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Paul Tillich: The New Being


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Maybe with few participants the discussion can move more quickly. With that goal let me comment on Chapter six.

 

Perhaps because I am a child of the 60’s I resonate with a vision of “holy waste” that contrasts with the reasonable or utilitarian. The passion that drives an “abundance of heart” and leaves reason in its wake seems to have motivated much of the 60’s “generation of love”. People left the safety of being conventional and became “flower children”. “Wasting….beyond the limits of law and rationality” may have been the theme song for the 60’s.

 

The failure of the 60’s may be understood if we can see that Tillich is not suggesting that the 60’s search for “self fulfillment” is the answer. The hubris of the 60’s resulted in people being persuaded that they were mini gods capable of avoiding the Cross. Tillich points out that the Cross “is the fulfillment of all wisdom within the plan of salvation”.

 

There is no traditional theory of atonement here. The experience of the Cross was shown by Jesus, but only shown as part of the structure of reality, not as a one time exception to reality. The Cross has to do with the ecstatic waste that makes it holy. But because it is part of the structure of existence the Cross “does not disavow the purposeful act, the reasonable service”.

 

There is no sense here of participating in the Divine without the Cross. This is Tillich’s challenge to the survivors of the 60’s and to those religious organizations that would take down the Cross from their buildings.

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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

Just a few responses to this chapter, hopefully others who started will jump back in too.

 

In “Holy Waste” Tillich revisits the gospel scene with the anointing woman in the first chapter, only it’s from Mark instead of Luke, and Jesus’ head is anointed instead of his feet. Some lines that resonated with me: “people are sick not only because they have not received love, but also because they are not allowed to give love, to waste themselves.” Maybe Tillich was advocating more passion and openness as opposed to emotional repression and conforming to social expectations-? That would seem consistent with the image we have of the early 1950’s culture.

 

David’s comparison of the 1960’s values with Tillich’s message about the cross, seems very insightful. Tillich’s last paragraph implies that suffering can never be done away with, no matter how successful or productive a society becomes. Suffering changes from one form to another, it cannot be eliminated from human life. The Cross symbolizes the necessary acceptance of un-control, non-being, or ultimate anxiety into oneself.

 

Another part I liked - “There is no creativity, divine or human, without the holy waste which comes out of the creative abundance of the heart and does not ask, What use is this?” As a sometime artist/poet I can vouch for that. Tillich brings in the example of the sea monster from the book of Job, as one of God’s many expressions-- the profound mystery of God’s creation, not always useful or beneficial to humans.

 

“In the self-surrendering love of the Cross, reason and ecstasy, moral obedience and sacred waste are united.” Tillich seems to comprehend how Jesus knew exactly what he was doing, how it carried out his mission in the most effective way, yet at the same time did it with passion and extravagant devotion-- like the woman who anointed him. The energy of an outpouring of pure emotion is never lost, it endures longer than the flesh.

 

This chapter reminded me also that “loving wastefully” is a phrase John Spong uses in his work-- you see Tillich’s influence there.

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Tillich certainly has an unorthodox way of looking at stories in the NT. I mean this in a good positive way as i have never heard of such a view of this story in Simon the lepers house before and was impressed with this chapter.Tillich makes no bones that "religion within the limits of reasonableness is a mutilated religion, and that calculating love is not love at all." This is at first difficult to grasp because outside of those limits sits "nonsense" to the "balanced personality".

 

In this story as in life Tillich recognizes the "abundant heart" and accepting it without analyzing all its elements and the continual rationalizations common in everyday life. Such are the "expressions of the divine abundance." Its powerful in that it "trespasses all reason" and is better known as the creative spirit. This to me is not something that is learned, reasoned, or forced, but rather experienced as part of the kingdom when ones consciousness is elevated which is a natural state when the self is at least momentarily crucified.

 

Just my take on Chapter 6,

Joseph

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Maybe with few participants the discussion can move more quickly. With that goal let me comment on Chapter six.

