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Tagline: From its Judaic and Hellenistic origins to existentialism.
Edited by Carl E. Braaten
Oh, how I wish there were more people like Paul Tillich in the world! He is like a breath of fresh air: someone who knows things! Someone who isn’t ignorant or willfully blind of the criticisms and foibles of their own worldview, and who makes a genuine attempt to understand and connect the dots between events, people and ideas through time.
Two related concepts stuck out to me while reading this text. First was the almost linear, step-by-step progress of Christian theology through time. Second was the mode by which Christian thought progressed – that of debate, politics, and exertion of power by the authorities.
Having grown up a Christian, I mistakenly understood doctrine to be handed down by God in a single event, mainly the life of Jesus, his teachings, and his death and resurrection. I believed everything was divine revelation and communicated as such by witnesses and individuals closely related to Jesus, or at least communicated by the Holy Spirit through those church fathers. It is an easy mistake for a beginner to make and I forgive myself for my naivety, thinking that Christianity is a package deal from the very start and you just have to accept it. Never-you-mind that it took over two hundred years to canonize the books in the New Testament, or that trinity (Father-Son-Holy Ghost) was not even mentioned until more than one hundred and fifty years after Jesus, or that the doctrine of original sin has been debated almost endlessly, or that the Nicene Creed was written and criticized and debated and re-written over the course of 50+ years before it was finalized by settlement. No one seems to like “practical church politics” because it sounds like God isn’t involved in the process at all – but this is how basically every major decision was made in the church.
Christianity was deeply affected by the ideas of the Enlightenment. Before the Enlightenment, the Catholic Church determined what people believed, and after, the “inner light” or the Holy Spirit became the guiding principle in the decisions of daily life.
There are many pendulums that exist in history. One of these is the pendulum that oscillates between enjoyment of life and strict discipline. The bourgeois were strict, the aristocracy expressed vitality and ostentation. The Catholic tradition was rigid and immovable, and Luther broke through to loosen it up. It seems when a theological movement starts to experience enough pain in their current system, be it overly strict practices found in Medieval Catholicism or the unrestrainable personal revelation of mysticism, another movement rises up to combat the negatives found in the previous one. The typical path for reform is found when the dominant power structure at the time is usurped by a much smaller group that has an authentically superior mode of being. Perhaps this is similar to The Innovator’s Dilemma but for ecclesiastical change rather than technological change?
To date, Christianity has not produced a satisfactory doctrine regarding sex, and countless individuals have suffered from the impossible restrictions placed on them. The roots of asceticism within Christianity run very deep, so deep in fact that it has not yet been able to successfully break free from those handcuffs. Perhaps it never will.
- It took more than two hundred years for the church to make a final decision on all the books in the New Testament canon.
- The deification of Jesus is not any different from the process of deification which we know of elsewhere in history.
- The authors of the Gospels were not those traditionally thought to be the authors.
- Christianity has not produced a satisfactory doctrine regarding the dignity of the sexual.
- Every authoritarian system knows that nothing is more dangerous for a given tradition than contact with other traditions.
- Medieval realism maintains the powers of being which transcend the individual; medieval nominalism preserves or emphasizes the value of the individual.
- The crusades brought about the encounter of Christianity with two highly developed cultures, the original Jewish and the Islamic cultures.
- The word “person” was never applied to God in the Middle Ages. … It was the nineteenth century which made God into a person.
- The transition out of the Medieval Ages was from eye to ear, from physical embodiments to speaking and hearing the Word.
- As Calvin also later said, Luther stated that the writing which resulted in the books of the Bible was an emergency situation; it was necessary and it was an emergency.
- Many people believe that Luther’s interpretation of the state is the real cause of Nazism. … [Luther] says, every Christian must put up with bad government because it comes from God providentially.
- There is something in the spirit of Calvinist ethics which serves the purposes of [financial] investment.
- The doctrine of biblical inspiration leads to absurdity. There are innumerable contradictions in the bible, and one has to make artificial and ingenious harmonizations to reconcile them.
- The opposite of mysticism is not rationalism, but rationalism is the daughter of mysticism.
- There is only one alternative to life with failure, that is lifelessness without failure.
- Objective certainty in religion is impossible, faith remains objectively uncertain.
Preface: Paul Tillich and the Classic Christian Tradition by Carl E. Braaten
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 out the heart itself.
Tillich claimed, “Greek thought is existentially concerned with the eternal, in which it seeks for eternal truth and eternal life.”
A question he often posed to his students was whether “mysticism can be baptized by Christianity.” His answer was yes.
Introduction: The Concept of Dogma
if the system [of dogma] is taken as a final answer, it becomes even worse than a prison.
“dogma” derived from the Greek word dokein, which means “to think, imagine, or hold and opinion.”
All dogmas were formulated negatively, that is, as reactions again misinterpretations from inside the church.
Luther recognized this fact that the dogmas were not the result of a theoretical interest, but arose from the need to protect the Christian substance.
However, the tremendous reaction against dogma in the last four centuries would perhaps not have been created without one further step: the ecclesiastical law became accepted as civil law by medieval society.
It was this state of the dogma against which the Enlightenment was fighting.
Chapter 1: The Preparation for Christianity
A. The Kairos
B. The Universalism of the Roman Empire
C. Hellenistic Philosophy
The classical period of Greek though ends with Aristotle.
Epicurious was called soter by his pupils. This is the Greek word which the New Testament uses and which we translate as “savior”.
2. [Contributions of] The Platonic Tradition [to Christianity]
The idea of transcendence, that there is something that surpasses empirical reality, was prepared for Christian theology in the Platonic tradition.
The idea of providence seems to us to be a Christian idea, but it was already formulated by Plato in his later writings.
Providence, coming from the highest god, gives us the courage to escape the vicissitudes of fate.
The divine is a form without matter, perfect in itself. This is the profoundest idea in Aristotle. This highest form, called “God.”
Logos – the rational principle that governs and develops the universe.
3. The Stoics
Granting Roman Citizenship to all citizens of the conquered nations was a tremendous equalizing step. Women, slaves, and children, who were regarded as inferior beings under the old Roman law, became equalized by the laws of the Roman emperors. This was done not by Christianity but by the Stoics.
D. The Inter-Testamental Period
hypostasize – assume the reality of
E. The Mystery Religions
F. The Method of the New Testament
Chapter 2: Theological Developments in the Ancient Church
A. The Apostolic Fathers
It took more than two hundred years for the church to make a final decision on all the books in the New Testament canon.
In the struggle against pagans, Jews, barbarians, and heretics, the bishop became more and more important. Prophets who appear may be right or wrong, but the bishop is right.
In view of the pagan world in which these Christians lived it was essential to emphasize above all a monotheistic idea of God.
Along the same line was the emphasis on the almighty God. These concepts which seem so natural to us were important because they were a defense against paganism.
soteriology – the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ.
This is a very profound meaning in this idea that the sacramental materials of the Lord’s Supper are, so to speak, drugs or remedies which produce immortality. First of all, it shows that the apostolic fathers did not believe in the immortality of the soul. There is no natural immortality.
In light of this we can conclude that our traditional way of speaking of the immortality of the soul is not classically Christian doctrine, but a distortion of it, not in a genuine, but in a pseudo-Platonic sense.
B. The Apologetic Movement
The deification of Jesus is not any different from the process of deification which we know of elsewhere in history.
1. The Christian Philosophy
The word “Christianity” is understood not as a religion but as the negation of all religions. Justin said … If anywhere in the world there were an existential truth which could not be received by Christianity as an element of its own thinking, Jesus would not be the Christ.
2. God and the Logos
nominalism – the doctrine that general or abstract words do not stand for objectively existing entities and that universals are no more than names assigned to them.
Gnosis is used in three ways: (1) as knowledge in general terms; (2) as mystical communion; (3) as sexual intercourse.
It is a knowledge of union and of salvation, existential knowledge in contrast to scientific knowledge.
Gnosticism was a widespread religious movement in the late ancient world. This movement is usually called syncretism.
Gnosticism ≈ Syncretism
D. The Anti-Gnostic Fathers
1. The System of Authorities
The decision to fix the canon arose out of the life-and-death struggle with Gnosticism. This meant that the church must always return to the classical period, namely, the apostolic period of Christianity.
This is one of the reasons that so many of the books in the Bible go under apostolic names even though they were written during the post-apostolic period.
Thus we have a very impressive system of authorities: the Bible, the apostolic tradition, the rule of faith, the baptismal creed, and the bishops, created in the struggle against the Gnostics. What is astonishing is how early all this happened.
2. The Montanist Reaction
The Montanists had to basic ideas: the Spirit and the “end”.
The church was understandably afraid of the Spirit because in the name of the Spirit all kinds of disruptive elements entered into the church.
After the expectation of Jesus and the apostles that the end was very immanent had been disappointed, the apostolic fathers began to establish themselves in the world. Montanism was a reaction against the worldly church.
Something happened which has frequently happened in the history of the church. Small groups arise with a strict discipline; they are regarded with suspicion by the church; they form themselves into larger churches; then they lose their original disciplinary power in themselves. [My note: is this a trend of groups in general?]
3. God the Creator
This one God is a trias, a trinity. The word trinitas appears first in Tertullian [155-240AD].
4. The History of Salvation
There is always something which is potentially visible in God, and there is always something which remains as mystery and abyss in God. These are two sides which symbolically are distinguished as Father and Son.
5. Trinity and Christology
In Irenaeus we have mystical participation, in Tertullian subjection to the law. These are the two sides of early Christianity.
6. The Sacrament of Baptism
It was easy for Tertullian, with his Stoic background, to think of the Spirit as a material force in the water. This force somehow physically extinguishes the former sins and physically gives the Spirit. Here we see what has been called Tertullian’s “materialism”. This is important because it made infant baptism possible.
The Catholic Church was ready around the year AD 300. For this reason we cannot say that Protestantism is a restatement of the early centuries.
Plotinus [204-270 AD] was the philosopher most responsible for the system of Neo-Platonism
nous – intellect or intelligence; the faculty of the human mind necessary for understanding what is true or real
there is a principle which Plotinus called the “soul”.
Plotinus described this non-being (mē on) as that which is matter and can become being. This non-being of which he speaks is that which as yet has no being and which resists against having being. He calls it that which lacks measure, limit, form. It is always in want, indefinite, hungry; it is the absolute poverty. In other words, evil is the presence of this non-being in our bodily existence. It is the absence of the power of being, the power of the good. [My note: non-being ≈ un-named? Naming things in our lives give them definite form and remove evil?]
Lovingly the souls ascends to that which is worth being loved, namely, the ground and origin of being itself. When the soul reaches the ultimate aim of its longing, it becomes like God.
What is the telos, the inner aim, the goal, the purpose, of man’s being? Plato had already given the answer: homoiosis tou theou kata to dynaton, that is, becoming similar to God as much as possible.
