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B u l l e t i n

The North American Paul Tillich Society

Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 Winter 2012
Editor: Frederick J. Parrella, Secretary-Treasurer
Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University
Kenna Hall, Suite 300, Room H, Santa Clara, California 95053
Associate Editor: Jonathan Rothchild, Loyola Marymount University
Assistant to the Editor: Vicky Gonzalez, Santa Clara University
Production Assistant: Alicia Calcutt
Telephone: 408.554.4714/ 408.554.4547
FAX: 408.554.2387 Email: fparrella@scu.edu
Website: www.NAPTS.org/ Webmeister: Michael Burch, San Raphael, California

In this issue:

 The Financial Situation of the NAPTS

 News from the 2011 Meeting in San Francisco: New Officers
 Call for Papers for the NAPTS and the Tillich AAR Group
 New Publications on Tillich
 The Paul Tillich Lecture at Harvard, May 2012
 The Annual NAPTS Banquet Address: “Tillich’s Alternate Interpretation of Western
Cultural History” by Owen C. Thomas
 “Theologies of Culture as a Base for Interreligious Efforts to Address
Fundamentalisms” by Mary Ann Stenger
 “Tillich’s Theology and Cognitive Science: The Prospects for Theological
Anthropology” by Samuel M. Powell
 “Tillich at the Tip of the Spear” by Jeffrey Moore
 “Tillich and the Spilled Coffee Cup: The Breakthrough of the Spirit in Contemporary
Church Architecture” by Bert Daelemans
 “Being and Gaia: Seeking Resources toward a Vocabulary for Naturalistic Theology”
by Ryan T. O’Leary

T he Financial Situation of the ciety and to continue to publish this Bulletin in a

NAPTS timely manner.
I urge every member of the society, if he or she
For some time, the financial situation of the has not paid dues in 2011 or 2010, to do so as soon
North American Paul Tillich Society has been tenu- as possible. Tax-deductible contributions to the soci-
ous. As a result of expenses incurred at the 2011 ety will be gratefully accepted. Please consider mak-
meeting in San Francisco, the Society is now run- ing a small contribution to the Society if your means
ning at a large deficit. The secretary-treasurer will will allow. Send your contribution to the Secretary
make every effort to maintain the records of the so- Treasurer at the above address. Thank you.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 2

Annual Meeting and New Officers vember 16, and Saturday, November 17, 2012 in
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. The American Academy of
Religion and the “Tillich: Issues in Theology, Relig-
T he annual meeting of the North American Paul
Tillich Society took place on 18–19 October
2011, in San Francisco, California. New officers of
ion, and Culture Group” will meet November 17 to
November 19. (See Call for Papers below.)
the Society were elected:
NAPTS: Call for Papers
Courtney Wilder, Midland Lutheran College The North American Paul Tillich Society (NAPTS)
President Elect welcomes proposals for its annual meeting that will
Echol Nix, Furman University take place Friday and Saturday, 16–17 November
Vice President 2012 in connection with the Annual Meeting of the
Duane Olsen, McKendree University American Academy of Religion (AAR) in Chicago,
Secretary Treasurer Illinois, 17-20 November 2012. We welcome pro-
Frederick J. Parrella, Santa Clara University posals for individual papers and panels on the fol-
Past President lowing issues:
Russell Manning, University of Cambridge 1. Tillich and pedagogy, particularly teaching any of
Tillich’s primary writings
New Members of the Board (Term expires 2014) 2. Tillich at the University of Chicago, including but
Marc Dumas, Université de Sherbrooke not limited to interactions with Joseph Kitagawa,
Janet Giddings, Santa Clara University and San Mircea Eliade, and/or other conversation part-
Jose State University ners and how they contributed to his legacy
Marcia MacLennan, Kansas Wesleyan 3. Tillich and the Harvard Years: On the 50th anni-
University versary of his final lecture
The Society wishes to extend its most sincere thanks 4. Tillich, religion, and politics
to Echol Nix, Furman University, Anne Marie Rei- 5. Tillich and popular culture, including faith and
jnen, Faculteit voor Protestantse Godgeleerdheid spirituality
(Brussel), Institut Protestant de Théologie (Paris), 6. Barth and Tillich: Revisited
Institut Supérieur d’Etudes oecuméniques, and Proposals should be sent to the Vice President
Courtney Wilder, Midland Lutheran College for and Program Chair of this year’s meeting (electroni-
their three years of service on the Board of Directors cally preferred):
of the Society. Congratulations to the new officers Dr. Echol Nix
and their willingness to lead and direct the Society. Echol.nix@furman.edu (please put NAPTS Call in
The annual banquet was held this year at Le the subject line)
Furman University
Central Restaurant, a French bistro on Bush Street in
Department of Religion
San Francisco. The speaker was Owen Thomas, Pro- 3300 Poinsett Highway
fessor of Theology Emeritus at the Episcopal Divin- Greenville, SC 29613
ity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The title of (864) 294-2393 (Office)
Professor Thomas’s outstanding address was “Til-
lich’s Alternate Interpretation of Western Cultural AAR Group: Call for Papers
History.” The address is printed in this Bulletin.
Russell Manning, President of the Society, presided
The American Academy of Religion Group
at the banquet.
“Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Cul-
The Society was honored to have Dr. Mutie C.
ture” welcomes proposals for its sessions at the An-
Farris present at the meeting and the banquet. Dr.
nual Meeting of the AAR in Chicago, 17-20 No-
Farris was a faithful attendee at all the papers. We
vember 2012.
are grateful to her for her ongoing commitment to
We welcome proposals for individual papers and
Tillich scholarship.
panels on the following issues in theology, religion,
and culture that engage with Tillich or post-
Please Mark Your Calendars
Tillichian thought:
The 2012 Annual Meeting of the North Ameri-
can Paul Tillich Society takes place on Friday, No-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 3