 

Thanks David,

Feel free to move at your own pace unless/until more join in.

 

Joseph

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For "extra" Tillich reading I highly recommend the first chapter "Religion as a Dimension in Man's Spiritual Life" which can be found here without charge.

 

Theology of Culture by Paul Tillich, Robert C. Kimball

 

I am hoping that Rivanna and I will take turns first posting on each chapter until someone comes along with a better suggestion. So she will post first on Chapter seven.

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If no one has further comments on chapter 6 I guess we can go on. Maybe Mike will have more time later. I really don’t feel qualified to discuss the intellectual / philosophical undercurrents of Tillich’s work, but here is my response to the next sermon.

 

In chapter 7 Tillich focuses on one of Paul’s famous lines from the letter to the Romans –that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love –and ‘unpacks’ it in a way that hadn’t occurred to me before. I’d always associated that passage with the dire situation the early disciples faced—the physical hardships, being persecuted or put to death. The context is Paul referring to “sufferings of the present time” and exhorting hope in the unfolding of a new order and in their own clear conscience. But Tillich says that Romans 8:38 means not only threatening things, but good things can come between us and God’s love. The words Life, angels, principalities, and height are all positive terms. Tillich explores each of the potentially divisive influences – human love, pursuit of knowledge or achievements, the power to build and organize communities, other ostensibly good involvements. Each can throw us too far up or down, to rest in the ultimate permanence of God’s love for us, which is beyond “moments of victory and defeat, fulfillment and emptiness, elevation and depression.” He goes on to explain that “nothing else in all creation” means “the powers of this world are creatures as we are, they are limited…they cannot destroy the meaning of our lives even if they can destroy our lives.” Finally Tillich turns to our feelings of unworthiness, and affirms that what we feel is unacceptable in ourselves is accepted by God--our despair about our lives can’t separate us from the ultimate unity. He echoes the writer in John -- “even though our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” Or as a contemporary author might say, it’s about divine connection, not human perfection.

 

I can certainly understand why many see Tillich’s work as too dated – this chapter refers to his days as a chaplain in WWI. His paragraphs on Providence were a bit confusing to me, it’s a term we hardly use any more. Would his message be any different if he were writing in these times? I don’t know. We’re always in the hands of ambiguous forces beyond our control, and as Tillich suggests, humans have as deep a capacity for self destruction as for creativity. But I like this idea–“Faith is the courage to say Yes to one’s own life and life in general, in spite of the insecurities and catastrophes of existence.”

 

(did he get this from Jacob Boehme’s “divine yes and no” ?)

Saying yes to one’s life in spite of everything –perhaps that’s the essence of this meditation.

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This chapter talks about the fact that we are part creature and part “united with that which is not creature and whose creative ground no creature can destroy”. It seems important to me that two things are being said here. One is that nothing can separate us from God, and the other is that nothing can separate us from being a creature. Problems arise when words point us towards a total separation from God so that we need a Christ to relate to a super and separate being, but problems also arise when we think that we can be “one with God” if we do not also say in the same breath that we do not lose our creatureness.

 

Like Rivanna I was impressed with Tillich using words like “love” as examples of separation. Tillich says “love” is one of those powers that can separate even though we say “God is love”. The problem in part is a language problem. Tillich may say “such is life” which is made up of good and evil where “fascination and fear, joy and guilt, creation and destruction” are mixed in every moment. But I think some words are better than others. So I like “New Being” better than “Christ”. I like words that point towards the realities that Tillich talks about rather than words that point towards a super and separate being.

 

The word God seems like another word that may separate us from the reality that it supposedly intends to point towards. Perhaps this is why the word God has been removed from point one of the eight points. Words are important. Words matter/words can not separate us from God. Seems to me important to understand the ambiguity of this. I am hopeful that the word God can be saved in spite of the ambiguity.