F. Clement and Origen of Alexandria
1. Christianity and Philosophy
Ammonius Saccas was the teacher of both Plotinus and Origen.
Christianity had to cope with Neo-Platonism as a universal and extremely impressive system. All the values of the past were united in it. Christianity had to use it and conquer it at the same time.
2. The Allegorical Method
3. The Doctrine of God
Origen’s interpretation of the Song of Songs in terms of the mystical love of the soul with Christ introduced into practical piety an idea which had a tremendous effect on later church history.
Origen interpreted [Song of Songs] in terms of the mystical marriage between Christ and the Soul.
At the end everyone and everything will becomes spiritualized; the bodily existence will vanish. This famous doctrine of Origen is called apokatastasis tōn pantōn, the restitution of all things.
This spiritualization of eschatology was at least part of the reason that Origen became a heretic in the Christian Church, although he was its greatest theologian.
G. Dynamic and Modalistic Monarchianism
God himself on earth in Christ. … one ruler, one God not three, as they felt was entailed by the Logos christology.
1. Paul of Samosata
Adoptionist Christology says that God, or the Logos, or the Spirit, adopted a fully human individual, made him into Christ, and gave him the possibility of becoming fully divine in his ressurection.
Modalistic Monarchianism … means that God himself appears in different modes, in different ways.
They are not three beings, but they have the same power of being in three manifestations. This trend of thinking was condemned. … This modalistic thinking was in opposition to the Logos Christology.
H. The Trinitarian Controversy
Origen was so powerful in his constructive thinking that he conquered all rivals, also the Monarchian and Sabellian theologians.
The pope took the main formulae of both groups and said they must both be preserved. This was practical church politics. This conflict, which we call the Arian controversy.
2. The Council of Nicaea
Aruis’ Christology was rejected at the Council of Nicaea, 325 AD.
The condemnation is directed against the Arians: “Those who say there was a time when he was not … are condemned by the Catholic Church.”
The decision of Nicaea was immediately attacked. A sixty-year struggle ensued until in AD 381 a settlement was reached.
The statements [in the Nicene creed] were made in philosophical, non-biblical terms.
3. Athanasius and Marcellus
monas, a unity without differentiation
dyas, the unity has become a duality
Homoiousios is derived from homoios which means “similar”. This means that the Son is similar in essence to the Father.
4. The Cappadocian Theologians
Two series of concepts were used: the first is one divinity, one essence, one nature; the second series is three substances, three properties, three persons.
The Council of Constantinople removed the condemnations which had been added to the Creed of Nicaea, because they did not apply to the new terminology any more. It also said something about the Holy Spirit which was not included at Nicaea: “And the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.” These phrases have mystical power and could be used liturgically. … This decision ends the trinitarian struggle.
I. The Christological Problem
The question was: If the Son is of one substance with the Father, how can the historical Jesus be understood? This was the purpose of the whole trinitarian dogma.
There were always two main types of Christological thought: Either God as Father (or as Logos or Spirit) used the man Jesus of Nazareth, begetting, inspiring, and adopting him as his Son, or a divine being (the Logos or eternal Son) became man in an act of transformation.
1. The Antiochian Theology
According to Monophysitism there is only one nature; the divine nature has swallowed up the human nature [of Christ].
2. The Alexandrian Theology
The empty space which wanted to be filled was the desire to have a female [Mary] element in the center of religion.
3. The Council of Chalcedon
4. Leontius of Byzantium
J. Psuedo-Dionysius the Aeropagite [c. 500 AD]
… is the classic Christian mystic, one of the most interesting figures in the Eastern church history.
He wrote his books under the name of Dionysius. What seems to us now a falsification was a custom in ancient writing. It was not a betrayal in any technical or moral sense to launch one’s books under famous names.
We have two basic works of his, On the Divine Names and On the Hierarchies. The word “hierarchy” was probably created by him. The word is derived from hieros, meaning “holy, sacred” and arche, meaning “principle, power, beginning.”
How can we know about God? Dionysius answered: There are two ways of recognizing God. First … all names … must be attributed to God because he is the ground of everything. Secondly, there is the way of negative theology which denies that he can be named by anything whatsoever.
If you want to interpret the concept of angels in a meaningful way today, interpret them as the Platonic essences, as the powers of being, not as special beings.
The sentimental picture of angels as winged babies has nothing to do with the great concept of divine emanations in terms of powers of being.
K. Tertullian and Cyprian
Tertullian is connected with the Montanist movement and a Stoic.
In Tertullian there appeared an emphasis on sin. He spoke of the vicium originis , the original vice, and identified it with sexuality.
Tertullian represented the idea that asceticism, the self-denial of the vital reality of oneself, is the way to receive this substantial grace of God.
synodal – ecclesiastical council
occidental – the west
The idea of sin, even original sin, is almost exclusively Occidental. The main concerns of the East[ern Christianity] dealt with death and immortality, error and truth. The main focus of the West was on sin and salvation.
L. The Life and Thought of Augustine
The man who is more than anyone else the representative of the West.
Lived from 354 to 430 AD
1. To understand Augustine we must trace his development in seven different steps, and then an eighth step which is a negative one with respect to content.
Augustine’s dependence on the piety of his mother.
He had a pagan father and a Christian mother. The pagan father made it possible for him to participate in what was greatest in paganism at that time, and his Christian mother made it possible for him to enter into another tradition, a new archaism.
More than anyone else in the history of the church Augustine was responsible for the communion of Jerusalem with Athens.
The third point was his Manichaeism. The Persian religion was dualistic and in the Hellenistic period produced a movement called Manichaeism, named after its leader Mani [216-274]. It was a Hellenized Parsism, dualistic in character. We can consider it a mixture between the prophecy of Zoroaster, the prophet of the Persian religion, and Platonism in the form of the gnostic thinking in the late ancient world.
After Augustine left the Manichaean group, he fell into skepticism, as often happens if you are disillusioned about a system of truth. You may fall into doubt about every possibility of truth. At this time the mood of skepticism was widespread. Even in the later Academy, the Platonic school skepticism about knowledge existed in what was called probabilism. Only probable statements are possible; no certainty is possible. [My note: similar to possibilianism?]
The attempt to create a new world in terms of a doctrine of essences ended in skepticism. It is on this basis that the emphasis on revelation must be understood.
Skepticism is often the basis for a doctrine of revelation. Skepticism and dogmatism about revelation are correlated. The way that Christianity emphasized revelation up to the Renaissance is related to the tremendous shock Western mankind experienced when all the attempts of the Greek philosophers to bring certainty proved to be in vain.
In Neo-Platonism you have the immediacy of truth in the inner soul, and from this he got his new certainty of the divine.
In Augustine’s time the sphere of sexuality was profanized in a terrible way.
Augustine was divided; insofar as he was a Christian, with his roots in the Old Testament, he valued family and sex, to the extent that sex was kept within the family. He denied sex and praised asceticism. This conflict went on through the whole history of the church.
It is important not only to understand these seven steps in the development of Augustine, but also to notice what is missing among these major influences on him. Aristotle is missing.
Aristotle was a logician. Augustine had no particular interest in logic.
Aristotle was an inductive thinker, an empiricist. Augustine was an intuitive thinker; he started from above and went down to the empirical realities.
2. Augustine’s Epistemology
First, we must start with the general doubt; we must doubt about everything. It was not Descartes who first said this. It was said even before Augustine. But Augustine also said it. Is there a point of certainty somewhere? He said: “You know that you are thinking.” “Do not go outside; go into yourself,” namely, where you are thinking. “The truth dwells in the interior of man, for a mind knows nothing except what is present to the mind. But nothing is more present to the mind than the mind itself.”
He is saying, since truth is something which we can find only in the interior of the human soul, physics is useless for ultimate truth.
For the greater part of the Middle Ages the natural sciences were reduced in significance and were not really furthered at all.
3. The Idea of God
theonomous – the state of an individual or society that regards its own nature and norms as being in accord with the divine nature.
Augustine’s famous doctrine of time … is his greatest achievement, he really starts a new era of thinking about the concept of time.
4. The Doctrine of Man
The educational view [personal possibility of being eternally condemned and punished] exercises a continual threat over everyone. Therefore, the church has always maintained it, accepting the logical contradiction in order to produce the threat of the eternal condemnation. Ontological mysticism and educational moralism contradict each other on such matters.
Utopian mean literally (from ou-topos, no place) that there is “no place” for this in time and space.
5. Philosophy of History
Augustine’s philosophy … There is no stage of history beyond the one in which we are living. The kingdom of God rules through the hierarchy, and the chiliasts are wrong. We should not look beyond the present period in which the kingdom of God is present in terms of history.
6. The Pelagian Controversy
Augustine’s doctrine of man … the center of man is not the intellect but the will.
Pelagius – 354-418
Augustine’s conflict with Pelagius is one of the great struggels in church history. It is one which repeats itself again and again in the history of the church.
The decisive point is the relationship of religion and ethics. The question is whether the moral imperative is dependent on the divine grace for its actualization, or whether divine grace is dependent on the fulfillment of the moral imperative.
Pelagius developed this concept [freedom is the essential nature of man] in a way which brought him into conflict with Augustine. When this conflict was resolved, Augustine was at least partly victorious and Pelagius was an arch-heretic, whose name still stands for one of the classic Christian heresies.
The immediate consequence of man’s turning away from his highest good is the loss of this good. This loss is the essential punishment of man.
The Reformers tried to reestablish the dignity of the sexual, but they succeeded only in a limited way. Anyone who knows anything about the history of moral behavior and the history of ethical theory in Protestantism will see that Christianity has been very uncertain on this point and has produced no satisfactory answer to this question implied in human existence.
Man has lost his possibility to turn toward the ultimate good because of his universal sinfulness. We are under the law of servitude, the bondage of the will.
7. The Doctrine of the Church
Chapter 3: Trends in the Middle Ages
Note: When Tillich says “Thomistic” or “Thomism” he is referring to Thomas Aquinas, not the Apostle Thomas.
The basic problem of the Middle Ages, one which we find in all its periods, is that of a transcendent reality, manifest and embodied in a special institution, in a special sacred society, leading the culture and interpreting the nature. If you keep this in mind, you can understand everything going on in the Middle Ages. Without it you cannot understand anything, because then you would measure the Middle Ages by your own standards of today. The Middle Ages do not permit this. If you consider the distorted pictures of the Middle Ages, a common judgment is that they were the “Dark Ages”; the implication is that we live in the age of illumination, so we look back upon this period of terrible superstition with a kind of contempt. But nothing of this sort is true. The Middle Ages were one form in which the great problem of human existence in the light of the eternal was solved. The people who lived during this thousand-year period did not live worse than we live in many respects, and in other respects they lived better than we do. There is no reason to look back upon the Middle Ages with any form of contempt.
A. Scholasticism, Mysticism, Biblicism
There were three [main theological attitudes] that were always present and influential: scholasticism, mysticism, and Biblicism.