• Tillich in Chicago North American Paul Tillich Society for possible

From 1962 until his death in 1965 Tillich was inclusion in their Annual Meeting. A winning stu-
Professor of Theology in the University of Chicago; dent paper receives the Annual Tillich Prize.
notable events included the classes he co-taught with The group fosters scholarship and scholarly ex-
Mircea Eliade and the publication of Systematic changes that analyze, criticize, and interpret the
Theology, Volume III. Who were Tillich’s conversa- thought or impact of Paul Tillich (1886-1965), and
tion partners in Chicago and how did they contribute that use his thought—or use revisions of, or reac-
to his legacy there? How was Tillich’s mature tions against his thought—to deal with contemporary
thought developed during his time in Chicago, in issues in theology, religion, ethics, or the political,
particular through his engagement with non- social, psychotherapeutic, scientific, or artistic
Christian religions? spheres of human culture. The group cooperates with
•Music and Ultimate Concern (co-sponsored the North American Paul Tillich Society (a Related
with Music and Religion Group) Scholarly Organization of the AAR), which is linked
Music has been called the “unwritten theology with the German, French-speaking, and other Tillich
of those who lack a formal creed” (G. Steiner), but societies. Papers at Group sessions are published in
how might music’s relation to ultimate concern be the Society's quarterly Bulletin without prejudice to
thought of outside of a religious setting? Can secular their also appearing elsewhere.
music be said to invoke the Holy? Tillich wrote sur- Proposals should be submitted online at the
prisingly little about music; but what resources does AAR website or sent by email (preferably as attach-
his approach offer to thinking about music and tran- ments) to the group’s co-chairs, Dr Russell Re Man-
scendence? ning, University of Cambridge (rrm24@cam.ac.uk)
• Theologies of American Cultures and Dr Sharon Peebles Burch, Interfaith Counseling
Tillich developed the most important framework Centre (spburch@att.net). Proposals should be of no
for theology of culture in the twentieth century more than 1000 words and be accompanied by a 150
forged in the cultural revolutions of post-World War word abstract. Please indicate if eligible for the stu-
I Europe. In what ways do Tillich’s analyses of the dent prize.
religious meaning of culture intersect with current Proposals should be received by 1 March 2012.  
interpretations of American cultures? Please feel free to circulate this Call for Papers.
• The Radical Tillich and Contemporary
American Continental Thought New Publications
Tillich is sometimes seen as a precursor to radi-
cal theological thinking in the latter half of the twen- Bryan L. Wagoner (Harvard University): “The Sub-
tieth century. From “Death of God” theologies to ject of Emancipation: Critique, Reason and Re-
postmodern a/theology, Tillich’s is an ambiguous ligion in the Thought of Theodor Adorno, Max
presence, often unacknowledged but clearly forma- Horkheimer and Paul Tillich.” Ph.D. Disserta-
tive. If Tillich is one of the original “American con- tion, Harvard University, 2011.
tinental” thinkers, what is his significance for con-
temporary American continental thought?
• Religious Socialism: Then and Now Paul Tillich Lecture at Harvard
Religious socialism was central to Tillich’s po-
litical theology in response to a situation dominated Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 5:30 p.m.
by capitalist hegemony, a financial crisis, and the The Memorial Church
resurgence of forms of religious and political Ro- Harvard University
manticism, and yet surprisingly under-studied. How 50th Anniversary Symposium
does Tillich’s account of religious socialism relate to “Paul Tillich at Harvard: First and Future
other contemporaneous theories? What relevance Generations”
does Tillich’s religious socialism have for our cur- Speakers:
rent situation? What are the prospects for a religious
socialist political theology today? —Richard M. Hunt, University Marshall and Senior
Other Tillich-related proposals will be seriously Lecturer on Social Studies (Ret.)
considered. Unless otherwise requested, proposals Former Chair, Faculty Committee on Religion,
not scheduled are automatically passed onto the Harvard University
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 4