 

It may help to highlight Tillich’s word “creative” when he talks about that with which we are united. It seems to me that the “human/divine” relationship (so to speak) is creative with each person while it is common to all. That creativity has to do with what Tillich would call “the courage to be”. Without that courage we can reach the point of being overcome by separation. That separation is real. The Principalities and Powers are real. Otherwise there would be no power in the receipt of accepting that you are accepted. There would be no power in the accepting the unacceptable. There would be no power in grace. It seems to me that how that all works out is creative and unique to each person while it is common for all.

 

"Life is not a machine well constructed by its builder and running on according to the laws of its own machinery. Life, personal and historical, is a creative and destructive process in which freedom and destiny, chance and necessity, responsibility and tragedy are mixed". These "drive us to the question of courage which can accept life without being conquered by it…."

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“the word God has been removed from point one of the eight points.”

 

This raises an interesting question--in Points 1, 2, 3, and 7 on this board the word God is used; but on the home page link to the tcpc points, the word God has been removed from all 8 points, changed to “sacredness and oneness or unity of all life.” Definitely a disparity between the two versions- maybe the one on this board needs to be updated?

 

I like “New Being” better than “Christ”

 

I guess I use them interchangeably, but I understand that is not true for most people, will try to keep that in mind.

 

From the Kimball article you suggested –liked Tillich’s affirmation that ideally, the sacred and secular would not be separate realms – as in Revelation, “there will be no temple in the heavenly Jerusalem, for God will be all in all.”

 

There’s a nice description of Tillich by Harvard Divinity School president Nathan Pusey-- “He saw more clearly than most the predicament of the intelligent, educated, concerned people in the 20th century who had been cut off from the energies of faith by the cultural orthodoxies of this period. And he wanted more than anything else, deeply and compassionately, to be of help; and he was of help because, artist and philosopher as well as theologian, he cared for culture as well as for Christ.”

 

Yet I agree that Tillich uses the word creativity to mean far more or other than esthetics – more like the courage to be.

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Words, words, words. I think Tillich was successful in creating new words. Although he constantly uses the word Christ he created the words “New Being”. Although he constantly uses the word God he created the words “Ground of Being”. The pattern here is that he will take the traditional word and create a new sense of the word without destroying the old word. Tillich was very aware that he wanted to hold on to the history of Christianity (see “Paul Tillich; A History of Christian Thought From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism” Edited by Carl E. Braaten). From that book: “The prophet hopes to get to the heart of the matter with his knife of radical protest; the false prophet is known in the tradition as one who cuts the heart itself”. My opinion is that the heart has been cut out with the loss of the word God.

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I much prefer the original version of the 8 points, keeping the word God in. Probably Tillich would too, though he often refers to God as ground of being or ultimate unity. It just seems like an abstract phrase substituted for God in every statement denies the personal dimension, the I-Thou relationship of prayer.

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I think as David said of Tillich, who "will take the traditional word and create a new sense of the word without destroying the old word", Progressive Christianity.org has done the same thing here. To me, expressing it either way is fine with me though i tend to prefer the more abstract relating to God anyway. I'm sure there will be some resistance by many at the restatements but the change seems progressive to me and more in line with what PC is about . I have nothing constructive to add to Chapter 7 which centers on a very meaningful NT writing to me. In it is an unspoken assurance provokes within me a resonance with Truth.at my very core.

 

Joseph

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Tillich wrote a voluminous three book Systematic Theology and several other books, but says in his sermon “What is truth” that all of his writings come down to this: “I say this to you as somebody who all his life has worked for a true expression of the truth which is the Christ. But the more one works, the more one realizes that our expressions, including everything we have learned from our teachers and from the teaching of the Church in all generations, is not the truth that makes us free”.