Scholasticism is the methodological explanation of Christian doctrine.
All the scholastic books were written in Latin, a language which only the educated of that time knew. Of course, the masses could not even read or write.
Mysticism introduced personal experience into the religious life.
Mysticism ≈ personal experience
Every medieval scholastic was a mystic; that is, he experienced what he was talking about as personal experience.
Mysticism is the immediate union with God in his presence.
Biblicism was an attempt to use the Bible as the basis for a practical Christianity.
Scholasticism was the theology of that time; mysticism was the personal experiential piety, and Biblicism was the continuous critical reaction coming from the biblical tradition and entering the two other attitudes, finally overcoming both of them in the Reformation.
B. The Scholastic Method
credo ut intelligam, I believe in order to know. This means that the substance of faith was given; it was something in which one participated. In the Middle Ages one did not exert a will-to-believe.
Then the concept of authority arose against which we must fight, an authority which demands subjection to one tradition against other traditions. Today dictators even go the the extreme of excluding all other traditions. The so-called “iron curtain” which we build to a certain extent by not admitting books from the East, etc., are attempts to keep the people in one definite tradition and to prevent it from touching other traditions, because every authoritarian system knows that nothing is more dangerous for a given tradition than contact with other traditions. This places the individual at the point of decision with respect to other traditions. The “iron curtain” method was not necessary in the early Middle Ages because there was no other tradition; one lived in this tradition as naturally as we live in nature.
C. Trends in Scholasticism
1. Dialectics and Tradition
|Plato, Augustine, Bonaventura, Franciscans. Associated with freedom.||Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Dominicans. Associated with predestination.|
2. The Augustinians were represented by the Franciscan order; the Aristotelians were represented by the Dominical order. One of the heads of the Franciscan order was Bonaventura who opposed Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican theologian.
3. Thomism and Scotism
4. Nominalism and Realism
Medieval realism is what we call “idealism”.
Nominalism holds the opposite view [or realism]. Only Peter and Paul, only this particular tree at the corner of 116th Street and Riverside Drive exists, and not “treehood”, not the power of treehood, which makes it become a tree.
Medieval realism maintains the powers of being which transcend the individual; medieval nominalism preserves or emphasizes the value of the individual.
D. The Religious Forces
Next we shall consider the religious forces of the Middle Ages. The greatest and most fundamental of these religious forces was the hierarchy.
The ecclesiastical hierarchy wanted to control the world.
Those who study religious art will see that up to Giotto the great figures of medieval art are not so much individuals as representatives of the divine presence in a special event or form or character.
Another of the religious forces was the popular superstitions of daily life.
Something else of great importance in the daily life of the the medieval man was the experience of the dogmatic.
Exorcism, expelling the demonic, was one of the daily practices in the cathedral. When entering the cathedral one sprinkled oneself with holy water. This had the effect of purifying oneself from the demonic forces which has been brought along from the daily life. Baptism was primarily exorcism of the demonic forces before forgiveness of sins could be received. Demonic figures are seen supporting the weight of the churches. This is perhaps the greatest symbol – the power of the divine conquers the power of the demonic within the daily life.
E. The Medieval Church
With the expansion of Christianity westward the church became the cultural substance of life.
In such a situation one could no longer say that the state is the kingdom of Satan because now the substance of the state is the church.
Since the church was the representative of the spiritual substance of everyone’s daily life there was no separation of realms as developed after the Reformation. There was one reality with different sides. Then the question arose as to who should head this one reality. There must be a head, and it is dangerous to have two heads. So both sides, the clergy and the princes or feudal lords, claimed to be the head of this one reality.
Pope Gregory VII made claims which surpassed everything which had been done before. He identified himself with all bishops as the universal bishop. All episcopal grace comes from the pope; in him Peter is present, and in Peter Christ himself is present. There is no bishop who is not dependent on the pope for his episcopal sacramental power. But he went beyond this. As the soul shall govern the limbs of the body, so the pope shall govern the kingdoms and all feudal orders.
The importance of Joan of Arc was that in her French nationalism first arose and came into direct conflict with the pope.
The princes and kings, who gradually became independent and who created the national states, were at the same time religious lords. Thus in England the theory arose that the king represents Christ for the Church of England, as the pope is the vicar of Christ.
F. The Sacraments
From the point of view of the actual religious life the sacraments were perhaps the most important thing in medieval church history.
Previously we have said that the Middle Ages were dominated by one problem, namely, to have a society which is guided by a present reality of a transcendent divine character. This is different from the period in which the New Testment was written, where the salvation of the individual soul was the problem. It is different from the period of Byzantium (ca. 450-950) where mysteries interpret all reality in terms of the divine ground, but not much is changed. It is different from the post-Renaissance period, ending in the nineteenth centry, in which the world is directed by human reason, by man as the center of reality. It is different also from the early Greek period in which the mind was looking for the eternal Immovable. All of these periods had their particular problem. The problem of the Middle Ages, accordingly, was the problem of the world (society and nature) in which the divine is present in sacramental forms. In the light of this we can ask: What does “sacramental” mean? … In short, everything in which the holy was present. This was the problem of the Middle Ages – to have the holy present.
One of the definitions of a sacrament is: “Against the wounds produced by original by original and actual sin, God has established the sacraments as remedies.”
Up to the twelfth century there were many sacramental activities. It took more than a thousand years of church history to discover that seven sacraments are the most important. After this discovery the term “sacrament” in a special sense became reserved for just these seven sacraments.
G. Anselm of Canterbury
The basis of Anselm’s theological work was the assertion that in the Holy Scriptures and their interpretation by the fathers all truth is directly or indirectly enclosed.
Anselm is famous in theology also for the application of his principles to the doctine of atonement. In his book, Cur Deus Homo? (Why a God-man?), he tries to understand the rational adequacy of the substitutional suffering of Christ in the work of salvation. The steps in the doctrine are as follows:
- The honor of God is violated by human sin. It is necessary for the sake of his honor for him to react in a negative way.
- There are two possible ways to react, either by way of punishment, which would mean eternal separation from God, or by way of satisfaction, giving satisfaction to God so that he can overlook the sins. This is the way in which God in his mercy has decided to solve the problem.
- Man is unable to fulfill this satisfaction because he has to do what he can do anyhow, and he cannot do more. Besides, his guilt is infinite, which makes it impossible by its very nature for man to solve the problem. Only God is able to give satisfaction to himself.
- On the other hand, because man is the sinner, it is man, not God, who must give the satisfaction. Therefore, someone who is both God and man must do it, who who as God can do it and who as man must do it. The God-man alone is able to do this.
- But the God-man could not make satisfaction through his deeds, since he had to do these anyhow out of full obedience to God. He could do it only through his sufferings, because he did not have to suffer; he was innocent. Thus, voluntary suffering is the work through which Christ makes satisfaction to God.
- Although our sin is infinite, this sacrifice – since it is made by God himself – is an infinite one; it makes it possible for God to give Christ what he now deserves because of his sacrifice, namely, the possession of man. Christ himself does not need anything; what he needs and wants to have is man, so God gives him man.
Anselm’s theory became so popular because everyone felt that it is not a simple thing for God to forgive sins, just as it is not simple for us to accept ourselves. Only in the act of suffering, of self-negation, is it possible at all.
The church like Anselm’s theory of atonement the most.
H. Abelard of Paris
I. Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard of Clairvaux fought with Abelard over the possibility of applying dialectics to Christian beliefs. Bernard is the most eminent representative of Christian mysticism.
With every medieval theologian, faith is described as an anticipation of the will.
Mysticism is much older than Christianity, and much more universal.
Abstract mysticism – mysticism of the abyss of the divine
In the third stage of mysticism [going outside oneself] man goes over into divinity, like a drop of wine which falls into a glass of wine. The substance remains, but the form of the individual drop is dissolved into the all-embracing divine form. One does not love one’s identity, but it becomes part of the divine reality. These two forms of mysticism must always be distinguished: concrete mysticism, which is mysticism of love and participating in the Savior-God, and abstract mysticism, or transcending mysticism, which goes beyond everything finite to the ultimate ground of everything that is.
J. Joachim of Floris
“most important apocalyptic thinker of the whole medieval period”
Historians will tell you that the period which we call the “Renaissance” was shared in by only a few people – artists, scholars, and politicians in Italy, and later by some people in England, Holland, and Germany. The masses of people still lived under the conditions which had prevailed for the past century.
Many sectarian movements, including the sects of the Reformation on which much of American life is dependent, were directly or indirectly dependent on Joachim of Floris. The philosophers of the Enlightenment who taught that there will be a third period of history in which everyone will be taught directly by the inner light – the light of reason – were dependent on Joachim’s ideas. The socialist movement rests on the same idea when in its classless society everybody will be directly responsible to the ultimate principles.
Much of American utopianism must be understood in the light of this movement in the West.
K. The Thirteenth Century
The crusades brought about the encounter of Christianity with two highly developed cultures, the original Jewish and the Islamic cultures.
The fact of an encounter with another always involves a kind of self-reflection. Only if you encounter someone else are you able to reflect on yourselves.
Francis became the father of the Renaissance; by his feeling the fraternity with all beings, he opened up nature for religion. He opened up nature with respect to its ground of being, which is the same as it is in man.
To bring the laity into the circle he created the so-called “third order”, the tertiaries. The first is the male order monks; the second is the corresponding female order, the nuns; the third is the laymen who remain married and subject themselves to some of the principles of the monastic order. The lay principle was dangerous because it could spell the end of the absolute authority of the hierarchy.
The Dominicans became the order of the Inquisition.
Every act of knowledge – about animals, plants, bodies, astronomy, mathematics – is implicitly religious. … This attitude we call theonomous.
God is not a conclusion from other premises, but prior to all conclusions, making them possible.
The situation is clear: In Bonaventura we have a theonomous knowledge in all realms of life; we have no knowledge whatsoever without beginning with God. In Thomas we have autonomous knowledge, reached by the scientific method as far as it goes. But Thomas knew that it does not go far enough, so it must be completed by authority. This is the meaning of the heated struggle between the Augustinians and the Aristotelians in the thirteenth century.
Ockham, the real father of nominalism. In his view God cannot be approached at all through autonomous knowledge; he is out of reach.
The word “person” was never applied to God in the Middle Ages. … It was the nineteenth century which made God into a person, with the result that the greatness of the classical idea of God was destroyed by this way of speaking.
Duns Scotus, gods order cannot be deduced
I consider him the turning point in the history of Western thought.
L. The Doctrines of Thomas Aquinas
His famous statement read: ” Grace does not remove nature, but fulfills it.” The radical Augustinians would not accept this statement. They would say grace removes nature. For Thomas Aquinas grace contradicts only estranged nature, but not nature as such.
In Protestantism grace is the acceptance of that which is unacceptable. In Catholicism grace is a substance, which stands in analogy to the natural substances.
