of my friends who is a secular humanist himself linked me to a youtube video of one of Bishop Spong's lectures that I was able to let go of my anger at Christianity. Spong's honest introspection of the church inspired me to look at Christianity and the bible from a different way and I realized there were other ways of being Christian than the judgmental homophobic anti-sex Christianity I was raised in.
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In Chapter Three Tillich does not provide anything new to our contemporary ears, but I think that it is important to try to hear this sermon in the context of Tillich’s time and place. The collection of sermons was published in 1955 so the sermon was given sometime prior to that. This was a time before the women’s movement in the 1960’s and so it seems significant that Tillich chose a woman as an example of “abiding in Love/abiding in God”.

 

Historically this was before Bishop Robinson’s “Honest to God” (Robinson’s important book is heavily influenced by Tillich) and before the “Death of God” movement when there was general acceptance within Christianity that god was a super and separate being. That god required a son in order to negotiate the needs of humanity with the divine. Tillich blew that god up and I think Tillich has to be considered one of the sources for a theology that throws out the separate “personal” or “being” named god for the existential reality of God.

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Neon wrote: I was still very angry at the church and the bible for many years because of the way they treated me and I felt like I had been decieved and maliciously lied to. I wanted nothing to do with Jesus and I blamed all religion as being responsible for all my problems in my life.

 

A significant different in my own life experience was that it seemed to me that I had been introduced to one Jesus, that I immediate loved very dearly, and still do, but then at a point, which I've always connected to 1. my age, their 'time to teach her the grown-up part', and/or 2. my mother taking up a new and terrible turn in direction in her religious "development" toward eventual very dysfunctional fanaticism.

 

I felt betrayed at that point. They told me one thing, Jesus loved me, would never leave me, I accepted it, loved it, then turned the tables on me, that I was worthless and wicked and was going to suffer eternally in hell if I didn't realize that, repent, and do whatever. I didn't so much see religion as being responsible for all the problems in my life, but very much so as responsible for many/most of the developing problems in my relationships to/with others, particularly adults and anyone that was for me some representation of this "other Jesus" they had come up with.

 

David wrote: but I think that it is important to try to hear this sermon in the context of Tillich’s time and place. The collection of sermons was published in 1955

 

 

Only more recently have I begun to suspect there may have been something very different at work, suggested by the timing of such as Tillich's works (which I've never even heard of till recent years)...I was born in 1948. The timing here hits right on about the point at which religion seemed to horribly transform around me (around the ages of 8-12, 1956-1960). I defnitely remember by that time hearing just a whole lot of preaching and talking about the dire threat of "modernism" in the church, some other denominations, with strong suggestions of it all being related to apocalyptic 'end times prophecies', about "Worldliness" taking over the church, a 'New World Order' in some form of "one world religion' that everyone was going to be required to accept and join into, to worship the beast, and have the mark placed upon their foreheads or right hands, so as to be allowed to transact business, and that those 'true believers' that rejected and refused would be persecuted and martyred. (Which ironically, turned out in my mother's case to be the real future of her life, at least from her perspective, as she spiraled into dysfunctional fanaticsm and mental illness)

 

I think now, the way that term "modernism" in religion was being used may very well have been in reference to the emergence of what we now call 'liberalism' or 'progessivism.' And, that given the timing, my age at the time, I was caught in that turbulent period of powerful knee-jerk reaction within traditional evangelistic circles, leading into the hard hard right turn toward fundamentalism as a defense against those emerging changes.

 

Jenell

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I thought David’s point about the context of this sermon was well taken-- it must have seemed radical to choose Elsa for his example of “making God transparent in every moment without a single theological conversation." She certainly was subjected to a lot of brutality, danger and hardship in her work.

 

Jenell, it sounds like you’ve had more than your share of issues with hard-core fundamentalism. I suppose that anger and pain is what fuels many of the posts on this board. I just don’t have that axe to grind. But I need to read authors like Tillich because he speaks to the existential, Stoic, or cynical atmosphere that my parents’ generation passed on to me, in the midst of what he calls “the darkest, most destructive and cruel of all centuries since the dawn of mankind.”