 

“On the road you will meet liberating truth in many forms except in one form: you never will meet it in the form of propositions which you can learn or write down and take home”. For Tillich teachings can “point to the truth, but they are not the law of truth”. It would be a mistake to hear the first part of this (truth is not contained by propositions) and not hear the other part (there is a “law” of truth). Not all propositions are equal except in the fact that no proposition can contain the truth. But truth does have a structure; truth does have a “law”.

 

Tillich says that truth is not a doctrine…it is neither the teaching of Jesus nor the teaching about Jesus. What you know is not separated from how you know. Truth appears in “encounters” where you slowly or suddenly become “open” to the “truth which liberates”. Truth is known by “doing it”. When that happens we can recognize truth wherever it appears.

 

Tillich says that if the written or spoken word serves as an “encounter” then one may experience “brightness of lightening” or “when the fog becomes thinner”. But no special preference is given to the written or spoken word. “Encounters” can be with nature, “with a human being in friendship and estrangement”, with love and more. Tillich loved the arts and certainly art in any form would provide the possibility of the “encounter” with the truth.

 

Tillich points to the “law of truth” as somehow related to love. “Distrust every claim for truth where you do not see truth united with love; and be certain that you are of the truth and that the truth has taken hold of you only when love has taken hold of you and has started to make you free from yourselves.” “If you seriously ask the question ‘Am I of the truth?’ you are of the truth”. Tillich would like us to understand these words as “pointing towards” the “law of truth”.

 

The search for truth is then much more than the search for statements that “point towards the truth”. But obviously Tillich thought that the search for statements was a way to deal with the “permanent threat” of the “despair of truth”. I would repeat from the last chapter: words matter/words can not separate.

 

But the Church would do well by not focusing so much upon the spoken and written word without lifting up the “encounters”. Let the three point sermon be replaced by music, by art, by drama, by real life testimonies of “encounters”. When the Church does deal with words make sure that the Church does not let people be “seduced into a truth which is not really (their) truth”. Make room for the question “Am I of the truth?” Let the Church take on the “burden of asking for the truth that matters”.

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To me Chapter 8 can be summarized as saying Truth is not a in a word, written or oral. Truth cannot be learned from study or taught except that teachings can point to yet it can be recognized.

 

To me, Truth is not a person but rather a presence. Beyond any feeling but more so as a feeling of home and peace than any knowledge of men.

 

Joseph

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Each one of these chapters covers so much. To me, Tillich’s power of expression is even more remarkable considering that English was not his first language.

 

In Chapter 8 the idea that statements can only point to truth, not contain it, reminds me of several things– Christ as the Logos or Word; the fact that Jesus never wrote his teachings down; and Paul’s phrase “the letter killeth, the spirit giveth life.” The emphasis on personal “encounters” in contrast to doctrine seems essential. Tillich puts the oral and written word on the same level, not sure about that, but neither can completely define truth. The goal of remaining or “participating in His being” could have quite different meanings for different people. It helps to have these guidelines – “distrust every claim to truth that is not united with love” and “the truth that makes us free from our false self, to be the self grounded in true reality.” “There is no freedom where there is ignorant and fanatical rejection of foreign ideas and ways of life, where one’s own truth is called the ultimate truth.”

 

I tend to agree with everything he says here... makes me question my own life more, if not find more answers.

 

There’s another sermon from Tillich’s Shaking of the Foundations published the same year, called “Doing the Truth” -an excerpt -

“Truth in Christianity is something which happens, bound to a special place, a special time, to a special personality. Truth is something new which is done by God in history, and done in the individual life….the mystery of truth in Christianity is an event which has taken place, and which takes place again and again. Truth is a stream of life, centered in Christ, actualized in everybody who is connected with Him…In Christianity truth is found, it is done, and done it is found. Truth is the new creation…”

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I much prefer the original version of the 8 points, keeping the word God in. Probably Tillich would too, though he often refers to God as ground of being or ultimate unity. It just seems like an abstract phrase substituted for God in every statement denies the personal dimension, the I-Thou relationship of prayer.