—Harvey Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divin- the East, I will very likely not be able to make the
ity, Harvard Divinity School trip. So it has been a great pleasure to attend these
—Ann Belford Ulanov, Christine Brooks Johnson meetings over the years, seeing old friends, learning
Professor or Psychiatry and Religion, Union more about Tillich, and receiving generous reception
Theological Seminary, New York and criticism of the many papers I have presented
—Gerald Holton, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics here.
and History of Science, Emeritus, Harvard Uni- I have been advised that my opening comments
versity should be witty, that is, funny or odd stories about
Tillich. I was going to beg off on this since I thought
Paul Tillich is universally recognized as one of the that Durwood last year covered all of such stories
preeminent theologians of our time. Tillich was ap- about Tillich. My favorite was his question to Tillich
pointed University Professor at Harvard in 1954 and as to how we could tell the theological difference
taught for seven years, 1955-1962, a period in which between wine and grape juice. Tillich thought for a
he spoke and lectured to great acclaim in this coun- minute and then replied, “Trink Zem.” But then I
try and abroad, including Japan. Retiring at the man- thought of a few stories that Durwood had forgotten
datory age of 75, he accepted appointment as the or didn’t know of.
John Nuveen Professor at the University of Chicago I recall walking down the hall at Union Semi-
Divinity School, a newly created chair, and re- nary one day and I heard Tillich and Niebuhr walk-
mained there until his death in 1965. This Sympo- ing behind me and conversing in German as usual.
sium, commemorating Tillich’s seven-year tenure at Niebuhr was saying “Ja, Ja Paulus, Ja vohl, Oh Hell
Harvard and the 50th anniversary of his retirement in yes, Paulus.”
1962, presents a discussion by “first generation” un- Then my senior colleague at the Episcopal Di-
dergraduate and graduate students of Tillich’s, Pro- vinity School, Bill Wolf, told a story about a class
fessors Ann Belford Ulanov (Radcliffe B.A., 1959) Tillich was teaching in the history of Christian
and Harvey Cox (Ph.D., 1963), a “first generation” thought. Tillich made a reference to Theodore of
faculty colleague, Professor Gerald Holton (Ph.D., Mopsuestia, a fifth century theologian. Wolf was
1948), and Richard M. Hunt, a “first generation” getting tired of the class. So he put his hand and
graduate student and faculty colleague. The partici- asked, “Professor Tillich could you explain the rela-
pants will offer reflections on the significance of tion of the theology of Theodore of Mopsuestia to
Tillich during his Harvard years and for present and that of Thomas of Pepsicola.” There were snickers
future generations. and then Tillich said, “I do not know of this theolo-
________________ gian Thomas of Pepsi….” And everyone laughed,
William R. Crout, S.T.B. ’58, A.M. ’69, is Founder and someone explained to Tillich that it was a joke.
and Curator of Harvard’s Paul Tillich Lectures, of He said “Oh, Joke. Ha Ha.”
which this is the 39th in the series. They are free and I also recall one warm summer day in 1946
open to the public. when Tillich was lecturing on the history of theol-
ogy in the large lecture hall on the first floor at Un-
Tillich’s Alternate Interpretation ion. There was a fan in one of the windows in the
of Western Cultural History back making a lot of noise. Tillich began, “Today
we discuss zee from zee fourth century,”—paused
Owen C. Thomas and pointed to the fan and said, “Vould someone
please turn off zat, zat machine…Sank you.—Down
Editor’s Note: This is the address delivered by to the twentieth century doctrine of the trinity.”
Prof. Owen C. Thomas at the Annual Banquet Then in 1951 when Volume One of his System-
of the NAPTS in San Francisco, California on atic Theology was published, there was a party in the
Friday, 18 November 2012. Union bookstore, with the books being sold and Til-
lich present. At some point in the party I sat down
beside Tillich and asked, “What about volume two?”
T hank you for this honor. I should explain right
away since I am now two months into my nine-
tieth year, that this will be my valedictory, my swan
He replied, “I would like to finish zhat as soon as
possible, but I have a problem. I have to give Ze Gif-
song for the North American Paul Tillich society. If ford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen next fall
I survive until next year when you will be meeting in
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 5