 

Is there more to be said about this chapter -? It seems like one of the simpler ones.

 

Chapter 4, “The Golden Rule” looks much more challenging. Tillich says the golden rule is limited, both in its positive and negative form, that it’s not the whole content of the gospel. He calls it “calculating justice” –“the assertion that God is love, infinitely transcends the golden rule, for it does not tell us what we should wish others would do to us.” I haven’t really thought through his examples yet, but wonder is it too idealistic, impossible to put into practice? or is this an important qualification?

The meaning isn’t clear to me, but it reminded me of Jim Burklo in his book Open Christianity-- he suggests we adopt instead “the diamond rule” – do unto others as they would have you do unto them. (of course we can’t really know that either).

 

Tillich’s writing is full of paradox, that is for sure!

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Rivanna,

Whether you, or any, at least here in this country, grew up in a time and place in which you were personally, directly exposed to the socio-religious culture and attitudes of that passed generation, or not, you were none the less definitely touched by it, as the whole of our culture, society, within which you were raised,and have lived, was pervaded, influenced, shaped, molded, by it, in ways you probably don't even know or realize. Perhaps those directly, closely, personally touched by the searing hot iron of it, burn with a greater and brighter fire from it, but the conscience and sensibilities of whole of this culture, society, is yet struggling mightily to break free of it and move on to something better. I thank God, or whatever one wants to call it, that those such as Tillich were raised up, and brought forth, to strike the match to it.

 

Jenell

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Thanks for all the thoughts so far.

 

I agree that chapter 3 contains a message that is by now very familiar to us. In any case, I continue to enjoy Tillich's existential approach, never dividing the divine realm from the lived realm. "God's abiding in us, making us His dwelling place, is the same thing as our abiding in love, as our having love as the sphere of our habitation."

 

One other thing of interest I found was at the end of the sermon where he writes: "It is more than justice and it is greater than faith and hope. It is the presence of God himself." This turns my mind to Job. The voice from the whirlwind. Does it transcend justice? At that apocalypse, the unveiling of the presence of God, does faith and hope find its end/consummation?

 

And with that I suppose we can move on to chapter 4 unless anyone else has anything to add.

 

Thanks,

Mike

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I think the sense of paradox is in that it is at once both oversimplified and infinitely complex. The more you think about it, the harder it gets to wrap your mind around. I think another way of framing it is, what I allow to others I allow to myself. What I allow against others, I allow against myself. Again,that seems simple,until you really think about it.

Jenell

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Once again I think Tillich challenges Progressive Christianity in Chapter 4. Progressive Christianity lifts up justice as primary whereas Tillich suggests that justice is secondary. Progressive Christianity may have come to this conclusion because there is no agreement on what God’s “reuniting love” means.

 

We saw Tillich put justice in a secondary position in the first chapter and suggested that those who are most righteous/just may have a problem experiencing forgiveness/love. In this chapter Tillich states, “the justification of him who is unjust is the fulfillment of God’s creative justice, and of His reuniting love”. Read the sentence again and underline “unjust”.

 

Being in a secondary position does not make justice less important nor does it mean that calculating justice is not a necessary condition. Every day we have to calculate justice and every person must support personal actions and political conditions that are more just than the alternatives.

 

I think that being human is to have some sense of “reuniting love” and for humans it is not possible to practice justice without Love although there are persons who are obviously better at this than others. There are not too many persons who practice what Tillich warns about when he talks about “justice without love is always injustice”. In fact, Tillich says “for the other one and I and we together in this moment in this place are a unique, unrepeatable occasion, calling for a unique unrepeatable act of uniting love”. Every situation then becomes on the one hand “listening to the call” of uniting love and on the other hand the calculation of what justice would look like. The hoped for result is what Tillich would call “God’s creative justice”.