 

I am glad that there is now a place for people to go if they want to discuss the new version of the eight points. We need not have a full discussion here. But I think that the comparison between the “old” version and the “new” version is something that would be important for Tillich and something that we can briefly discuss without getting into a whole separate subject of “Tillich and Progressive Christianity”. Such a discussion is appropriate at this time because we are talking about truth and how truth relates to statements about truth.

 

For Tillich there is no possible way to speak about the Divine other than through symbols and myths. Symbols and myths are the language of faith. That is why Tillich so strongly says that truth cannot be contained in propositional statements. My point here is that some words are better than others. If we can only speak about the Divine with symbols/myths then words that are obviously symbolic are better than words that are obviously based upon “nominalism”. Tillich flatly rejects “nominalism” which holds that words that attempt to point to the “universal” are just abstractions and do not reveal anything “real”. Post modernism is a child of nominalism which states there is no “universal” reality so words that are obviously symbolic in nature are misleading and not helpful.

 

So words really do matter. You either are going to go with Tillich or use words in another way such as nominalism. If you go with Tillich then you are going to appreciate and mourn the loss of symbolic words. Symbolic words I think can “die” because they have become so distorted that they lose any possibility of the “encounter”. Some argue that the word “Cross”, the word “Sin”, the word “Grace” and most of all the word “God” are now such “dead” words. But too often those arguments are associated with word replacement with words that are not obviously symbolic. So to me those arguments are not about which symbolic word to use, but are about the general use of symbolic words versus nominalistic words.

 

So words really do matter. The sponsors of this website list Borg and Spong as supporters. Both Borg and Spong appreciate the power of symbolic words especially symbolic words with a history. I don’t see their influence in the current version of the eight points. I see more of Ian Lawton and others. Words really do matter. Tillich is looking for “encounters”. I wonder whether we will see any testimony of an “encounter” with the new version of the eight points.

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There’s another sermon from Tillich’s Shaking of the Foundations published the same year, called “Doing the Truth” -an excerpt -

“Truth in Christianity is something which happens, bound to a special place, a special time, to a special personality. Truth is something new which is done by God in history, and done in the individual life….the mystery of truth in Christianity is an event which has taken place, and which takes place again and again. Truth is a stream of life, centered in Christ, actualized in everybody who is connected with Him…In Christianity truth is found, it is done, and done it is found. Truth is the new creation…”

 

Thanks Rivanna,

I had forgotten about this sermon so I went back and read it. I love the phrase "doing the truth".

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So words really do matter….yes. I guess many who started on this book don’t relate to Tillich’s language for one reason or another.

 

Anyway, a look at chapter 9 -- “Faith and Uncertainty” –

 

This one opens with a quote from Martin Luther-- “What is more miserable than uncertainty?” I’m not familiar with the context-- his religious dispute with Erasmus-- but two points in this sermon stood out for me. One is “that certainty which Paul and Luther defend….clearly it is not self certainty.” Paul is not sure of himself, but he is utterly sure of the gospel-- as Tillich says, “it is lost the moment we begin to regard it as our certainty.”

 

The other is “we do not have God as an object of our knowledge, He has us as the subject of our existence.…We may not comprehend, but we are comprehended. We may not grasp anything in the depth of our uncertainty, but that we are grasped by something ultimate….remains absolutely certain.”

 

It seems that faith means staying humble about our own limited understanding, while trusting in divine grace or guidance – or as Tillich says, “the Ground of our existence.” (I’m surprised he doesn’t use the word trust in this sermon).

 

Faith and/or certainty were discussed in a thread Joseph started last year --

 

http://tcpc.ipbhost....-not-certainty/

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I did not find this sermon to be a very good piece by Tillich. Rivanna notes the lack of the word trust. I noticed the lack of the word faith except in the title for the sermon. But “certainly” the “certainty” of faith is the subject here. I actually got a lot more from reading the thread on “faith and certainty” that Rivanna highlights. Thank you for that.

