In the last post we noted Tillich's seperation of the eternal truth proclaimed by the Church from the temporal situations in the cultures to which it is preached. The entailment of that separation is that to mingle the eternal with the temporal is to confuse the "kerygma" with the "worldview" of the person preaching the "gospel." But confusing the things of God with the things of "man" is idolatry.
That is deliberately provocative, but with this end in mind. Perhaps you, like I, know persons--whole churchs with respect to some issues--who question whether, or more likely how, a person can be an evolutionist, or a conservative, or a liberal, or a relativist, or pro-gay, etc., and a Christian. The impression I usually get is that in fact a Christian who says that kind of thing believes that a right thinking person can't, but that some people are so muddled that they get a pass. And in my experience most Christians are mild-mannered enough to hear such things, smile, and walk away from a potential argument, even though they are bothered by such "worldview" militancy.
My point here is that we shouldn't walk away from this kind of thing. That is, we should engage in a kind of anti-worldview militancy with respect to understanding the gospel. For if we understand that there is a distinction of the kind Tillich makes, then we can't make truths bound to our historically-mediated understanding criteria of fidelity to the eternal truth we claim it is the duty of the Church to preach.
Now, despite my belief in militancy over this point, I want to be nice. But it's tough: Does any sane, informed person think that one's opinion on relativity, or evolution, or heliocentricity--or any historically conditioned belief--is part of the gospel? Well, perhaps a few; but then, they are so muddled that they get a pass. For being nice, that's the best I can do.
True, marvelous books have been written on whether there is such a thing a "Christian philosophy," and the point is well taken that we must try to think as Christians. (Gilson's The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy contains an excellent chapter on the question.) But my rejoinder to those who would stop there is that you aren't thinking enough. We can't stop at any point and say, "Eureka! My view of Christian faith is final and perfect." That would be idolatrous, not to mention crazy.
We must make a distinction between the gospel which is the message of the Church--the kerygma--and the way the churches at any time express it and think about it. If not, there are a great many things that a great many Christians have thought and expressed over the last 2,000 years. Do you really want to be saddled with them all?
If not. A criterion is needed. The critirion will be the subject of the next post.