 

I think I have witnessed on rare occasions where God’s reuniting love came close to totally being reflected in the form of justice, but for the most part every occasion is an ambiguous mix of our “foolishness” and our “wisdom” because it is impossible (or as Rivanna says, too idealistic) to act fully like God or make the world look exactly like God.

 

That means that our world is/we are at least in part broken. Every occasion will be an ambiguous mixture of justice and injustice. Be aware of any savior who wants to persuade you otherwise (including the new point one of the eight points that speaks of the “oneness and unity of all life”).

 

“Love makes justice just. The divine love is justifying love accepting and fulfilling him who, according to calculating justice, must be rejected”. This is not an “either/or” but is a “both/and” statement. The part of us that must use calculating justice will “reject” while the part of us that hears the call of “reuniting love” will accept. The actual occasion or event will be an ambiguous mixture of both.

 

I don’t think Tillich is rejecting the Golden Rule. I just think he is saying that the Golden Rule is limited and more importantly does not speak to the most essential.

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I think this is a wonderfully challenging book for Christians.,

 

I think Tillich in this Chapter makes the point that the Golden Rule must be transcended with Love. This is because no rule , even this one, is able to always reside in wisdom because our wishes in using it include both our 'right' and our 'wrong' which includes that which is foolish at the expense of wisdom. Wisdom to me, comes not from rules or appearances but rather is in harmony with Love which is not of the thinking mind.

 

Joseph

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David: We saw Tillich put justice in a secondary position in the first chapter and suggested that those who are most righteous/just may have a problem experiencing forgiveness/love. In this chapter Tillich states, “the justification of him who is unjust is the fulfillment of God’s creative justice, and of His reuniting love”. Read the sentence again and underline “unjust”.

 

Two very good points here.

 

In the first, are those that a placed in contrast to the weeping woman at Jesus's feet, having loved much, for having been forgiven much. Of course, the matter there is pride, self-righteousness...if you are righteous, you don't need forgiveness, you've 'earned your own merit.'

In the second, as Jesus said, I come not for the righteous but to call the sinners....the 'well' have no need of a physician.

 

The fatal flaw there, i guess you'd call it, is that righteousness in one'sself is a delusion. In their very beleif in their own righteousness, in no need of forgiveness, mercy, are they brought down, even down below the "recognized sinner."

 

In my own matters of learning about forgiving others, some that have offended against me that I have forgiven, i would not go to tell them I have forgiven them, because I know it would anger, even enrage them, they would take it as my offending against them, for that they've never recognized or acknowledged that they had done something'wrong' to begin with, that might even warrant forgivenss. I think that is very much why the religious of Jesus' day hated him so much, he dared suggest they even were in need of forgiveness for anything. They cannot "accept" forgiveness, because accepting forgiveness demands accepting there is a wrong, and offense, to be forgiven.

 

Jenell

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To me it’s interesting that the golden rule appears in some form in every major religion now, and in Jesus’ time was already present in Confucius and the Tao, the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, Hinduism, in Leviticus and other scriptures long before the gospel. The “ethics of reciprocity” code was known to Jesus’ audience. Tillich points out that his teaching– the New Being – goes beyond it.

 

The one problem I had at first with this chapter was that, in everyday behavior with people, we don’t normally go through an analytical process before acting— asking ourselves “am I treating the other person the way I want to be treated? do I know for sure what way that is? and is it for the best?” In my mind, the golden rule has been identified simply with the disposition to “Be loving / compassionate.” However it seems that Tillich draws a contrast between the two concepts to advocate action that flows naturally from the heart, without expectation, rather than from the head. As in Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable.

 

side note – part of what I appreciate about Tillich is his affinity for psychology, and for the arts. On the same site there’s an essay by him on modern art and existentialism. To me it’s another example of his liberal mindedness—most of the artists and poets I’ve worked with through the years lean to the left.

Also I’m a little surprised that his writing can be seen as a challenge to the PC church – though when it comes to church matters I wouldn’t know.

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Here is my side note to rivanna's side note.