 

I need to “read Tillich” into this piece from Tillich. I start with the prior sermon about truth and ask the question of certainty about truth. Tillich says that we do not find truth in propositional statements and so I would conclude that we do not find certainty in propositional statements (is this statement propositional?).

 

What I have tried to point out is that Tillich would claim the importance of the symbol in matters of truth and therefore in matters of certainty. If we take the word God and remove the symbolic importance of the word then we can have a discussion as to whether god exists or does not exist. We need no symbol to discuss whether there is a super and separate being that exists or not. Tillich would not be interested in that discussion. Both sides of the argument share the lack of symbol.

 

But Tillich would suggest that the word God is only meaningful as a symbol. Some would suggest that symbols are not “real” or have no empirical substance or in a post modern way are a mere abstraction. Tillich suggests that there is a “ground of life” or a “ground of being” that makes itself known to us before we make any propositional statement about it. And this kind of “knowing” can therefore only be expressed by a symbol that points towards that reality. Tillich would suggest that this is where real certainty lies. Any propositional statement made “after” has some amount of uncertainty.

 

We “know” this certainty because we have experienced it. But when we start talking “about” it there is some element of uncertainty. There is just no other way of expressing this other than by symbol. So we use the word God to “point towards” that certainty. I think this is what Tillich means when he says “Looking at God, we see that we do not have Him as an object of our knowledge, but that He has us as the subject of our existence”.

 

So how do we mistakenly make God the object of our knowledge? I would suggest that we do that by taking “God is love” and then making the claim that we know what “love” is and therefore there is no need for the word “God”. All we have to say is “love”. No one can argue with “love” so all are included. Problem solved.

 

Well no. Problem created. Tillich reminds us that if we just focus on the word “love” without “God” then there is a tendency to become separated from God. “Love” can separate because there are so many ways to understand love that do not involve the importance of the symbol. We think that by eliminating the word God and the seeming ambiguity of that word and just say “love” then we have “progressed”, we are more “mature”, we have eliminated “the problem”. Silly us.

 

We do the same thing with “the Cross”. We start by saying that following Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.
 Here we eliminate the symbol of the Cross but we still have some sense of that the Cross is all about. It is “costly” in combination with being “selfless” and it involves active “resistance to evil” and conscious “renunciation of privilege”. At least there is a sense here that what we are talking about is hard to put into words and so we raise a flag that says “look here…these are words that point towards a very important experience…pay attention!!!!”

 

But then being the mature people who are “progressing” we decide that really all that need be said is that we have “selfless love”. Problem solved. Well no, problem created. When we just say “selfless love” then there are many discussions that can be had including the importance of “loving ones self” versus “selfless love”. Those many discussions do not imply the importance of symbol. Tillich would not be really interested in those discussions if the primary topic is faith. I think he would say “what happened to the Cross? What happened to certainty?" The experience that the Cross points towards is only “certain” if we experience that as a part of the “ground of life” or “ground of being” that is given to us before we start making propositional statements “about” it. This is the certainty of faith.

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It seems to me with words and thoughts we will always have uncertainty about them but this much to me is certain.....if we are rooted in that which we are sustained and apprehended by, that alone is certainty. and in that certainty, perhaps one could say as Tillich in spite of any temptation and insecurities that may appear, "we may walk from certainty to certainty."

 

Joseph

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It seems to me with words and thoughts we will always have uncertainty about them but this much to me is certain.....if we are rooted in that which we are sustained and apprehended by, that alone is certainty. and in that certainty, perhaps one could say as Tillich in spite of any temptation and insecurities that may appear, "we may walk from certainty to certainty."

 

Joseph

 

Sometimes people can say in a few words what I attempt to say with a lot of words. Thank you Joseph.

 

I like this sermon a lot (Chapter 10). Tillich does better here with the word authority although I think he is basically saying some of the same things that he said about truth and certainty.