and they are supposed to treat natural theology. Now Professor John Randall of Columbia about whom I
as you know I don’t believe in natural theology.” will speak shortly.
I said, “Well that will give you an opportunity to I should note that it was just a year ago that
explain why a natural theology about human exis- Jonathan Z. Smith, the distinguished professor of
tence is impossible and even more so for Christol- religious studies at the University of Chicago, in an
ogy. That explanation would be different from the essay entitled “Tillich [’s] Remains” stated that,
one give for natural theology being impossible for “Tillich remains the unacknowledged theoretician of
Reason and Revelation and Being and God. You our entire enterprise.” By “our enterprise,” he was
would have to explain your interpretation of the referring to the American Academy of Religion or
structure of human existence and the question aris- more generally to the study of religion in North
ing in human existence and its resolution in Chris- America.
tology and thus complete volume two.” He looked at Smith goes on to name “three crucial roles that
me and then looked away, then he said, “Zat sounds Tillich’s thought and practice played in the devel-
like a very good idea.” Now I think he was just be- opment of North American religious studies.” These
ing polite, but this is exactly what he does—which are religion as ultimate concern, the religious symbol
he explains on pages thirteen and fourteen of Vol- as that which points, and the relation of religion and
ume Two. culture.1 Smith’s essay is followed by a fine essay by
Finally, back in 1973 I was invited to offer a our colleague John Thatamanil comparing Smith and
course at the Gregorian University in Rome, the Tillich.
world center of Jesuit graduate theological educa- In the fall of 1961, I attended his lectures at
tion. I asked what course they wanted me to teach, Harvard on the Renaissance that formed the third
and they responded that they wanted me to teach a part of his famous two-year course on “The Self In-
course on Tillich’s Systematic Theology. I was terpretation of Man in Archaic Greek, Late Ancient,
pleased to accept since I had been doing exactly that Renaissance, and Modern Periods.” Listening to
for twenty years. these lectures on the Renaissance was the beginning
One day a woman student from Germany came of my interest in his alternate interpretation of West-
up and showed me the story in Time Magazine about ern Cultural History. I believe that this is one of Til-
Hannah’s book From Time to Time recounting Til- lich’s main contributions to modern theology and a
lich’s infidelities. The student asked me, “Would philosophy of religion and culture, one that has often
this affect your assessment of Tillich’s theology?” I been often overlooked. And this is why I want to
responded that that was a very important and com- speak of it this evening.
plex question and that I would have to think about it. Now the first point is “Alternate” to what? I
I discovered that no one had treated and resolved mean alternate to the standard and majority view of
this question. So I produced my own version in an the history of Western culture in the Western secular
essay entitled, “Life and Thought: The Cases of academy. This has been described by David Gress in
Heidegger and Tillich,” which was the presidential his massive 610-page and weirdly entitled book
address at a meeting of the American Theological “From Plato to NATO” as “The Grand Narrative.”
Society, and a paper I presented here many years He states that it was founded by John Randall, my
ago. My answer was in the negative, but it is debat- professor of philosophy at Columbia. It was elabo-
able. rated in Randall’s books, The Making of the Modern
I was not a personal friend of Tillich. I would re- Mind and The Career of Philosophy. Then it was
serve that for Reinhold and Ursula Niebuhr, who employed at Chicago in the Great Books Program
functioned for me as in loco parentis academicis, instituted by Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler,
especially about career decisions. But I often spoke who had been a student of Randall’s. And this was
with Tillich, usually asking him questions about his completed by Will Durant in his book The Story of
lectures and books. In any case, he was my main Civilization, which Gress describes as “the apotheo-
theological mentor. I began study with Tillich in the sis of the Grand Narrative.” Gress goes on to criti-
summer of 1946 with his lectures on Part Five of the cize the Grand Narrative view for its omission of the
System on History and the Kingdom of God. When I contributions of Christianity, Rome, the North Ger-
returned as a graduate student in 1949, I took several man tribes, and for not including the importance of
courses with him including his joint seminars with practices and institutions rather than simply ideas in
the history of Western culture.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 6

The majority or Grand Narrative view begins in This led to what was called the Dark Ages of the
what it holds to be the Golden Age of Western cul- Hellenistic and Medieval period, which was so
tural history, namely, the Athens of the 6th to the 4th named by the Italian scholar Petrarch. He marked
centuries BCE in which, it is affirmed, all of the the beginning of the Renaissance that, according to
great achievements of the modern world had their the Grand Narrative, was the rebirth of classical cul-
foundation: the birth of philosophy in the pre- ture in all areas of human endeavor and marked the
Socratics, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; the birth of time at which the West took up where the Greeks
the discipline of history in Herodotus and Thucy- had left off as the Grand Narrative has it.
dides; the birth of literature in the poetry of Pindar, Randall is also lyrical about the Renaissance. He
the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Eurip- states,
ides; the birth of science in the pre–Socratic thinkers This new spirit of the Renaissance consisted at
of Miletus and Elea and Aristotle; finally the birth of bottom in an increasing interest in human life as
democracy in the practice of the Athenian city- it can be lived on earth…and without any neces-
states and discussed by the pre-Socratics, Plato, and sary reference to any other destiny in the beyond
Aristotle. or the hereafter. It meant the decay of that Ori-
Randall is lyrical about the legacy of Greece. He ental dualism in which the flesh for so many
states, “Perhaps most important of all was the Greek years had lusted against the spirit, and the
faith in intelligence and science…It was from Greek growth in its stead of the conviction that the life
science that the modern world took its birth. Aris- of the flesh and spirit merged into one living
totle invented the sciences, and the Greeks at Alex- man is not evil, but good. It meant that when so-
andria carried them to the point where the Renais- ciety offered more than a rude mining-camp ex-
sance took them up again. Greeks invented the phi- istence of blood and toil, the monastic temper
losophical interpretations of the universe by which declined, and gave way to a new and vital per-
all thoughtful men of antiquity ordered their lives.”2 ception of the dignity of man, of the sweetness
Unfortunately, however, according to the majority and glory of being a rational animal…But most
view, this Golden Age came to a sad but temporary of all he humanist scholars brought from the
end in what Gilbert Murray famously called “A Greeks the happy, natural, and wholesome en-
Failure of Nerve” which was due to the evil and de- joyment of life in a refined civilization, and the
structive influence of Christianity. As Murray states, wisdom and sanity of balance, temperance, the
Anyone who turns from the great writers of clas- golden mean…All this meant, of course, a revolt
sical Athens, say Sophocles or Aristotle, to those from the Christian ethic: in place of love, joy in
of the Christian era must be conscious of a great the exercise of man’s God-given powers; in
difference in tone. There is a change in the place of faith, it became more and more clear,
whole relation of the writer to the world about the fearless quest of the intellect.4
him…It is hard to describe. It is a rise of asceti- According to the Grand Narrative the renais-
cism, of mysticism, in a sense of pessimism; a sance came to its fulfillment in the Enlightenment of
loss of self-confidence, of hope in this life and the eighteenth century exemplified in Newton’s
of faith in normal effort; a despair of patient in- Principia Mathematica, and Locke’s Essay Con-
quiry, a cry for infallible revelation, an indiffer- cerning Human Understanding. Randall states
ence to the welfare of the state, a conversion of “From their inspiration flow the great achievements
the soul to God. It is an atmosphere in which the of the Age of Enlightenment; in their light men went
aim of the good man is no so much to live justly, on to transform their beliefs and their society into
to help the society to which he belongs and en- what we know today.”5 This led to the faith of the
joy the esteem of his fellow creatures; but rather, Enlightenment in the inevitable progress of human-
by means of a burning faith, by contempt for the ity toward a millennium on earth inspired by the
world and its standard, by ecstasy, suffering, and spread of reason, science, and technology.
martyrdom, to be granted pardon for his un- Now what is Tillich’s alternate interpretation of
speakable unworthiness, his immeasurable sins. Western cultural history? I should explain that I will
There is an intensifying of certain spiritual emo- be laying out Tillich’s alternate interpretation with
tions; an increase in sensitiveness, a failure of the help of some of his colleagues and former stu-
nerve.3 dents. It begins not in ancient Athens but in Pales-
tine with what he calls “biblical” beginning with the
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 7