 

I would argue that Tillich would not embrace the current version of the eight points and I would argue that Tillich would not consider himself a Progressive Christian as commonly defined and practiced today.

 

I have raised on a couple of occasions the issue of justice and implied the concerns of morality associated with justice. Tillich would reject any concept of justice and/or morality that is not sourced in the “ground of our being”. “Being” always precedes values. Thus one cannot understand justice or morality without participating in “the ground of being”. Being precedes and makes possible values/justice/morality. The problem with Progressive Christianity as commonly defined and practiced today is that it makes no distinction between this and, for lack of a better word, a secular understanding of justice/morality. Without such a distinction the whole reason for being called Christian becomes meaningless.

 

Although it has not been germane to this discussion I mentioned in passing that Tillich would not support perhaps the most important of the eight points, which talks about the oneness and unity of all life. It is fundamental to Tillich that a person both belongs to and is separated; is both “conditioned” and “unconditional”. When Tillich talks about God he talks about sin/grace, about separation and the power of grace that is the power to accept what is unacceptable. This dynamic is hardly realized in point one of the eight points and point one seems to me to be actually a different vision of the Divine than what Tillich has preached.

 

Sorry for the diversion. Looks like we are losing participants. But I note that this thread has had over 5,000 views which means people are reading this thread?

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It’s good to have reflections from someone who has clearly studied Tillich in depth.

 

Personally I can’t see substantial distinctions between Tillich’s view and PC, only a difference of language or style rather than meaning. To me, separating the idea of secular justice from Tillich’s “ground of being” morality seems contrived somehow, and IMHO “living in two orders” does not conflict with the unity of life concept. It seems to me that the oneness of human life includes the dynamic of alternately feeling / not feeling grace, belonging, acceptance.

 

I don’t understand how Tillich would disagree with point 1-- saying that we’ve “found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.” Also don’t see how Tillich would deny point 2 – “we affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.” – Tillich was especially interested in Buddhist mysticism, for one thing.

 

But I’ve only scratched the surface of Tillich’s work, and these philosophical subtleties are probably beyond me – Mike could relate to them better :-)

Maybe we can go on to the next chapter - ?

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I continue to enjoy reading this book and have nothing to add except i am in full agreement from what i have read thus far with Karen's view of what was written so far not being a "substantial distinction" from the 8 points here.

 

Joseph

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Tillich and Progressive Christianity is worthy of a separate discussion. I don’t want to turn a book discussion into that. Tillich lovers may disagree with me (I wonder how Spong feels about taking the word God out of point one) but again that is a diversion from this book and I will try to stay focused on the book.

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Ch 5 presents some real challenges, both in analyzing, comprehending, getting at the big concepts, and in trying to discuss it in this format. I'm seeing it as some really solid meat the chew. But with a lot of potential nutrition if digested.

Ch 5 presents quite a few concepts and idea for which I find good, strong parallels in both psychology and spirituality. His opening account of the people of Germany very much echoes accounts of those early ground-breakers in what we now call 'positive psychology', and the concept of 'resilence'.

 

But I see that in his observations on our own society as well, and I am really struck by how Tillich's descriptions and analysis of the sate of our own society, written at least as far back as the early 50's, could have just as well been written yesterday about the state of our society right now. So whatever he was observing at work in our society then, hasn't undergone any signficant change in that.

 

The escape into mental illness he writes of is something I think needs a lot more attention than its been given, whether in religion, psychology, or social and health issues. While we have come to accept how outside forces within our environment contribute to or cause much physical illness, both in weakening defenses (poor diet, lack of exercise, inadequate sleep, constant assault on the body of environmental pollutants) and in forthright attack (disease causing organisms, environmental toxins, traumatic injuries) we really don't either as a society or even a medical mentality, have a similar recognition of the real effects of environmental stressors on mental health. The concept of a mind/body connection is still in its early formative stages, we've barely scratched the surface in what that means to both physical and mental health.