We must look at our world and find that by logical necessity it leads to the conclusion of a highest being. Thomas had five arguments for it, which appear again and again in the history of philosophy.
- An un-moved mover, which we call “God.”
- Every cause itself is an effect of a prior cause. First cause.
- Everything in the world is contingent.
- There are purposes in nature and man. The idea of a final purpose, of an ultimate meaning, as we would perhaps say today.
- The fifth argument is dependent on Plato. It says that there are degrees of perfection in everything that is. some things are better or more beautiful or more true than others. But if there are degrees of perfection, there must be something absolutely perfect by which we can distinguish between the more or less of perfection. Whenever we make value judgements, we presuppose something which is beyond degree.
In Thomas Aquinas we have the concept of predestination.
Duns Scotus and the Franciscans introduced the element of freedom
Four main pagan virtues taken from Plato: courage, temperance, wisdom, and the all embracing justice. These produce natural happiness. … the fulfillment of one’s own essential nature.
Thomas combined Christian ethics with the ancient ethics of self-fulfillment.
M. William of Ockham
William of Ockham is the father of nominalism.
This nominalistic approach was applied to God. God is called by Ockham ens singularissmum, the most single being. This means that God himself has become an individual. As such he is separate from all other individuals. God is no longer in the center of everything, as he was in the Augustinian way of thinking. As a consequence of this nominalism we live today in a society in which we relate to each other in terms of cooperation and competition. [My note: this is essentially the opposite of collectivism]
[Ockham] contributed radically to the dissolution of medieval unity.
N. German Mysticism
Meister Eckhart was the most important representative of German Mysticism.
One could say that in the religious realm the impulses of German mysticism prevailed. In the secular realm the nominalistic attitude prevailed.
O. The Pre-Reformers
The experience of being accepted in spite of being unacceptable … this principle does not appear before Luther.
The transition in the Middle Ages from realism to nominalism is accompanied by a transition from the predominance of the eye to the ear. In the early centuries of the Christian Church the visual function was predominant in religious art and in the sacraments. Since Duns Scotus, and even more since Ockham, the hearing to the Word becomes most important, and not the seeing of sacramental embodiment of the reality.
The Antichrist must maintain at least some of the religious glory of the real Christ, so that it would be possible to confuse them and to adore him. … Hitler is not the Antichrist.
The church’s involvement in big business is further evidence of its Antichrist character. The Vatican had become the banking house of the world, especially in Luther’s time.
Chapter 4: Roman Catholicism from Trent to the Present
When the Council of Trent was convened, instead of being a universal council, it was a council of the Counter-Reformation. At Trent sessions of this council were held during several decades, with many interruptions. The Protestant Reformers were excluded from it.
My thoughts on this: It is a natural human tendency to exclude ideas that directly challenge your view of the world. The information learned might radically destabilize your mode of operating in the world, and so it’s much easier to avoid things that would do this. It is a higher level of human who is willing to accept criticisms of their worldview, and an even higher still person who seeks out those ideas that might challenge their view.
The Counter-Reformation was not simply a reaction, the Roman Church after the Council of Trent was not what it was before.
This is the unwholesome split of Christianity. The Reformation, instead of becoming the reformation of the whole church, became the dogma of the protesting group, the Protestants. The non-Protestants reformed themselves, but in terms of “counter”, in terms of opposition to something, not of immediate creativity. This is always the historical situation: if a group has to resist, it narrows down. Take simply the attack of Communism on the Western world, and you see how the freedoms for which America stands are tremendously narrowed down in defense of these freedoms.
B. The Doctrine of Authorities
The doctrine of the authorities which the Council of Trent defined.
- The traditional Holy Scriptures and the Aprocrypha of the Old Testament are both Scriptures and of equal authority. Luther had removed the Apocrypha of the Old Testament.
- Scripture and tradition are equal in authority. The present decision about what the tradition is lies in the hands of the pope.
- There is only one translation which has ultimate authority, the Vulgate of St. Jerome.
- Holy Mother Church give interpretation of Scripture.
C. The Doctrine of Sin
D. The Doctrine of Justification
No reconciliation was possible between these two forms of religion – the Reformation doctrine which holds that our act of turning to God and receiving his grace is unambiguously a receptive act, one in which God gives something to us and we do not do anything, and the Catholic doctrine which teaches that we must act and prepare for grace, that we must cooperate with God, and that faith is an intellectual acknowledgement, which may or may not be there. All the anathemas of the Council of Trent on this point are based on this misunderstanding of sola fide.
E. The Sacraments
In Catholic doctrine not every Christian has the power to preach and to administer the sacraments, but only those who are ordained.
Marriage is retained as a sacrament, although in contradiction to this, virginity is evaluated more highly than marriage. This is still the situation in the Roman Church. Now what was still somewhat in flux before the Reformation became fixed. It was fixed against the Reformation. This shows how the Roman Church lost its dynamic creativity.
F. Papal Infallibility
The constitution of 1870, Pastor Aeternus, declared the pope to be the universal power of jurisdiction over every other power in the church. There is no legal body which is not subject to the pope. Secondly, he is declared a universal bishop.
Infallibility of the pope does not mean that there exists a man whose every word is infallible. For eighty years, from 1870 to 1950, no pope had said anything which is infallible in the strictest sense. But then in 1950 he did, which reminded us that this dogma about the infallibility of the pope is taken absolutely seriously, without restriction.
I. Recent Developments
“Index of Prohibited Book” – ceased to have ecclesiastical power in 1966.
Rome is not totalitarian; only a state can be that. But Rome is authoritarian, and it exercises many functions which totalitarian states have exercised.
The kind of Protestantism which has developed in America is not so much an expression of the Reformation, but has more to do with so-called Evangelical Radicals.
Chapter 4: The Theology of the Protestant Reformers
My note: “Evangelical” primarily means belief in the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, solely through faith in Jesus’s atonement. Spreading the message is secondary though important. Also important is the presence of the divine Spirit in daily life giving counsel.
A. Martin Luther
Luther is different. He is one of the few great prophets of the Christian Church, and his greatness is overwhelming.
1. The Breakthrough
This was a break through three different distortions of Christianity which made the Roman Catholic religion what it was. The breakthrough was the creation of another religion.
The Catholic system is a system of objective, quantitative, and relative relations between God and man for the sake of providing eternal happiness for man. This is the basic structure: objective, not personal; quantitative, not qualitative; relative and conditioned, not absolute. This leads to another proposition: The Roman system is a system of divine-human management, represented and actualized by ecclesiastical management.
Under these [Catholic] conditions no one ever knew whether he could be certain of his salvation, because one could never do enough. The result of this was a great deal of anxiety at the end of the Middle Ages.
A tremendous amount of anxiety was expressed in the demand for more and more pilgrimages, in the collection and adoration of relics, in praying many “Our Fathers”, in giving money, in buying indulgences, self-torturing asceticism, and everything possible to get over one’s guilt. It is interesting to look at this period but almost impossible for us to understand it. Luther was in the cloister with this same anxiety of guilt and condemnation, Out of this anxiety he went into the cloister and out of it he experienced that no amount of asceticism is able to give a person a real certainty of salvation in a system of relativities, quantities, and things.
There is only one grace, reunion with God. That is all! Luther reduced the Christian religion to this simplicity.
Luther attacked the abuses connected with the sacrament of penance … had different parts, contrition, confession, absolution, and satisfaction.
Contrition – real repentance, the change of mind
Satisfaction – did not mean you could earn your forgiveness of sins by works of satisfaction, but that you have to do them because the sin is still in you after it has been forgiven.
The priest imposed on the communicandus all kinds of activities, sometimes so difficult that the people wanted to get rid of them. The church yielded to this desire in terms of indulgences, which are also sacrifices. One must sacrifice some money to buy the indulgences, and these indulgences remove the obligations to perform the works of satisfaction.
A person could buy the indulgences and in this way get rid of the punishments.
The sacrament of penance is completely dissolved. Penitence is transformed into a personal relationship to God and to the neighbor.
The pope did not accept the absolute categories in Luther’s view of man’s relationship to God. Thus the conflict between Luther and the church arose. Luther hoped to reform the church, including the pope and priests.
2. Luther’s Criticism of the Church
Luther claimed the Pope was the AntiChrist.
The phase sola fide is the most misunderstood and distorted phrase of the Reformation. People have taught that it means that if you do the good work of believing, especially believing in something unbelivable, this will make you good before God. The phrase should not be “by faith alone” but “by grace alone, recieved through faith alone”.
The sacramental foundation of the whole hierarchical system was removed.
3. His Conflict with Erasmus
4. His Conflict with Evangelical Radicals
Luther’s conflict with the evangelical radicals is especially important for American Protestants because the prevailing type of Christianity in America was not produced by the Reformation directly, but by the indirect effect of the Reformation through the movement of evangelical radicalism. The evangelical radicals went beyond [Luther]. God has not spoken only in the past, and has now become silent. He always speaks; he speaks in the hearts or depths of any man who is prepared by his own cross to hear. Thomas Muntzer, who was the most creative of the evangelical radicals, said that it is always possible for the Spirit to speak through individuals.
They felt that they were the elect. Whereas the Roman Church offered no certainty to any individual with respect to justification, and whereas Luther had the certainty of justification but not of election, and whereas Calvin had the certainty of not only justification but also to a great extent of election, Muntzer and his followers had the certainty of being elected within a group of the elect; they were the sectarian group.
The evangelical radicals are also referred to as enthusiasts. Their emphasis is on the presence of the divine Spirit, not on the biblical writings as such. The Spirit may be present in an individual in every moment, even giving counsels for activities in daily life. Luther had a different feeling.
Luther felt that it was pride for the sectarians to believe that it is possible to have immediate revelation in the actual human situation apart from the historical revelation embodied in the Bible.
5. Luther’s Doctrines
(a) The Biblical Principle
[Luther] said that the message existed before the Bible, namely, in the preaching of the apostles. As Calvin also later said, Luther stated that the writing which resulted in the books of the Bible was an emergency situation; it was necessary and it was an emergency. Therefore, only the religious content is important; the message is an object of experience.
One thing was accomplished by Luther’s freedom; it was possible for Protestantism to do something which no other religion in the whole world has been able to do, and that is to accept the historical treatment of the biblical literature.
(b) For Luther, life as a whole, its nature and substance, is corrupted. Here we must comment on the term “total depravity” which we hear often. This does not mean that there is nothing good in man; no Reformer or Neo-Reformation theologian ever said that. The concept of total depravity would be translated by a modern psychologist in the sense that man is distorted, or in conflict with himself, in the center of his personal life. Everything in man is included in this distortion, and this is what Luther meant.
There is no section in man which is not touched by self-contradiction.
The emphsis is on the receptive character of faith, doing nothing but only receiving. These ideas are all concentrated in the acceptance of being accepted, in the forgiveness of sins, which brings about a quiet conscience and a spiritual vitality toward God and man.