8th century BCE Hebrew Prophets, Amos and Isaiah, Stanley Romaine Hopper of Syracuse puts it this
who preached that the one true God is the creator of way:
the world which God has called very good. This in- Curiously, the genius of the Renaissance lay in
cludes the physical world, the body, sexuality, indi- its recovery of biblical Christianity. That is, it
viduality, human community, human history, and the appealed to the dignity of man, to the rights of
calling of Israel to be a light to the nations. This is the individual, to freedom, to man’s creative re-
fulfilled in the incarnation of God in Jesus who is sponsibility in history, to brotherhood, and to the
seen as the fulfillment of prophecy as interpreted by world as a tangible reality in space and time.
the four evangelists and Paul. They were all parts of the Hebrew-Christian be-
However, when biblical religion moved out into quest.10
the Hellenistic world, it came to be interpreted in Ronald Gregor Smith of Edinburgh states,
terms of the prevalent philosophy, namely Middle The break through of the human spirit at the
Platonism and later Neo-Platonism. In his book, The Renaissance cannot be simply ascribed to the
Courage to Be, Tillich refers to what he calls “the liberating influence of Greek thought. I think it
negativity of the late ancient feeling toward life.”6 In is truer to say that at the Renaissance we see,
his lectures at Harvard in 1961 on the Renaissance, among other things, an efflorescence of the
he stated, “This negative attitude toward the world Christian spirit beyond the bounds prescribed by
was spelled out in Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus who medieval philosophy. All this activity was pos-
saw the world as constituted by the warring princi- sible because man understood his situation in
ples of form and matter, the struggle between spirit history in a new way. He saw himself as free,
and flesh. This led to a desire to escape the world and as responsible for making his own life, and
and flee to the divine by means of the contemplative as open to a future which was not an arbitrary or
life. This is seen in Greek Tragedy in which there is threatening disposition of fate, but was awaiting
no salvation but only heroism.”7 Tillich’s colleague him as his own destiny…This primary emphasis
at Chicago, Paul Ricoeur, echoes Tillich when he at the Renaissance, this recovery of Hebrew this-
refers to biblical religion and Platonism as “[radi- worldliness…has been the dominant element in
cally heterogeneous” and states that the Platonism the history since that time…History was no
has “contaminated” biblical religion. Ricoeur con- longer seen as the necessary but tiresome ante-
tinues: “In its ascetic form as well as in its mystical chamber of super-history, but as an existent
form, Platonizing Christianity adopts the opposition power whose meaning could be sought in itself.
between contemplation and concupiscence, which in This was the fundamental insight which broke
its turn, introduces the opposition between the spiri- through the bonds of medieval metaphysics, and
tual soul and the moral and raving body; the old fear with it the very structure of medieval civiliza-
of defilement and the old fear of the body and sexu- tion. Out of this has flowed the work of many in
ality are taken over by the new wisdom.”8 It is clear every sphere over which human activity has
that this is quite different from biblical religion but ranged and flowered in the last five hundred
this is what many have believed that Christianity years.11
really is, as exemplified in Friedrich Nietzsche who I have consulted experts in the thought of these
stated that “Christianity is Platonism for the people,” two theologians and have concluded that they both
that is, just a simplified version of Platonism. The got their ideas of the Renaissance from Tillich. This
Platonists agreed about the difference of Platonism means that when the representatives of the majority
and biblical religion exemplified in the powerful view spoke so negatively about the Dark Ages and
attacks on Christianity by the Middle Platonist Cel- Christianity, they were referring to the amalgam of
sus and the Neoplatonist Porphyry. biblical religion with later Platonism. And when
Now according to Tillich what happened at the they spoke so positively of the Renaissance, they
Renaissance was that “the negativity of the late- were seeing it through the eyes of Renaissance bibli-
ancient feeling toward life was transformed into the cal Christians.
positiveness of the Christian ideas of creation and Implied and often explicit in Tillich’s alternate
incarnation and the resurrection of the body…So the view is the concept of the possibility of something
spiritual substance of the Renaissance humanism radically new in human history. This was based on
was Christian.”9 the hope of Israel for a Davidic Messiah who would
bring in new era justice and peace. This was ob-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 8