 

Because we tend to be condtioned to think of mental illness as a dysfunctional and faulty response to life and its challenges, there isn't really serious concern for addressing the environmental, cultural, social and practical problems that may be causing or contributing to them. In both matters of physical and mental health, wellness, and illness, we are still very much, both in society and medical professions, operating on a medical model that is an extension of the worldview that grew out of the rise of the age of technology, industrialism and modern science, that we needn't much concern ourselves with the effects and consequences of our actions and behaviors, because we can easily come up with a 'fix' for whatever problem might arise. Even common sense caution and pre-caution in so many ways and things has been tossed aside, for our mentality that if something 'bad' happens due to our carelessness and thoughtlessness, no big deal, we can 'fix' it when the time comes.

 

As I observed, its a very meaty chapter, and what I observe here is only a tiny part of what I'm finding within it.

 

Jenell

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I agree with Tillich that we are responsible for the common visions of Jesus as moral teacher and Jesus as social reformer and we have not paid enough attention to the gospel stories that show Jesus as healer. Tillich notes that our problems with this have been focused on “miracles” when such talk is foolishness because healing does not represent “negation of natural laws”. The abuses or the “distortion into magic and superstition” according to Tillich can be solved by “good theology and good practice”. I am not so sure that we have the courage of Tillich to confront others with defects in theology and practice. I see too much of the liberal tendency to “live and let live”, a philosophy that has as its most serious sin the attempt to challenge the self understanding of those who need healing (all of us).

 

I think that it is important that Tillich does not speak about healing as the absence of brokenness even though he seems to say this at times. It is important to hear Tillich say “that the old reality of conflict and disease has not disappeared” in the healing process. Wholeness involves a process where “within the unity of the body struggling elements can be reconciled. And this is possible even if deep traces of former struggles in our body remain as long as we live”. It is only in this sense that the word “unity” makes any sense. For the most part Tillich seems to prefer the word “wholeness” which better captures the sense that what is broken remains broken but is “reconciled”, is “conquered”, but not eliminated. “Wholeness” better captures the sense that the broken parts lose the power to tear us apart. In that sense we experience healing without escaping what Tillich calls “the basic insecurity of human existence and the driving anxiety connected with it…felt everywhere and by everyone”. I agree with Tillich on this and therefore I fundamentally distrust any “savior” who promises to eliminate that insecurity and anxiety. Healing does not take us to another world.

 

“We know, even when we confess this faith, that the old reality of conflict and disease has not disappeared. Our bodies ail and die, our souls are restless, our world is a battlefield of individuals and groups. But the new reality cannot be thrown out. We live from it, even if we do not know it. For it is the power of reconciliation whose work is wholeness and whose name is love….Not always, of course, but in those moments of grace”. The vision of healing is a vision of grace which puts into perspective our attempts to heal based upon what we “know”. Jesus first talks about the forgiveness of sin and only then is health regained. But remember from the early chapter that this process is not a process of making ourselves or others "worthy of forgiveness". The “New Being” has “grasped” those who are healed. “Faith means being grasped by a power that is greater than we are, a power that shakes us and turns us, and transforms us and heals us.” And…."not always, of course, but in those moments of grace".

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It does seem that Tillich’s affirmations about healing are couched in language that keeps them tentative, intermittent – I think David’s paraphrase is a very apt take on this chapter--“Healing does not take us to another world.”

 

Two things stand out for me in chapter 5 – the first part almost sounds like a Christian science position (?). It echoes the idea that therapy offers explanations; spirituality offers forgiveness. Religion heals by accepting the unacceptable.

 

The second part I relate to particularly since he uses esthetic terms – focusing on the spiritual image of Jesus that we have in our minds, from the bible, sermons, and the arts-- how this picture might or might not have the same healing effect for us today. “How do we paint Jesus the Christ? The stories in the gospel of Matthew …paint him as the healer. It is astonishing that this color, this powerful trait of His character, has more and more been lost in our time. The grayish colors of a moral teacher, the soft traits of a suffering servant have prevailed…Have we received healing forces here and there from the power of the picture of Jesus as the savior?” etc. Imagination, putting ourselves in the place of someone Jesus gave new life to, seems essential in Tillich’s view.