A split personality is not one which does not do good works. There are many people who do many good works, but who lack the ultimate center. This ultimate center is what Luther calls faith. And this makes a person. This faith is not an acceptance of doctrines, not even Christian doctrines, but the acceptance of the power itself out of which we come and to which we go, whatever the doctrines may be through which we accept it.
(c) The Idea of God
Luther’s idea of God is one of the most powerful in the whole history of human and Christian thought. This is not a God who is a being beside others; it is a God whom we can have only through contrast.
Luther denies everything which can make God finite, or a being beside others. “Nothing is so small, God is even smaller. Nothing is so large, God is even larger. He is an unspeakable being, above and outside everything we can name and think.”
Luther’s doctine of omnipotence. “I call the omnipotence of God not that power by which he does not do many things he could do, but the actual power by which he potently does everything in everything.”
The absurd idea of a God who calculates whether he should do what he could do is removed by this idea of God as a creative power.
The heroic persons in particular break through the ordinary rules of life. They are armed by God. God calls and forces them, and gives them their hour, and I would say, their kairos.
(d) The Doctrine of Christ
In describing this method of correlation Luther says: “As somebody is in himself, so is God to him, as object. If a man is righteous himself, God is righteous. If a man is pure, God is pure for him. If he is evil, God is evil for him. Therefore, he will appear to the damned as the evil in eternity, but to the righteous as the righteous, according to what he is in himself.”
(e) Church and State
There is no doubt that Luther’s doctrine of the church is his weakest point.
In the Lutheran countries the church government [within churches] very soon became identical with the state government. The reason for this is that the hierarchy was removed by Luther. There is no pope, no bishops, no priests any more in the technical sense.
Such a solution was brought about by an emergency situation.
My note: Every group of people must at some point, by necessity, establish a hierarchy. Luther did not plan his replacement of Catholic hierarchy.
Many people believe that Luther’s interpretation of the state is the real cause of Nazism. … [Luther] says, every Christian must put up with bad government because it comes from God providentially.
It is impossible for Lutheranism, from a theological point of view, to accept revolution. Luther was unambiguously against revolution.
Nazism was possible in Germany because of this positivistic authoritarianism, because of Luther’s affirmation that the given prince cannot be removed. This provided a great inhibition against any German revolution. But I do not believe that this would have been possible anyway in the modern totalitarian systems.
The only truth in the theory which connects Luther with Nazism is that Luther broke the back of the revolutionary will in the Germans.
B. Huldreich Zwingli
C. John Calvin
Some have said that the doctrine of predestination is the main point.
For Calvin the central doctrine of Christianity is the doctrine of the majesty of God. Calvin states more clearly than any of the other Reformers that God is known in an exitential attitude. Only out of human misery can we understand the divine majesty, and only in the light of the divine majesty can we understand human misery. Calvin applied to God a word which Rudolf Otto rediscovered – numen, numinous. God is a numen for him; he is unapproachable, horrifying, and at the same time fascinating.
Calvin fought against having pictures in the churches, and all kinds of things which can divert the mind from the wholly transcendent God.
This idea that the human mind is a “perpetual manufacturer of idols” is one of the most profound things which can be said about our thinking of God.
When Calvin speaks of the God of love, it is usually in the context of the elect. Among them he reveals his love. Those who are not the elect are from the beginning excluded from love.
2. Providence and Predestination
Omnipotence is omniactivity. Providence consists in continuous divine action. This raised the problem with which Calvin was still wrestling on his deathbed: If this is so, is God not the cause of evil?
He made a third assertion: It is a way to show the holiness of God, in the punishment of those whom he has selected for damnation and in the salvation of those who are elected.
The suffering of the world is not a real problem for Calvin. Since his first principle is the honor of God, he can show that human suffering is (1) a natural consequence of the distorted, sinful world; (2) a way of bringing the elect to God; (3) a way for God to show his holiness in the punishment of a a distorted world.
Calvin’s doctrine of providence is supposed to heal anxiety, to give moral courage, and for this reason he praises the divine providence.
Predestination is providence with respect to the ultimate aim of man.
Why is it that most of the great names in religion, from Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, to Luther, are adherents of predestination, whereas those who do not adhere to it are nearer to a moralistic interpretation of Christianity than to a strictly religious one? If we deny predestination, we are denying the high line of religious personalities and their ideology.
My note: This is far more objectively true than I originally thought, but only if it is removed from the religious category. “Freedom from sin” from a secular perspective can be described as freedom from suffering, and this is very unequally distributed in the world. The poorest of the world live in extreme suffering, are born into it, while the rich are born into luxury.
All of these who teach predestination have observed something empirically, namely, that there is a selective and not an equalitarian principle effective in life. Life cannot be understood in terms of an equalitarian principle, but only in terms of a selective principle.
Those who ask this question are given a certainty of salvation because predestination makes salvation completely independent of the oscillations of our human being.
Calvin himself felt the horrible aspect of this doctrine.
When Calvin was attacked, especially in his last years – in the face of death – he answered in a slightly different way: “Their perdition depends on the divine predestination, in such a manner that the cause and matter of it are found in themselves.” Hence, the immediate cause is man’s free will.
3. The Christian Life
For Luther the new life is a joyful reunion with God; for Calvin it is the attempt to fulfill the law of God in the life of the Christian. The summary of the Christian life [for Calvin] is self-denial and not love.
Inner worldly asceticism has two characteristics: cleanliness, and profit through work.
Activity in the world to produce tools and, by means of them, profit. This has been called the “spirit of capitalism” by Max Weber.
There is something in the spirit of Calvinist ethics which serves the purposes of [financial] investment, an important element in the capitalist economy. In pre-capitalist economy the rich man showed his riches in glorious living, in building castles or mansions or patrician houses. But Calvinism tried to show people how to use their wealth differently. If should be used partly for endowments and partly for new investments. One of the best ways of supporting the capitalist form of economy is to make the profits into investments.
I can tell you that in eastern Germany, before the catastrophes of the twentieth century happened, the cities in which the protestants lived were the wealthy ones, and the ones in which the Catholics lived were the poor ones.
4. Church and State
5. The Authority of Scripture
Chapter 6: The Development of Protestant Theology
Orthodoxy vs. Fundamentalism
Liberal theology to the present time has been dependent on the Orthodoxy against which it has fought. Pietism was dependent on the Orthodoxy which it wanted to transform into subjectivism.
All theology of today is dependent in some way on the classical systems of Orthodoxy.
1. Reason and Revelation
2. The Formal and Material Principles
If the Spirit tells you that you are children of God, this is an immediate experience, and there is no law involved in it at all. But if the Spirit testifies that the Bible contains true doctrines, the whole thing is brought out of the person-to-person relationship into an objective legal relationship. This is exactly what Orthodoxy did.
The orthodox doctrine of inspiration … the authors of Scripture were the hands of Christ, the “pens” by which the Spirit wrote the Bible.
This is the consequence of a consistent doctrine of inspiration.
One is driven to actual absurdities with the doctrine of inspiration. To maintain it one has to make artificial harmonizations, for there are innumerable contradictions in the Bible on historical as well as on other matters. Such contradictions are made out to be only apparent, and one is forced to be ingenious in inventing ways to harmonize them.
The greatest of the pietists was Philip Jacob Spener.
Orthodoxy held that the non-Christian nations are lost, because they had already received the apostolic preaching immediately after the founding of the church, and rejected it.
The pietists felt altogether differently about it. Human souls, wherever they may be, can be saved through conversion. So they began their missions to foreign lands. A man like Zinzendorf, together with Wesley, look to America.
[The pietists] fought against dancing, the theater, games, beautiful dresses, banquets, shallow talk in daily life. If was not so much the Puritans who produced this system of vital repression so common in America; it was more the pietistic evangelical movements of the mid-nineteenth century which were responsible for this condemnation of smoking, drinking, movies, etc.
In the end the pietistic movement was superior because it was allied with the trends of the time, away from the strict objectivism and authoritarianism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to the principles of autonomy which appeared in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
It is popular nonsense that reason and mysticism are the two great opposites.
Modern rational autonomy is a child of the mystical autonomy of the doctrine of the inner light. The doctrine of the inner light is very old; we have it in the Franciscan theology of the Middle Ages.
Rationalism is the child of mysticism, and both of them are opposed to authoritarian Orthodoxy.
C. The Enlightenment
Socinianism [Faustus Socinus] is one of the sources of the Enlightenment.
Harnack says in his History of Dogma that Socinianism was the end of the history of Christian dogma.
The Socinians accepted the authority of the Bible, but declared that in non-essential things it may be in error. Furthermore, historical criticism is necessary.
Socinus criticized mainly the dogma of the trinity. The Socinians are the predecessors of the later Unitarian movements. He said – and in this he is historically right – that the arguments for the trinitarian dogma do not exist in the Bible as they were later presented in Orthodoxy.
What really survives from Socinianism are three theological ideas of the Enlightenment: God, freedom, and immortality. I like to quote from Immanuel Kant’s What is Enlightenment?: “Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! (Dare to know!) ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’ – that is the motto of the enlightenment.” Kant goes on to show how much more comfortable it is to have guardians and authorities but he says this comfort has to be given up. Man must stand upon himself; it is his nature to be autonomous. PP Rationalism and Enlightenment emphasize human autonomy. “Autonomy” is not used in the sense of arbitrariness, of man making himself or deciding about himself in terms of his individual desires and arbitrary willfulness. Autonomy is derived from autos and nomos (self-law) in Greek. It does not say that “I am a law unto myself”, but that the universal law of reason, which is the structure of reality, is within me. This concept of autonomy is often falsified by theologians who say this is the misery of man., that he wants to be autonomous rather than dependent on God. This is poor theology and poor philosophy. Autonomy is the natural law given by God, present in the human mind and in the structure of the world. Natural law usually means in classical philosophy and theology the law of reason, and this is the divine law. Autonomy is following this law as we find it in ourselves. It is always connected with a strong obedience to the law of reason, stronger than any religious idea that seems to be arbitrary. The adherents of autonomy in the Enlightenment were opposed to anything so arbitrary as divine grace. They wanted to emphasize man’s obedience tot he law of his own nature and the nature of the world.
diastasis – the separation of normally joined parts, as in the dislocation of bones, without fracture.
Because man is always man, and at the same time under God. He can never be under God in such a way that he ceases to be human.
Introduction: Problem and Method
Chapter 1: Oscillating Emphases in Orthodoxy, Pietism and Rationalism
A. The Period of Orthodoxy
The word “orthodoxy” has two meanings. There is both Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestant Orthodoxy. The Eastern Churches [are] interested in the tradition.
The term “orthodoxy” in Greek simply means “right opinion,” but in Eastern Orthodoxy it connotes the “classic tradition”.
We must also be sure to distinguish between orthodoxy and fundamentalism. The orthodox period of Protestantism has very little to do with what is called fundamentalism in America.