 

We can not give an answer to the question “by what authority?” except to “point to a reality”. God himself cannot give an answer because “God is Spirit”. “The place where God gives authority to a man cannot be circumscribed. It cannot be legally defined. It cannot be put into the fences of doctrines and rituals. It is here, and you do not know where it comes from. You cannot derive it. You must be grasped by it. You must participate in its power”.

 

Basically this is what Tillich says about truth, certainty and authority. “It is here, and you do not know where it comes from. You cannot derive it. You must be grasped by it. You must participate in its power”.

 

Tillich points to “the Crucified” as “the greatest symbol of which I know for the true authority of the Church and the Bible”. This authority “breaks again and again through the established forms of their authority and through the hardened forms of our personal experience”. It is the authority “of a man who emptied himself of all authority; it is the authority of the man on the Cross. It is one and the same thing, if you say that God is Spirit and that He is manifest on the Cross.” Jesus “establishes an authority which cannot be established!”

 

The Cross is the “greatest symbol” because it points beyond itself to the Divine ground which “can not be established”. We know this Divine because it “breaks again and again…through our personal experience”. We know it because “it is here”. We are “grasped” by it and “participate in its power”. And the Cross is its greatest symbol because it continually reminds us that we “cannot derive it”. Its power in a sense will “empty us of all authority” and in so doing we find “God is Spirit”.

 

This is symbolic talk. Tillich reminds us that we do not lose the “authorities in community and society” that help provide “external order”. Although Tillich suggests that the symbolic talk seems “opposed to established authority” such opposition is only saying they do not determine “the meaning in our lives”. We need authority and there are good and bad ways to establish that authority.

 

But when we ask “by what authority” do we find or see God (is it from the Bible?, is it from arguments about how the world was created?, is it from some proof of “supernatural” events?, etc. etc.)…when we ask these questions in the form of “by what authority” we are asking the wrong question. “God himself cannot give an answer”.

 

OK let’s say “God herself” and say it every time Tillich says “God himself”. The symbol of a feminine God may give us a better symbol for a God as ground who provides us with life before we can form any propositional statement about life.

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From talks given by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a teacher of Universal Sufism:

 

"Life can be pictured as a line with two ends. One end of the Line is limitation, and the other end of the same line is perfection. As long as one is looking at the end which is limitation, however good, virtuous, righteous, or pious one is, one has not touched what may be called perfection."

 

"The reality is that man is one individual with two ends, just like one line with two ends. If you look at the ends, it is two; if you look at the line, it is one. One end of the line is limited, it is limitedness; the other end of the line is unlimited. One end is man, the other end is God. Man forgets this end, and knows only that end of which he is conscious, and it is the consciousness of limitedness which makes him more limited. Otherwise he would have a greater scope for approaching that Unlimited which is within himself, which is only the other end of the same line, the line which he calls, or which he considers to be, himself."

 

"The difference between the human and the divine is the difference between the two ends of the same line. One represents limitation, the other the unlimited. One end represents imperfection, the other perfection. And when we consider the human beings of this world, we see that they do not all stand at the same end; they fill the gap between one extreme and the other."

 

"The whole course of life is a journey from imperfection to perfection."

 

"The world is evolving from imperfection towards perfection; it needs all love and sympathy; great tenderness and watchfulness is required from each one of us."

 

"Imperfection is at the bottom of the mountain of life; perfection is at the top of it. The one who can climb this mountain and reach the top, for him it is easy to communicate with God. It only means that the heart that can reach the plane of the Absolute Being and still have individual consciousness will be able to communicate from there."

 

"All that is in our nature is in the nature of God. The only difference is that God is great and we are small; we are limited and God is unlimited; we represent imperfection, God represents perfection."

 

And, as a prayer or meditation: "Let Thy perfection be mine, and my imperfection be cleared away as the mist in the sun."