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Tillich does not shy away from putting the Divine in the middle of existence but in doing so ambiguity and the problem with language results.

 

When talking about healing you do not hear Tillich talking about replacing the doctor with Jesus, the Savior. He says of course we go to the physicians and psychotherapists, which means that the word healing obviously includes appropriate treatment for illness.

 

But also you do not hear Tillich talking about “faith healing”. We hear and read about healing that comes as a result of intensive concentration or self determination or even psychosomatic cures. There seems to be some evidence that how we respond mentally and emotionally to illness has an affect on healing. I don’t see Tillich denying this, but I also don’t see Tillich saying that this is what he means by healing via Jesus, the Savior (although an elementary reading of the gospels can be and often is interpreted to be “faith healing”). Tillich would reject using the word “faith” in relationship to this kind of healing.

 

Tillich equates healing with salvation. This kind of healing “makes whole and sane what is broken and insane” even though “disease has not disappeared”. Tillich would make a distinction between “existential anxiety” and “neurotic anxiety”; the latter is a concern for the psychotherapist, the former is a concern for the priest. The former has to do with Jesus, the Savior; the latter has to do with the hospital. Both are interrelated within existence and so it seems wise to always have that hospital chaplain around.

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While i also personally read and see Tillich not talking about "faith healing" as it is commonly used, Tillich seems to me to see faith a bit differently than many and more as a 'centered act of the whole personality'. This does not deny the healings by faith recorded in the NT where it was often said, "thy faith had made thee whole" or "according to your faith be it unto you". It merely seems to me that Tillich separates the more common word 'belief' from 'faith' and to me rightly so. I think rather he speaks of healing beyond the concept of suggestive healing without evidence and sees that beyond as 'faith'.

 

"Faith means being grasped by a power that is greater than we are, a power that shakes us and turns us, and transforms us and heals us." That may not always include physical healing but it is not negated. "Faith here, of course, does not mean the belief in assertions for which there is no evidence. It never meant that in genuine religion, and it never should be abused in this sense. The people whom Jesus could heal and can heal are those who self-surrender to the healing power in Him." In this chapter i see a different use of the word faith than most but not a denial that physical healings by 'that faith' also took and take place.

 

Joseph

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These posts were both helpful in clarifying, for me.

 

As David noted - Tillich distinguishes between neurotic and existential anxiety. From Tillich’s The Courage to Be: “Pathological anxiety is an object of medical healing. Existential anxiety is an object of priestly help. The minister may be a healer and the psychotherapist a priest, and each person may be both in relation to the neighbor, but the functions should not be confused.”

 

About Joseph’s quote from Tillich - “the people whom Jesus could heal and can heal are those who did and do this self-surrender to the healing power in Him” (surrender meaning trust, reliance). I used to think everyone Jesus healed actively sought his help, but of the 21 healings reported in the gospel, only 7 of the recipients expressed faith / desire to be cured. Sometimes it was the confidence of an intermediary – the Roman centurion, the paralytic brought in through the roof, Jairus’ daughter, the Gadarene demoniac, etc. Sometimes no one involved showed faith – Lazarus, Malchus’ ear, etc. Maybe some healings were done to create faith. And what would Tillich say about Paul, the apostle who prayed three times to be healed of his affliction, and was denied.

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It strikes my “amazing/awe” sense when the Gospels reach out and touch us out of their time and place into our time and place. In the midst of the ancient concept of healing that meant casting out unclean spirits in a flat world with heaven/earth/hell in three tiers we can hear the words of Jesus that were certainly spoken with those ancient understandings and be able to recognize healing in our time and place (and as Rivanna points out see the limits of “wished for” healing). For me this requires some work in our time and place where we have to wade through the magical thinking but with or without that deconstruction healing happens. Amazing grace.

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