On Tillich

From: John W Burgeson (jwburgeson@juno.com)
Date: Thu May 22 2003 - 13:47:47 EDT

  • Next message: John W Burgeson: "Re: Response to Howard on Tillich & Bultmann"

    Howard's thread is so fascinating I almost (not quite) am reluctant to
    return to an earlier one.

    I had said my books were packed away for the move, but I was mistaken;
    Tillich's DYNAMICS OF FAITH was still on my night table. Here are a few
    passages from this book -- a primary source on Tillich:

    "Reason is the precondition of faith; faith is the act in which reason
    reaches ecstatically beyond itself. ... Reason is not bound to its own
    finitude. It is aware of it and, in so doing, rises above it." (Pg. 87)

    "Reason can be fulfilled only if it is driven beyond the limits of its
    finitude, and experiences the presence of the ultimate, the holy." (Pg.

    "Science tries to describe and to explain the structures and relations in
    the universe, in so far as they can be tested by experiment and
    calculated in quantitative terms. The truth of a scientific statement is
    the adequacy of the description of the natural laws, which determine
    reality, [!] and it is the verification of this description by
    experimental repetitions. Every scientific truth is preliminary and
    subject to changes both in grasping reality and in expressing it
    adequately. This element of uncertainty does not diminish the truth value
    of a tested and verified scientific assertion. It only prevents
    scientific dogmatism and absolutism.

    "Therefore, it is a very poor method of defending the truth of faith
    against the truth of science, if theologians point to the preliminary
    character of every scientific statement in order to provide a place of
    retreat for the truth of faith. ... scientific truth and the truth of
    faith do not belong to the same dimension of meaning." (pg. 93-94)

    "When the representatives of faith impeded the beginning of modern
    astronomy they were not aware that the Christian symbols, although using
    the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic astronomy, were not tied up to this astronomy.
    ... if representatives of modern physics reduce the whole of reality to
    the mechanical movement of the smallest particles of matter, denying the
    really real quality of life and mind, they express a faith, objectively
    as well as subjectively... science is their ultimate concern -- and they
    are ready to sacrifice everything ... for this ultimate...the create a
    monstrous symbol of this concern, namely, a universe in which everything,
    including their own scientific passion, is swallowed by a meaningless
    mechanism. In opposing this ... Christian faith is right."(Pg. 94-95)

    Note the place where I have interjected a "[!]." This seems to me that
    Tillich regarded natural laws as prescriptive, not descriptive (of
    course, he recognized that our expressions of those natural laws are
    always preliminary). That is one of the passages that leads me to see
    him, as with Bultmann, rather convinced that the resurrection event,
    whatever it was, was entirely natural and that a "return from the dead"
    did not happen. Borg, I think, takes a similar view.

    BTW -- the quotation in my earlier post was made in 1935 by some guy
    named Einstein in a fairly famous (EPR) paper in the Physical Review. The
    full paper (JPG form) appears on my web site at the end of the QM page.

    John Burgeson (Burgy)


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