Tillich – Systematic Theology Volume 1 (Part I)

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My task is to offer some reflections on the introduction and Part I of Tillich’s ST Vol 1.

A. Methodology – Tillich’s theology is apologetic, an answering theology that responds to the situation of the day with the “power of the eternal message” (6). In this sense, his theology stands firmly in the liberal tradition started by Schleiermacher which tried to make Christianity relevant to modern society.) Tillich opposes Schleiermacher for relegating religion to the merely emotional realm. He views this retreat as essentially a refusal to engage modern thought. Here Tillich is perhaps at his best theologically in the way he easily engages modern psychology, philosophy, and religious studies. He also rejects the Barthian approach to make the Bible the sole source for theology. Instead, Tillich wants to have many sources of theology including: “Bible, church history, history of religion and culture” (40).

B. Christian triumphalism – “Apologetic theology must show that trends which are immanent in all religions and cultures move toward the Christian message” (15). This is perhaps my biggest fear about his theology. Why this method of correlation? I understand the relevance, but there’s an assumption Tillich makes that Christian revelation possesses the truth to the question modern man poses. He’s ruled out, a priori, that modern questions might actually challenge the truth of Christian revelation. Moreover, as much as I find his interdisciplinary approach admirable, I feel as if theology is restored to its place as the “queen of the sciences”. Not in the sense that theology is somehow true and all other disciplines that disagree must be critiqued (Tillich explicitly says it’s not the business of theology to accept or reject, e.g. Freud’s theory of libido (131)), but in the sense that theology is assumed to possess all of the answers. Pannenberg is much better here when he allows other disciplines to actually challenge theological ideas. The boundaries are much more porous. If anything, Pannenberg’s methodology restores hope in the idea that theology could once again exist in the academy as a respectable discipline. Barth’s theology is weakest here with his severe allergy to be in conversation with other disciplines. Instead he returns to the Bible for the timeless truths and completely bypasses the historical criticism of liberal theology, a major mistake in my opinion.

C. Return to ontology – Philosophy must “address the question of reality as a whole” (20). Tillich is critical of current (1950’s) trends in philosophy that refuse the ontological task of philosophy. Neo-Kantians have attempted to reduce philosophy to epistemology and ethics while logical positivists have attempted to reduce philosophy to logical calculus (19). Similarly, Tillich criticizes Biblicists (evangelicals and liberals like Ritschl) for trying to construct a non-ontological biblical theology. I think Tillich is entirely correct here that the theologian must address ontological issues. Trying to avoid the ontological task by hiding in the Bible is ultimately untenable as it weakens the relevance and importance of theological reflection.

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One Response to “Tillich – Systematic Theology Volume 1 (Part I)”

  1. sergio repaso Says:

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