B. The Reaction of Pietism Against Orthodoxy
Orthodoxy maintained the view that since theology is an objective science, it is possible to write a fully valid theology whether we are reborn or not. Pietism said, “No, that’s impossible.”
The answer of the Orthodox theologians to this was: “How can you state beyond any doubt that you are regenerate? Is any emotional experience to be considered a real rebirth?“
There are some people who have a decisive experience. John Wesley had it; August Francke, the German pietist, had it, and Nicholas von Zinzendorf had it, but these are exceptional cases. The development of the ordinary Christian does not manifest a clear-cut division between before and after, so that he could say with finality: Now I am able to be a theologian because I have really experienced rebirth.
C. The Rise of Rationalism
The theology of the Reformation created a special educational problem which opened the door to rationalism. In Roman Catholicism you can be saved by believing what the church believes. This is called the fides implicita (implicit faith). If you believe what you are taught, then implicitly you receive the truth which the Catholic Church teaches. This was on of the points on which the Reformation erupted, for in place of the fides implicita the Reformers taught that everyone must have an experience of grace in faith. Each individual must be able to confess his sins, to experience the meaning of repentance, and to become certain of his salvation through Christ. This became a problem in Protestantism. It meant that everyone would have to have some basic knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Church. … How can you teach everybody? By making the teaching extremely simple.
Inner Light ~ existential experience
The opposite of mysticism is not rationalism, but rationalism is the daughter of mysticism. The opposite of mysticism is the theology of the Word in terms of an authority coming from the outside, to which we subject ourselves either by accepting doctrines or by fulfilling moral commands.
Mysticism means inwardness, participation in the Ultimate Reality through inner experience.
Chapter 2: The Enlightenment and Its Problems
1. The Kantian Definition of Autonomy
Kant defined enlightenment as man’s conquering the state of immaturity as far as he is responsible for it. Immaturity, he said, is the inability to use one’s own reason without the guidance of somebody else.
Autonomy is derived rom two Greek words, autos, which means “self”, and nomos, which means “law.” Autonomy means being a law to oneself. The law is not outside of us, but inside as our true being.
The opposite term is “heteronomy”. The word “heteronomy” also comes from two Greek words, heteros, which means “strange” or “foreign,” and nomos, which means “law.” It is not autonomy but ultimately heteronomy that involves willfulness and arbitrariness. Why? Because if we should obey a strange authority, even if it were to come from God, it would go against the will of our own created goodness, and we would be subjecting ourselves to something that is not pure reason within us, such as our desires, our strivings, or the pleasure principle, and the like. Then we are looking for the security of a foreign authority which deprives us of the courage to use our reason because of the fear of punishment or of falling into insoluble problems.
2. The Concepts of Reason
Four concepts of reason: a. Universal b. Critical c. Intuitive d. Technical
My note: perhaps broadly speaking: Universal Reason ~ God’s Spirit; Critical Reason ~ Man’s Spirit; Intuitive Reason ~ Man’s Heart; Technical Reason ~ Man’s Mind
a. Universal Reason
b. Critical Reason
It was not a calculating reason which decides which whether to do this or that, depending on which is more advantageous. Rather, it was a full, passionate, revolutionary emphasis on man’s essential goodness in the name of the principle of justice.
We could therefore call it revolutionary reason as well as critical reason.
The philosophers of the enlightenment were extremely passionate. They were not interested in merely collecting facts which had no meaning for the revolutionary program. They became martyrs for the passion which they felt was given by the divine logos within them.
c. Intuitive Reason
Today we have another term for it [intuitive reason or Plato’s “essences”]. We call it phenomenological.
basic assumption is that the human mind has power to intuit essences.
Today reason and intuition are placed in contrast to each other, but they should not be. Intuitive reason is a nonanalytical reason which expresses itself in terms of descriptions. Intuitive reason means looking at meanings, trying to understand them, and not analyzing objects, be it psychical or physical objects.
d. Technical Reason
The power of technical reason is its ability to analyze reality and to construct tools out of it.
3. The Concept of Nature
There are two concepts of nature: material and formal. The material concept refers to things in nature, usually to subhuman or nonhuman things. The formal concept of nature refers to human beings, but of course man’s body belongs as well to the material concept. But it contains a different element: It has mind or spirit.
Two other concepts … The unnatural is simply the perversion of the nature of a given thing. On the other hand, the supernatural is not supposed to be unnatural. It is supposed to be higher in power and value than the natural.
4. The Concept of Harmony
For all Greek thinking the finished is the good, the unfinished is the bad. … This concept was carried into the Platonic-Christian idea of providence. … It is also a fundamental concept of Christian theology, and even more of Christian daily life. … This fundamental Christian idea of providence became secularized in the Enlightenment. Now it was formulated in terms of harmony.
Even when the idea of providence is secularized in the Enlightenment, certain traits of it are preserved, especially the “in spite of” element. Christianity emphasizes that in spite of sin and error, something meaningful can be done in history by the providential guidance of God. … The first clear expression of this in the secular realm can be seen in the area of economics expressed by Adam Smith. … There is this basic belief in harmony. In spite of the fact that the producer, seller, and buyer fight with each other, somehow the laws of economics will be at work behind their backs in such a way that the best interests of all concerned and of the whole society will be satisfied.
If there is no belief in this harmony, democracy cannot work, for the minority will not accept the validity of the decision of the majority. There is plenty of evidence of this in some of the South American countries. As soon as a democratic majority appears which is disliked by the [minority] military leaders, they instigate a putsch to overthrow the government. This is the chief characteristic of the negation of democracy.
In Protestantism we have the religious counterpart to this concept of harmony. The Protestant idea was that religion or Christianity has no need of a central authority which gives all the answers, either by councils or popes. On the other hand, the fact that the church held councils was an expression of the principle of harmony, for the assumption prevailed that the majority opinion of the council was the expression of the divine Spirit.
The theological development of the last century and a half has been looking for an answer to the question: What if the principle of harmony does not work?
B. The Attitude of the Enlightened Man
The enlightened man is a bourgeois. Bourgeois is a French word, the French equivalent of the Bürger in German, which means “he who lives inside the walls of the town.”
This vertical orientation of the totality of life in the Middle Ages stands in direct opposition to the horizontal outline of the bourgeois society of the Enlightenment. The bourgeois wants to analyze and transform the whole of reality in order to control it.
He does not accept the status quo. This again demands knowledge of reality. Reality far beyond his limited place must be known in order to be calculated and controlled.
2. His Ideal of a Reasonable Religion
Irrational elements which interfere with a calculable pattern of reality must therefore be excluded. … [According to the Enlightenment] God has made the world and now it follows its own laws. He does not interfere any more. Every interference would mean a loss of calculability. No such interferences are acceptable and all special revelations have to be denied.
Death is removed as an interfering power in the progressive thought of controlling reality.
Death is not convenient for progressive society. It means the end of man’s control and calculations and the end of inner-worldly purposes. … An even stronger attack is made on the idea of original sin.
The fear of hell was also dismissed.
3. His Common-sense Morality
The state became increasingly secular because it had to transcend the split between the churches. It could not succeed in identifying itself with one of them.
When it was seen that neither the Protestants nor the Catholics could gain a decisive victory, the secularized state had to intervene, identifying itself with neither religious group.
Another characteristic of the bourgeois moral life, the element of discipline.
In the aristocratic society, there was an acceptance of enjoyment in life, an expression of vitality in the more primitive directions of erotic play, the desire for intoxication to elevate the feeling of vitality, but also the sense of beauty in the arts and the glory of nature. … In bourgeois society all this was denied.
The idea of the kingdom of God, so important for Calvinistic thinking, took on the connotation of working for the transformation of nature for the sake of mankind.
4. His Subjective Feeling
If philosophers remain in their closed spheres of mere logical inquiry of logic, and do not go into the relevant problems of life, then they abandon the reality of our existence to movements which unite emotionalism and ignorance.
C. Intrinsic Conflicts of Enlightenment
No period in history should be seen as monolithic. If we look at the Renaissance and think that every peasant in southern Bavaria was a bearer of the sixteenth-century Renaissance, then we are imagining a ridiculous thing. There were only a few thousand people in all Europe who brought about the Renaissance.
1. Cosmic Pessimism
… earthquake in Lisbon in the middle of the eighteenth century. … Sixty thousand people were killed. this was a catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions to a period in which God was considered as having created the world for the purpose of serving man.
It is interesting to see how the philosophers were shaken. It was an event which greatly influenced Goethe (1740-1832) in the early years of his life. It was after this earthquake that Voltaire (1694-1778), the classical representative of the French Enlightenment, wrote the deeply pessimistic novel, Candide, which ends with the advice to retire to one’s garden and withdraw from the horrors of world history.
The word “theodicy” comes from the two Greek words, theos meaning God and dike meaning justice. Theodicy thus means, “justifying God for the evils in the world.”
2. Cultural Vices
Rousseau alleged that in the new state of society the increase in the pleasure of a few has become the basis for the misery of the many.
Nobody foreshadowed the French Revolution so powerfully and representatively as Rousseau. But with his critical attitude toward progress in civilization, he became the predecessor of Romanticism.
3. Personal Vices.
Helvetius, was a Frenchman and a representative of materialism.
He formulated the thesis: “Remorse begins where impunity ends.” That means that you repent for what you have done only if you are punished, but if you get away with it, there is no remorse. Psychologically, this is true to a great extent, but it is not always true, and it is not true as a matter of principle. According to Helvetius the greatest men are those with the greatest passions and with the power to satisfy them.
All of the politicians were Machiavellian, but his ideas were not expressed. If they had expressed his ideas, they would have undercut their own power. It is only effective when it is done without talking about it.
4. Progress Based on Immorality
The proposition was advanced that the private vices of the powerful individuals who desired luxury, glory, and social status are the forces which keep the whole machinery of capitalistic society moving.
D. The Fulfillers and Critics of Enlightenment
1. Rousseau, the French Revolution, and Romanticism
2. Hume, the History of Religion, and Positivism
David Hume in England (1711-1776), undercut the certainty of belief in the validity of what we have called the intuitive and critical concepts of reason. And along with this he undercut the metaphysical foundations of natural law on which the Enlightenment depended.
What does positivism mean after all? It means accepting what is positively given as such; observing and describing it without trying to criticize it or without trying to make a constructive system out of it.
Hume never attacked the established church, but he did attack the belief that you can justify it by reason.
3. Kant, Moral Religion, and Radical Evil
[Kaftan said] There are three great philosophers and there are three great Christian groups: The Greek Orthodox whose philosopher’s name is Plato; the Roman Catholics whose philosopher’s name is Aristotle; and the Protestants whose philosopher’s name is Kant.
Kant’s doctrine of categories and of time and space as the structure of man’s mind is what gives him a certain kind of humility before reality.
He showed one things, that in the finite structure of our being there is a point of unconditional validity.
