Re: history and Tillich

James Peterson (
Thu, 6 Mar 1997 14:31:38 -0500

Peterson wrote:

...For example, Tillich
>> was quite happy to admit that when he refered to "God," he meant
>> thoughtless, personless, "being itself," not the purposeful Creator of the
>> Biblical tradition.
George Murphy responded:

This is a parody of Tillich. Tillich rejected God's "existence"
>because he believed God to be the Ground of Being - _deus est esse_ - &
>therefore could not exist - or his existence be _denied_ in the same way
>that entities in the world can. As for "leaving the ministry", take a
>look at his post-war sermons (in, e.g., _The New Being_ or "The Shaking
>of the Foundations_).
> Again, I say wearily, "I am not a Tillichean."
> George Murphy

I am glad to hear that you are not a "Tillichean", and appreciate that you
still want to be sure that he is treated accurately.

Yes, as you know, Tillich did continue to refer to God as "the ground of
being," but no longer to God in the way that Abraham, Issac, or Jacob would.
That God does not exist for Tillich. For example from Tillich's Systematic
Theology Volume 1 page 271: "God cannot become an object of knowledge or a
partner in action. If we speak, as we must, of the ego-thou relation
between God and man, the thou embraces the ego and consequentially the
entire relation. If it were otherwise, if the ego-thou relation with God was
proper rather than symbolic, the ego could withdraw from the relation. But
there is no place to which man can withdraw from the divine thou, because it
includes the ego and is nearer to the ego than the ego to itself."

Tillich has saved a place for God, as "being itself", but not as the One who
speaks, cares, lived among us, and welcomes us in Christ into fellowship
with Him as His children. When Tillich would preach, and he did, some might
hear of the God of the historic Christian tradition, but that would be by
God's grace, not Tillich's intent.

Jim Peterson