Existentialism Philosophy

Paul Tillich: the 'Apostle to the Intellectuals'

During this modern age few theologians have had more influence than Paul Tillich. His approach to cosmic questions dealt with the method of correlation found in science and the meaning of faith. In terms of his theological method Tillich's basic presupposition is that 'faith need not be unacceptable to contemporary culture and contemporary culture need not be unacceptable to faith' (Ford p. 88). Thus he sought to develop what has been termed a 'theology of culture' using the method of correlation. His appeal can be seen in his remarks: “Theology must be "answering theology"; it must adapt the Christian message to the modern mind while maintaining its essential truth and unique character” (Grenz/Olson p.117)

According to John Haught, in his book God After Darwin, Tillich’s central argument “offers a way of taking Darwinian evolution up into one's ultimate concern without claiming that God has any causal relation to evolution. God provides no historical telos for evolution, but rather a "depth teleology" that springs from the manner in which God, as the depth of the structure of finite being, is the object of Christian faith.”

The culture that adores science often wants to conclude that God is unnecessary. Tillich’s contribution is that he bridged the gap that offered hope for a generation that sought answers to the meaning of life. Ardent secularist rest their reliance on a flawed faith of progress, created through science. What Tillich demonstrated is that an understanding of God is entirely consistent with the proven facts of the physical universe. What the atheist scientist see as a deficiency in the current stage of understanding, Tillich sees as an opportunity to reach out and incorporate the non empirical spirit, into the equation that explains life.

If the secularist is the genesis of the future, how do they account for the despair that marked the age? Paul Lee asserts that “In The Courage To Be”, Tillich mentions how people in the Great Depression thought they had ceased to exist because they were unemployed. Existentialism, according to Tillich, is the outcry against such inhumanity, a protest against industrial society, substituting machines for human beings and turning them into cogs in the wheels of production and consumption, on daylight saving time, on the assembly line, or worse yet, turning them out into homelessness.

If technology was the answer, what accounts for the discontent and calamity that permeated his generation? The missing ingredient that is needed to compliment an understanding of physical cosmology resides within the spirit. D. Mackenzie Brown sees the missing link accordingly. “Tillich reflects Kierkegaard in stressing the need for each individual to confront his existence alone, in the inwardness of his soul. Man’s fulfillment must be found through his own inner courage and vision. The fundamental question of human existence — "What am I?" — can only be answered by one who asks the question.”

Intellect allows for a knowledge into the working of the physical universe and the complexities of macrocosm systems. Before one can master the techniques, the consciousness of the observer needs to know his place in the scheme of things. “However to understand his concept of reason we must understand something of his fundamental ontology which he expressed using the terms 'essence', 'existence' and 'essentialisation'. (definitions provided) In fact, for him the only way God can be fully understood is in the light of non-being. Thus existential ontology raises the question of being/non-being that theology is particularly suited to answer.”

What Tillich injected into society was a way to merge timeless truths with a culture that seems to disregard all previous historic consistency. The dread of a lost purpose prevailed during an era of uppermost cruelty. Tillich was able to reinvent a lost equilibrium and had the gift to explain it with flare and vigor. For him the key can be found in the soul. “It is not life itself; it is without creative power. But the Spirit is power as well as reason, uniting and transcending them. It is creative life. Neither power alone, nor reason alone, creates the works of art and poetry, of philosophy and politics; the Spirit creates them individually and universally, powerful and full of reason at the same time. In every great human work we admire the inexhaustible depth of its individual and incomparable character, the power of something which happens but once and cannot be repeated and that, nevertheless, is visible to century after century, universal and accessible in every period.”

Theology can be human and harmonious with seeking God. The distance between faith and culture should narrow in order for mankind to resist the temptation that the physicist is the high priest of civilization. The significance of the Tillich message lies in a reminder to heartfelt seekers of a lost spiritual element. The emptiness of a tech world cannot be fulfilled without an admission that we need the essentiality of a spiritual nature. Faith reinforces that the order found in scientific discoveries is not an accident. Tillich inspires, where the non-believer fosters desperation. The existential model endures the test of scrutiny and unites the lacking component. His popular attraction is the result of a public urgency. HOPE exists, if you know where to find it . . .

SARTRE - January 13, 2004

posted by SARTRE at 1/12/2004 |

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