So we have no certainty about God or freedom or eternal life, but we have the certainty of belonging to something unconditional.
Kant’s idea of radical evil was an unforgivable sin from the point of view of the Enlightenment.
Chapter 3: The Classic-Romantic Reaction against the Enlightenment
A. Lessing, Historical Criticism, and the Rediscovery of Spinoza
Joachim de Fiore prophesied the coming of an age of the divine Spirit in which everyone will be taught directly by the Spirit and no authorities will be needed any more. Lessing is a great representative of this unity [between spirit-mysticism and rationalism].
B. The Synthesis of Spinoza and Kant
Spinoza’s mystical pantheism, as it has sometimes been called. This is the idea that there is one eternal substance. This universal substance has innumerable attributes, but we know only two of them, mind and extension. This one substance is present in everything.
This finitude of man and his inability of ever reaching the infinite is the motive in all Kant’s criticisms. So all of Kant’s followers and the whole continental philosophy faced this problem: How to unite mysticism and the Protestant principle; how to unite the principle of identity, the participation of the divine in each of us, and the principle of detachment, of moral obedience, without participation in the divine.
C. The Nature of Romanticism
1. The Infinite and Finite
Thus the classical period was represented only during a short period of Goethe’s life. Then Romanticism broke through.
Romanticism is a philosophy of imagination. He who is not able to transcend the given situation in which he lives through his own imagination finds himself imprisoned in that situation.
2. The Emotional and the Aesthetic Elements in Romanticism
Romanticism is, as I said, against the Enlightenment.
If the infinite is in everything finite, then the awareness of the infinite in the finite is intuitive.
Romantic philosophy replaced religion by aesthetic intuition. Whenever you find the statement made by artists or in works on art that art is religion itself, you are in the sphere of the romantic.
3. The Turn to the Past and the Valuation of Tradition
Romanticism never really broke through into the American tradition. It has appeared in some literary manifestations, but it has never been a transforming power as in Europe.
I believe that the resistance of American students against taking history seriously is due in part to the fact that Romanticism has never had a profound influence in this country. The American Constitution is a great political document of the Enlightenment, you do not find many romantic elements in it.
4. The Quest for Unity and Authority
5. The Negative and the Demonic in Romanticism
There are two periods of Romanticism
The first period of Romanticism stressed the presence of the infinite in the finite.
In the second period something else happened. The depth dimension, the dimension of the infinite, reaches not only up to the divine, but also down to the demonic. … In this second period of Romanticism we have the pre-formation of almost all the ideas of twentieth-century existentialism.
The darkness in man’s understanding and in the human situation becomes manifest. The concept of the unconscious is of decisive importance for the whole following century into our time. This concept is not an invention of Freud, as I think all of you know. It is actually older than the second period of Romanticism.
Now the negative element became in Romanticism a demonic element. It reveals the demonic depths of the human soul, something of which the Enlightenment was only dimly aware. After the presence of the infinite in the finite was formulated, then the presence of the demonic in the was expressed.
The word “irony” means that the infinite is superior to any finite concretion and drives beyond to another finite concretion.
D. The Classical Theological Synthesis: Friedrich Schleiermacher
He is the father of modern Protestant theology.
1. The Background of Schleiermacher’s Thought
There is only one alternative to life with failure, that is lifelessness without failure.
[Schleiermacher] said that a true philosopher can be a true believer.
Or another word: The deepest philosophical thoughts are completely identical with my most intimate religious feelings.
God is here and now. He is in the depths of everything. He is not everything, as this much abused term “pantheism” says. Nobody has ever said that. It is absolute nonsense to say such a thing. It is better to avoid the term itself, but if it means anything at all, it means that the power of the divine is present in everything, that he is the ground and unity of everything, not that he is the sum of all particulars. I do not know any philosopher in the whole history of philosophy who has ever said that. Therefore the word “pantheism,” which you can translate as “God is everything,” is downright misleading.
2. His Concept of Religion as Feeling
I would say that every theology must somehow answer the questions in the human mind in every period.
Schleiermacher made a great mistake. The term he used for the experience of this identity was “feeling”.
“Feeling in Schleiermacher should not really be understood as subjective emotion. Rather, it is the impact of the universe upon us in the depths of our being which transcends subject and object.
There is an immediate awareness of that which is beyond subject and object, of the ground of everything within us.
In The Christian Faith, he uses the expression “feeling of unconditional dependence.” In the moment that these words are combined, the psychological realm has been transcended.
… authorities are unecessary.
The idea of an existing person called “God” and the idea of a continuation of life after the death of a conscious person, or the idea of immortality, collapse as well.
The first radical and fundamental apologetic statement made by Schleiermacher is the following. The unity with God, participation in him, is not a matter of immortal life after death; it is not a matter of accepting a heavenly lawgiver; instead it is a matter of present participation in eternal life. This is decisive. Here he follows the fourth Gospel. The classic German philosophers called this the true Gospel, not because they thought this Gospel contained, historically speaking, reliable reports about Jesus – very soon they learned that this was not the case at all – but because the Gospel of John came closest to expressing principles which could overcome the conflict between rationalism and supernaturalism. This idea that eternal life is here and now, and not a continuation of life after death, is one of the main points they stressed.
He expresses the ideal which in the New Testament is spoken of as “praying without ceasing.” If this is taken literally, it is nonsense. But if it is taken as it is meant, it makes a lot of sense. It means considering every moment of our secular life as filled with the divine presence, not pushing the presence into a Sunday service and otherwise forgetting it.
So the romantic spirit of Schleiermacher cause him to emphasize the concreteness of the historical religions. This was a tremendous step beyond the enlightened idea of natural religion which reduced all religions to three principles: God, freedom, and immortality.
3. His Positivistic Definition of Theology
If you reject the word “religion,” you must simply find another one in naming the given religious reality, the word “piety” or something like that. The term “religion” is, however, unavoidable.
4. His Interpretation of Christianity
Continuous conscious communion with God. This is salvation.
If we today imagine the possibility of spiritual beings existing in other parts of the universe, the question arises as to the meaning of Christ for them. Then people who have an exclusively christologically oriented conception of the trinity would say that we must bring them the message of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ. This seems to me absurd. Instead, I would say that the divine Logos appears wherever there are spiritual beings.
Schleiermacher’s doctrine of sin. … Sin arises because of the discrepancy between the great speed of the evolutionary process in the biological development of mankind and the slower pace of moral and spiritual development of man. The biological development is far ahead of man’s spiritual development.
E. The Universal Synthesis: Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831)
Neither Marx, nor Nietzsche, nor Kierkegaard, nor existentialism, nor the revolutionary movements, are understandable apart from seeing their direct or indirect dependence on Hegel.
1. The Greatness and the Tragic Hybris of Hegel’s System
No great philosopher simply sat behind his desk, and said, “Let me now philosophize a bit between breakfast and lunch time.” All philosophy has been a terrible struggle between divine and demonic forces, skepticism and faith, the possibility of affirming and of negating life.
Hybris (hubris) is a Greek word which is often translated as pride. But it should not be so translated because pride is a particular moral or antimoral attitude. It is possible to be without pride and full of hybris, extremely humble but in this humility remain in a state of hybris. The best translation is “self-elevation toward the realm of the divine.”
Here you see that the history of philosophy is more than the history of some interesting ideas which people find to contradict in each other. The history of philosophy is the history of man’s self-interpretation, and any such self-interpretation stands not only under the judgement of logic but also under the judgment of the meaning of existence as a whole. This is the responsibility of thinking and at the same time its greatness.
2. The Synthesis of God and Man (Mind and Person)
Modern existentialism was born as a protest against Hegel’s essentialism.
3. The Synthesis of Religion and Culture (Thought and Imagination)
Twentieth century concept: estrangement
Nature is spirit, but estranged spirit, spirit not yet having achieved its true nature.
Hegel developed a philosophy of reconciliation, but his pupils said that there is no reconciliation. This statement that there is no reconciliation is the basic statement of existentialism. … The tremendous importance of the concept of estrangement in Karl Marx’s interpretation of capitalism is derived from Hegel, but then used against him.
Hegel had only a system of social ethics in which the ethical relations of the individual person were developed, but the free, deciding individual did not appear in the system.
What then is the difference between religion and philosophy? The difference lies in the form of our awareness of the relation to the absolute. In religion we think in images, myths and symbols. Philosophy is able to interpret these images or symbols in terms of concepts. The conceptualization of the religious contents is the highest aim of philosophy. … First there were myths, then cosmogony, then out of these religious myths the first great philosophical concepts were born. Hegel also believed that the philosophical concepts were universally born out of the mythological symbols of religion.
4. The Synthesis of State and Church
If you hear the word “state” used by Hegel and in romantic philosophy generally, you should not think of what is called “state” today in liberal democracy, that is, an abstract system of government. … In Hegel’s understanding state is the synthetic unity of all communal activities in a nation.
Is culture something which stands beside the church? Should it be pushed into a corner where it loses its relevance for all of culture? Or should we instead understand the religious element in culture and the cultural element in religion.
5. Providence, History, and Theodicy
Hegel made a statement which has been very much abused, misunderstood, and attacked by very clever philosophers. This is the statement that everything real is rational.
Hegel is very near to Luther who understood figures like Attila the Hun and the leaders of the Turks during the invasions at the time of the Reformation as the “masks of God.” Through whom God works out his purposes in history.
Hegel’s idea of the negative element in every life process. The negation drives the positive out of itself and reveals its inner possibilities.
In Hegel the negative is not the continuous threat against the positive, but is overcome in the fulfilled synthesis.
6. The Christ as Reality and Symbol
7. Eternity Against Immortality
Chapter 4: The Breakdown of the Universal Synthesis
A. The Split in the Hegelian School
Hegel’s interpretation of Christ took for granted the historical reality of the biblical image of the Christ. He did not doubt it.
1. The Historical Problem: Struss and Baur
David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874) drew out all the consequences from previous historical criticism when he wrote his The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined in 1835. It came like lightening and thunder striking the great synthesis and all those who felt safe in it. Strauss showed that the authors of the Gospels were not those traditionally thought to be the authors. But more, he tried to show that the stories of the birth and the resurrection of Jesus are symbols expressing the eternal identity of what is essential in Jesus and God. This was felt as a tremendous shock. For decades later scholars tried to refute Strauss’ Life of Jesus, and, of course, there were many points in it that proved to be invalid in light of more research.
The image of Christ which Strauss and many later biographers produced was that of a domesticated divinity, domesticated for the sake of the untroubled life of the bourgeois society in calculating and controlling the finite reality. Here Nietzsche was the prophetic victor over Strauss, even more than any theologian.
2. The Anthropological Problem: Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)
Hegel had said that man is that being in whom God recognizes himself. In man’s knowledge of God apart from that knowledge of him which is in man. Now Feuerbach, under the influence of Western naturalism, materialism, and psychologism, said that Hegel must be turned around. God is nothing else than a projection of man’s awareness of his own infinity.