scured in the Greek view in which the idea of eternal and Saturn. Hindu, Moslem, and Buddhist
recurrence dominated. It was rediscovered by the communities throughout the Far East held non-
late medieval prophet Joachim de Fiore who foresaw stop prayer sessions and sacrifices as the eight
a new age in history, the age of the Holy Spirit that heavenly bodies began moving into line yester-
would begin in the year 1260. Tillich states that “this day. Miners refused to enter the shafts at Dhan-
formed the background to most of the revolutionary bad in Northeast India. An Indian Airlines plane
movements down into modern times,”12 and his view traveled empty to Bombay when passengers
is confirmed by Karl Löwith in his book Meaning in failed to show up at New Delhi. Market places
History. It is interesting to note that none of the closed down and merchants gave free food to
founders of the majority view even mention Joachim beggars to placate the planets.
and they attribute the idea of progress entirely to the But the eclipse was a welcome event for
Enlightenment’s faith in reason, science, and educa- Americans and other western scientists who
tion. gathered at Lae in Australian New Guinea to
It should be noted that from the point of view of watch the moon blot out the sun. They were able
Tillich’s alternate interpretation of Western cultural to carry out planned experiments on the solar co-
history, many of the key ideas of the modern world, rona as the moon moved into position between
such as atheism, secularism, science, technology, the earth and the sun at 8:51 a.m. local time
democracy, capitalism, and naturalistic humanism, (5:51p.m. EST yesterday).
the default worldview of the Western secular acad- This is the difference between a religious culture
emy, have heir origin in biblical religion. I will refer and a secular culture created by biblical religion.
to five of these, and first atheism. Atheism was in- And the same can be said about science, technology,
vented by the prophets of Israel when they denied democracy, and capitalism, all, of course spoiled by
the reality of the gods of the nations. This resulted in human sin.
the fact that the first group in Western cultural his- Here is a third example: science. There is a
tory to be known as atheists was the Christians, ac- growing consensus among historians of science that
cording to the testimony of Justin Martyr in his First Christianity was a major contributor to the rise of
Apology written in the middle of the second century modern science. Ian Barbour, former chair of the
CE. physics department at Carleton College and founder
Second secularism: The prophets of Israel also of the discipline of religion and science has summa-
founded secularism when they announced that only rized these contributions under the headings of the
God is divine and holy, everything else is creature, biblical attitudes toward nature, and the idea of crea-
of this age, this saeculum. The result was the crea- tion, the medieval conviction about the intelligibility
tion of a secular culture in which we live. Early evi- of nature, and the Puritan support of scientific re-
dence of this is found in the writings of Ignatius, search.
bishop of Antioch at the end of the first century CE. Oxford philosopher M. B. Foster and others
He was condemned to death in the Roman persecu- have argued at length that the doctrine of creation
tion and sent to Rome to die fighting wild beasts in implies that the details of nature can be known only
the Coliseum. On his way, he wrote letters to each of by observing them and not by the deduction from the
his churches in Asia Minor. In his letter to the divine nature, as Greek thought held. Sociologist
church in Ephesus, he explained how the birth of Robert Merton has argued that Puritanism gave
Jesus was revealed: “a star shone in heaven and strong support to scientific work and his thesis has
brighter than all the stars.…As a result (of this star) been supported by historians of science such as I.
all magic (magi, astrology) lost its power and all Bernard Cohen among others.
witchcraft ceased.”13 Fourth example: technology. Nicholas Berdyaev
This was illustrated in a story on the front page puts it this way: “However paradoxical it may seem,
of the Boston Globe on February 5, 1962 on the oc- I am convinced that Christianity alone made possible
casion of an eclipse of the sun and the alignment of both positive science and technology…It is impossi-
five planets. The story ran as follows: ble to build railways, invent the telegraph or tele-
For the Asians the eclipse presented a period phone, while living in fear of the demons. Thus, for
of great danger, coming as part of an alignment man to be able to treat nature like a mechanism, it is
in the Zodiac sign of Capricorn of five other necessary for the demonic inspiration of nature and
planets as well—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter,
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 9