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Chapter 10 covers so much ground I can hardly wrap my mind around it--probably I’m just stating the obvious, but here are a few responses.

 

I like how Tillich brings us into the bible scene, asks us to imagine ourselves in the place of the priests, scribes and elders who demanded an explanation from Jesus. He had just cleansed the temple, and was boldly continuing to teach there-- in effect, telling people that what they had previously gotten from the Temple intermediaries and sacrificial rites, could now be experienced directly …Jesus was the new Temple, and God is “not circumscribed to a definite place.” Jesus outwits the officials who tried to convict him of blasphemy, by exposing their real concerns –not God, but their own power and control of the people.

 

As David suggested, Tillich makes us see that Jesus as the crucified one, transcends all other claims to authority. The Cross is the greatest symbol as it reminds us he was not the messiah people expected, the conquering military hero, but the suffering servant who emptied himself of all glory, laid down his life for the people. The unanswered question ends up showing that authority is not the point, love is. As Tillich says of Jesus, “the only test of the prophets was the power of what they had to say...that is what He tells them.”

 

I also appreciate David’s point about the feminine side of God, something Tillich’s language rarely expresses…though I think he implicitly includes women as half of the earliest form of authority, our parents. As children we are totally dependent on those who take care of us. And throughout our lives, it seems true that the people who have the most power over us are not the ones who insist on hierarchy and domination, but those who minister to us, lift our hearts, heal our wounds, dedicate themselves to our well being.

 

This sermon reminds us that the Christian message has always had a subversive element, undermining rigid institutions and boundaries. On the other hand, Tillich also considers the existential response, that of having no guide or meaning but oneself, a loneliness which leads to despair.

 

I like how Tillich seems to define the kingdom of God –not the “earthly image of the heavenly ruler of the Church, but a medium through which the spiritual substance of our lives is preserved and protected and reborn.”

Edited by rivanna
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While i found the chapter a bit wordy... it seems to me that Tillich has some deep insights and experiences he is attempting to share in this chapter and in my view, he does a great job . There is an authority as Tillich says that uses "the unwillingness of human beings to decide for themselves in order to preserve their power and increase it." This is not the authority Jesus speaks from or of.. This is nothing more than capitalizing on, as Tillich would say "the ground of human weakness". It seems to me, real authority originates from the Spirit and one can only be grasped by it and "participate in its power". Therefore it cannot be defined by words, doctrines or a show of rituals.

 

Joseph

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Nice post.

 

Chapter 11, “Has the Messiah Come?” opens with Simeon’s song of praise when he sees the infant Jesus presented in the temple. The chapter concludes with Tillich saying “the event of salvation is a birth…the mystery of salvation is the mystery of a child.” Certainly the concept of “new being” is illustrated by the image of a newborn.

 

Tillich delves into the deep contrast between the Jewish and Christian views on the Messiah, and the kingdom of God not manifesting in the world as originally expected. Maybe he’s saying we can only see what we’re looking for, what we have eyes to see -?

 

A lot more could be said about the history and paradox in this meditation.

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In this sermon I did not find the Christmas theme working. I see the "mystery of a child" but Tillich says more than salvation is a mystery.

 

“Only he who can see power under weakness, the whole under the fragment, victory under defeat, glory under suffering, innocence under guilt, sanctity under sin, life under death can say: Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

 

So has the Messiah come? Not the messiah that will bring glory and an end to suffering, not the messiah that will bring victory after defeat, and not the messiah that will bring power after weakness. Tillich is not talking about a future salvation that will come after some evolutionary process. Tillich is not talking about a journey to salvation that comes as one gets smarter or stronger. Salvation is that which is UNDER. There is power under weakness. There is sanctity under sin and life under death. Salvation is UNDER.

 

The Jews demanded a Messiah that was visible. Others may demand a Messiah that is invisible. Tillich is saying Jesus as the Messiah was both visible and invisible. Tillich is saying that this is the “paradoxical way of all divine acting”.

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