Feuerbach did something here which Marx acknowledged at the final and definitive criticism of religion. We cannot understand Karl Marx without understanding his relation to Feuerbach. He said that Feuerbach solved the problem of religion once for all. Religion is a projection. It is something subjective in us which we put into the sky of the absolute. But then he went one step beyond Feuerbach. He said that Feuerbach did a great job, but he did not go far enough. He did not explain why projection was done at all, and this, Marx said, cannot be explained in terms of the individual man. This can only be explained in terms of the soc9ial existence of men, and more particularly in the class situation of men. Religion is the escape of those who are oppressed by the upper classes into an imaginary fulfillment in the realm of the absolute. Marx’s negation of religion is a result of his understanding of the social condition of man. PP Here you see the great influence these ideas have had. The antireligious attitude of almost half of present-day mankind is rooted in this seemingly professorial struggle between Hegel, Feuerbach, and Marx, with both of the latter coming from Hegel. Feuerbach turned Hegel upside down, and then Marx introduced the sociological element. The projection of the transcendent world is the projection of the disinherited in this world. This was such a powerful argument that it convinced the masses of people. It took more than one hundred years before the labor movements in Europe were able to overcome this Feuerbach-Marxian argument against Hegel’s attempt to unite Christianity and the modern mind.
B. Schelling’s (1775-1854) Criticism of Hegel
Kant is the one who began German classical philosophy, and Hegel is the end.
All existentialism presupposes that from which it breaks away, namely, essentialism.
C. The Religious Revival and Its Theological Consequences
1. The Nature of the European Revival
The Enlightenment with its consequences, especially its materialistic trends in France and later in Germany, created a felling of a vacuum in the spiritual life. The preaching of the Enlightenment was a kind of lecturing on all possible subjects, agricultural, technical, political, or psychological, but the dimension of the ultimate was lacking.
2. The Theology of Repristination
This restoration theology was an expression of the dissolution of the great synthesis. These forms of Orthodoxy despised what had happened since the Enlightenment. They went back to classical Orthodoxy. They did not accept the historical criticism of the biblical literature. They took the Bible literally. They even believed that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, even though one of the books tells about his death.
3. Natural Science and the Fight Over Darwinism
Christian theology became a theology of retreat and defense in the face of mechanistic naturalism.
Christian theology was like an army retreating in face of an advancing army. With every new breakthrough of the advancing army, in this case modern science, Christian theology would attempt to protect the Christian tradition which still remained intact. Then a new breakthrough would make the previous defense untenable, and so another retreat and setting up a new defense would be necessary, This went on and on.
When this last defense is given up, science has conquered all apologetic positions. And this is a good thing.
D. Kierkegaard’s Existential Theology
The real critical point [of Kierkegaard] would be the denial that Hegel’s idea of reconciliation is a genuine reconciliation. Man is not reconciled by the reconciliation in the philosopher’s head.
Kierkegaard has become the fashion in three respects: (a) Religiously, which is most justified, because his religious writings are as valid today as they were when they were written. (b) As the inspiration for the dialectical theology, called neo-orthodoxy in this country. In Europe it is usually called dialectical, which shows its relation to Hegel, for this term is the main principle of Hegel’s thinking (c) As the inspiration for Heidegger, the philosopher who has given the name existentialism to the whole movement which derives from Kierkegaard.
1. Kierkegaard’s Criticism of Hegel
[Kierkegaard’s] criticism was that the logical process is not a real process; it is not a process in time; it is only a description of logical relations. What Hegel did was to confuse the dialectical process of logic with the actual movement in history.
Hegel who was so universal in his thinking and all-embracing never developed personal ethics. … [He had no] ethics which has to do with the personal decision of the individual. This .. was stressed more by Kierkegaard than by anybody else.
He tried to show why we are in anxiety because of being finite and in despair because of being in separated finitude.
3. The Nature of Faith (the Leap and Existential Truth)
Socrates vs. Jesus pg 467
The religion of Socrates presupposes that truth is present within every human being. The dialectical or existential teacher has only to evoke them from man.
The difference between Socrates and Jesus is not that of the difference between philosophy and religion. … Socrates, does not transform the totality of the being of the other person. This is done only by the teacher who is at the same time the Savior, who helps the person whom he teaches in terms of healing and liberating. According to this idea, God is not in man. Man is separated from God by estrangement. Therefore God must come to man from outside, and address him. God comes to man in the Christ.
So Kierkegaard makes the following statement, which gives the gist of all his philosophical and theological authorship: “Truth is the objective uncertainty held fast in the most personal passionate experience. This is the truth, the highest truth attainable for the existing individual.” Here he defines faith as well as truth, for this is just the leap of faith. A very important element is what he calls the objective uncertainty. This means that theology is not based on objective certainty. A merely objective certainty, as Hegel wanted to reach, is not adequate to the situation between God and man. … God is outside of [man]. Therefore, objective certainty in religion is impossible, faith remains objectively uncertain. Truth in the realm of the objective scientific approach is not existential truth. Kierkegaard would not deny the possibility of scientific truth, but this is the truth of detachment. It is not the truth of involvement; it is not existential truth. Existential truth is objective uncertainty and personal, passionate experience or subjective certainty, but a certainty which can never be objectified. It is the certainty of the leap.
4. Criticism of Theology and Church
Revelation is the self-manifestation of the divine to a human being which has transforming power.
E. Political Radicalism and Its Theological Significance
What I will do now is perhaps surprising to you. I want to give you here the theology of the most successful of all theologians since the Reformation, namely, Karl Marx. I will consider him as a theologian. (!)
1. The Bourgeois Radicals
2. Marx’s Relation to Hegel and Feuerbach
There are three main meanings of materialism.
(1) Ontological or metaphysical materialism. Reducing everything to the mechanical movements of atoms and molecules.
(2) Ethical materialism, which means being interested only in material goods, in money, etc.
(3) Historical materialism. This means that the whole historical process is ultimately dependent on the ways of economic production. This is Marxist materialism. It should be called historical or economic materialism.
[Marx] criticized Hegel and Feuerbach because they did not see individual men as members of a social structure.
3. Marx’s View of the Human Situation (Alienation)
When Marx in the Communist Manifesto spoke about the liberation of the masses from their chains, these chains were the powers of dehumanization produced by the working conditions of capitalist society. Consequently, the essential character of man is lost.
4. Marx’s Doctrine of Ideology and His Attack on Religion
Ideology is another extremely important concept for theology.
Ideology can mean becoming then the most dangerous weapon in the class struggle – unconscious production of ideas which justify the will-to-power of a ruling group.
Marx used this word “ideology” as a weapon.
A term which we used in our daily language that is very close to the meaning of ideology is rationalization.
[Marx] says that in principle Feuerbach succeeded in removing religion, but his criticism was not founded on sociological analysis.
“Religion is the opiate of the people.” He simply means that if you have the assurance of an eternal fulfillment, you will not fight in a revolutionary way for the temporal fulfillment of man on earth. … Now I do not think this is true.
Marx lacked a vertical criticism against himself.
In Europe the churches were the representatives of the ideologies which kept the ruling classes in power over against the working masses.
5. Marx’s Political Existentialism
6. The Prophetic Element in Marx
F. Voluntarism and the Philosophy of Life
Voluntarism, a term derived from voluntas, the Latic word for “will”.
Will is original being. It is being itself. Being is not a thing; it is not a person; it is will. This idea of will refers to what is often called today “unconscious instinct.”
1. Schopenhauer’s Idea of the Will
2. Nietzsche’s Idea of Will-To-Power
For [Nietzsche] power is the self affirmation of being. Will-to-power means will to affirm one’s power of living, the will to affirm one’s own individual existence.
3. Nietzsche’s Doctrine of Resentment
This resentment functions in the exact opposite way from Marx’s notion of ideology. The ideas produced by resentment are an attack against the ruling classes, while in Marx the ideological system is a weapon of the ruling classes to keep others down.
Nietzsche made a good point which we ought to remember in our preaching of love. He said, you speak of selfless love and want to sacrifice yourself to the other one, but this is only a way for the weak person to creep under the protection of somebody else. Erich Fromm, the psychoanalyst, has called this wrong kind of love which Nietzsche attacked “symbiotic love” – from syn and bios, meaning “living together.” This is a love of the weak man for the other one who once lived from his strength, and it is a form of love which exploits the other one. This kind of self-surrender has the unconscious desire for exploitation. This is what Nietzsche was actually fighting against.
4. The “Death of God” and the New Ideal of Man
The concept of the “death of God” is a half-poetic, half-prophetic symbol. What does it mean?
Nietzsche meant that when the traditional idea of God falls, something else must fall along with it. The system of ethical values on which society is based fell.
The result is that somebody else must replace God as the bearer of the system of traditional values. This is man.
Chapter 5: New Ways of Mediation
A. Experience and the Biblical Message
1. The Erlangen School
2. Martin Kahler
B. The “Back to Kant” Movement
C. Adolf von Harnack
D. Miscellaneous Movements in Theology
1. The Luther-Renaissance
2. Biblical Realism
3. Radical Criticism
4. Rudolf Bultmann
5. The History-of-Religions Approach
I believe that Gunkel’s Commentary on Genesis is still the classic work which shows the influence of the pagan religions on the Old Testament books.
It demonstrates how the Jewish spirit, how prophetism and later the priestly writers transformed the pagan myths and purified them under the impact of the prophetic spirit. All this has given us a much better understanding of the Old Testament. PP The same thing was done with the New Testament. The surrounding contemporary religions influenced the writers of the New Testament. The influence from the apocalyptic period is obvious. Certain concepts are related to the mystery religions. The term “Lord” (kyrios) itself may have some connection with the mystery religions. Nobody can deal with the New Testament today in a scholarly way if he is not aware of this situation. There are always differences of scholarly opinion on these questions, but the approach itself must be taken seriously.
6. Ernst Troeltsch
Here Troeltsch followed Kant by accepting his three critiques, but said that there is not only the theoretical a priori, not only moral, and not only the aesthetic, but there is also a religious a priori.
All doctrines are dependent on social conditions and cannot be understood apart from these social conditions. This was the Marxist side. But on the other side was the equally important insight that the way in which the social conditions are used by people is largely dependent on their ultimate concern, by their religious convictions and their ethical implications.
7. Religious Socialism
Kairos vs. Chronos pg 534
Theonomy goes beyond autonomy, which is empty critical thought. It goes beyond heteronomy, which means authoritarianism and enslavement. Theonomy is the union of what is true in autonomy and in heteronomy, the fulfillment of a whole society with the spiritual substance, in spite of the freedom of the autonomous development, and in spite of living in the great traditions in which the Spirit has embodied himself.
8. Karl Barth
In Germany I saw how the students after the first World War turned away from the great social problems created by the catastrophes of the War and settled back in their sanctuaries of theological discussions.
End of notes