man’s communion with it to have died out in human Enlightenment tended ever more insistently to spon-
consciousness.”14 sor an essentially secular witness in behalf of the
Fifth, naturalistic humanism—the default world- scientific worldview. Tillich states in The Religious
view of the Western secular academy. It affirms that Situation that the spirit of capitalist bourgeois soci-
nature is the highest and broadest category, compre- ety was subjected to mathematical natural science,
hending all reality. Humanism is the moral commit- technology, and capitalist economy. Everything was
ment to the values of human dignity, freedom, jus- made serviceable to this trinity. All the bonds of
tice, and equality. Furthermore, it is claimed that this original, organic community must be sacrificed in
worldview can be proven by natural science, which, favor of a free capitalist economy. The state with all
of course, is nonsense since science proves no its agencies for the exercise of its powers and its
worldview and no worldview can be proven to any- steadily increasing armaments serves the expansive,
one who does not already hold it. Therefore, all imperialist will of the leading economic class.17 So
worldviews are held by faith. That is, we all “walk Tillich concluded, “It is not an exaggeration to say
by faith and not by sight” (2Cor 5:7). It is clear that that today man experiences his present situation in
this worldview stands in the tradition of the Renais- terms of disruption, conflict, self-destruction in all
sance and thus is the fruit of biblical religion accord- realms of life.”
ing to Tillich’s alternate interpretation. Its modern This is based on the fact that the leaders of the
version was introduced in the nineteenth century by Enlightenment thought that what they were doing
Ludwig Feuerbach who had a Christian upbringing was rejecting biblical Christianity and reaffirmed the
and graduate study in theology. He was a critic of classical Greek view of life. What they were really
Hegel and inspired both Marx and Freud, both of attempting was the creation of a Christian culture,
whom stood in the prophetic tradition of the criti- but they did not know it. So modern culture is a
cism of bad religion. Karl Barth stated of Feuerbach Christian phenomenon and believes it is an anti-
that he understood Christianity better than any other Christian. It is an attempt to live the Christian life
philosopher or theologian in the nineteenth century, without affirming the Christian faith, an experiment
and his thought amounted to a Christian realism in that is bound to fail. So Tillich’s followers refer to
its anti-spiritualism, its attention the whole person in the modern experiment as “a veritable second fall of
his earthiness, its this-worldliness, and its assertion man” and “a vain repetition of the gentiles.”
of the interpersonal and communal nature of human- Tillich’s point is that the last five centuries have
ity.15 Tillich refers to Feuerbach’s critique of Hegel involved a steady decline from the Christian human-
as an important source of existentialism, which, in ism of Renaissance down to the horrors of the twen-
turn became a “providential ally of Christianity in tieth century symbolized in the Holocaust and Hi-
the twentieth century.”16 roshima. This is echoed in W. H. Auden’s poem
The American version of naturalistic humanism “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio,” which
had its home at Columbia University in the work of Tillich knew and appreciated
George Santayana, F. J. E. Woodbridge, John If on account of the political situation, there
Dewey, and John Randall. Full disclosure: Dewey are quite a number of homes without roofs, and
was the mentor of my parents. I was raised in this men lying about in the countryside neither drunk
worldview and it informed my life for over twenty nor asleep. That is not unusual for this time of
years. I should add that for me the transition from year. Till lately we seemed to have what it took.
naturalistic humanism to Christian faith was quite To practice one’s peculiar civic virtues was not
smooth, which can be understood by seeing its ori- so impossible after all. But then we were chil-
gin in biblical religion. Later I concluded, however, dren: That was a moment ago, before an outra-
that it is not possible to base a humanism on natural- geous novelty had been introduced into our
ism unless it is the tame Christian naturalism of John lives. Why were we never warned? Perhaps we
Dewey rather than the pagan naturalism of were. Perhaps that mysterious noise at the back
Nietzsche, for example. of the brain that we noticed on certain occa-
Tillich also sees the negative side of the Renais- sions—sitting alone in the waiting room of the
sance. He saw that the Renaissance, in the powerful country junction, Looking up at the toilet win-
revolt it launched against the ecclesiastical heteron- dow—was not indigestion but this Horror start-
omy of the late Middle Ages, marked the first step in ing already to scratch its way in. That is why we
the direction of an autonomous culture. Then the despair; that is why we would welcome the
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 10

nursery bogey or the wine cellar ghost, why

even the violent howling of winter and war has See Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil (Boston:
become like a jukebox tune that we dare not Beacon Press, 1967), 335.
stop. We are afraid of pain but more afraid of si- See The Courage To Be, 18.
lence; for no nightmare of hostile objects could Stanley Romaine Hopper, The Crisis of Faith
be as terrible as this Void. This is the abomina- (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1947), 130.
tion. This is the wrath of God. Ronald Gregor Smith, The New Man: Christianity
So in his alternate interpretation of Western cul- and Man’s Coming of Age (New York: Harper and Broth-
tural history Tillich was attempting to demonstrate ers, 1956), 41-44.
that the horrors of the twentieth century were the See Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, ed.
judgment of God on human arrogance and depravity Carl Braaten (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 175.
and a call to repentance and faith in the God of his- See Early Christian Fathers, ed. Cyril C.
tory. Richardson (New York: Macmillan, 1970), 93.
See Nicholas Berdyaev, The Meaning of History
See the Journal of the American Academy of Relig- (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1968), 117.
ion 78/4 (December 2010): 1139-70. See Karl Barth, “An Introductory Essay,” in The
John Herman Randall, Jr. The Making of the Mod- Essence of Christianity by Ludwig Feuerbach, trans.
ern Mind: Revised Edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, George Eliot (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1957), x,
1940), 44-45. xiii, xiv, xxv.
3 16
Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion See Tillich, Perspectives on 19th and 20th Century
(Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1925), 119 Protestant Theology, ed. Carl Braaten (New York: Harper
Randall, The Making of the Modern Mind, 122-23. & Row, 1967), 243, 25.
5 17
Ibid., 254. See Paul Tillich, The Religious Situation (New
See Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be (New Haven: York: Meridian Books, 1956), 41-43.
Yale University Press, 1952), 18 ____________________________________
This is taken from my notes of Tillich’s lectures in

