Monday, January 19, 2009

Tillich Simplifying Tillich

I opened a book of Paul Tillich's sermons this week to see how he simplified his thought for presentation to groups that were not scholars of religion and theology. I was pleased to see that I can use his sermons to present his abstract theology in concrete terms. For example, here's a statement from Tillich's theology--extremely abstract as is typical--followed by a quote from a sermon that helps explain the theology. The subject is still "transparency."

"In every picture of [Jesus'] individuality appears his universal significance." (Systematic Theology, Vol. II, p. 151.

"Jesus could have become an idol, a national and religious hero, fascinating and destructive. This is what the disciples and the masses wanted him to be. They saw Him, they loved Him, they saw with and through Him the good and the true, the holy itself. But they succumbed to the temptation of seeing [by making an idol of him]. They kept to that which must be sacrificed if God shall be seen with and through any mortal being. And when He sacrificed Himself, they looked away in despair... But He was too strong; He drew their eyes back to Him, but now to Him crucified. ...they say with Him and through Him the God who is really God. He who has seen Him has seen the Father: This is true only of the Crucified. But of Him it is true." ("Seeing and Hearing" in The New Being, p. 133.)

As we move through the main theological concepts that Tillich uses--transparency, estrangement, cross, ultimate concern, courage to be/destiny/freedom, the ground of Being--the structure of his thought will appear as though a jigsaw puzzle were being put together. I am very pleased to have discovered the help of Tillich's sermons as sources of simplification and guides to the correct extrapolation of his thought.

By the way, visit to see some beautiful pictures of steeple-topped churches of the Great Plains. The site does not include pictures of the prairie trinity together, as it focuses on the churches, but the churches are beautiful expressions of "the point" of Christian faith, with their cross-topped steeples.

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