Theologies of Culture as a Base for shared religious understandings that might be used
Interreligious Efforts to Address in response to fundamentalisms.
Fundamentalisms The first part of the paper discusses elements of
Paul Tillich’s, Mark C. Taylor’s, and Peter Berger’s
Mary Ann Stenger “theologies” of culture, with focus on the issue of
absolutism or fundamentalism versus relativism. The
Editor’s Note: This paper was delivered at the second part of the paper applies their approaches to
annual meeting in Atlanta in 2010. specific examples of fundamentalist responses to
public art, sexual issues, and scientific understand-
Interreligious encounters today occur in cultural ings in several religious traditions and cultures. The
contexts that include active, vocal fundamentalist third section argues that the dualisms implicit in the
movements. Although the specific cultural contexts fundamentalist responses cross cultures and religious
and religious contexts vary greatly, many serious traditions and therefore can be a basis for interrelig-
religious people face the challenge of trying to ad- ious dialogue and action. The final part of the paper
dress fundamentalism both intra-religiously and in- evaluates Tillich’s, Taylor’s, and Berger’s proposals
ter-religiously. Public confrontations with funda- for overcoming dualisms, especially the dualism of
mentalists can occur over public art, sexual issues, absolutism versus relativism, with consideration of
and scientific understandings, i.e., aspects of culture how well those can apply to diverse cultures and
that often do not have explicit or traditional religious religious traditions.
content. Theologies of culture through their religious
analyses of culture can be resources for addressing A. Theologies of Culture in Relation to Relativ-
fundamentalisms. Their interreligious value will ism and Absolutism/Fundamentalism
come from extracting principles from the western
Christian base of the theologies and from seeking
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 11

1. Basic Approaches of Tillich, Taylor, and import (Gehalt) rooted in the Unconditional is
Berger “grasped by means of a form and given expression
Growing awareness of cultural and religious plu- in a content.”7 The import carries both the Yes and
rality, not just in the world but in one’s own “home the No to all things,8 manifesting the absolute para-
culture context,” can foster a religious relativism that dox9 that stands at the center of Tillich’s thought.
seems to have no base or an absolutist fundamental- The specific form and particular content remain
ism that devalues all “others.” With neither alterna- conditioned, but the Unconditional meaning can
tive workable for many, the goal here is to consider break through. Tillich encourages the theologian of
the possibility of a different approach that moves culture to incorporate this understanding of the Un-
beyond the dualist opposition. We will consider a conditional in the religious analysis of cultural phe-
few basic ideas and principles from the theologies of nomena, a task exemplified especially in Tillich’s
culture developed by Tillich, Taylor, and Berger, as analysis of art, ethics, politics, science, and the
well as their explicit critiques of fundamentalism. churches in the 1919 lecture, in The Religious Situa-
Paul Tillich was not responding to religious plu- tion,10 and in many later discussions of art and archi-
rality in his arguments for a theology of culture but tecture, politics, psychology, and science.
rather to the plurality of meanings and values set Mark C. Taylor’s theology of culture in After
forth in various areas of “secular” culture. Rejecting God also presents the interconnection of religion and
more traditional approaches that set church against culture, with attention to Protestant theological de-
culture, Tillich argued for a more unified under- velopments, philosophical systems, technological
standing of culture, with religious meaning penetrat- and economic changes, psychology, art, and the in-
ing all areas of culture.1 In his 1919 lecture, “On the teraction of subjectivity with historical, cultural
Idea of a Theology of Culture,” he envisions the changes. With more focus than Tillich on religion as
theologian of culture as “a free agent in the living a system, Taylor defines religion as “an emergent,
cultural movement, open to accept not only any complex, adaptive network of symbols, myths, and
other form but also any other spirit.”2 The theologian rituals that, on the one hand, figure schemata of feel-
of culture is not tied to church dogma or concerns ing, thinking, and acting in ways that lend life mean-
and “has no interest in ecclesiastical continuity.”3 ing and purpose and, on the other, disrupt, dislocate,
Rather, Tillich outlines three tasks for a theology of and disfigure every stabilizing structure.”11 While
culture: “1. General religious analysis of culture; 2. both recognize religious dimensions in secular cul-
Religious typology and philosophy of cultural his- ture, Taylor’s analysis focuses more on the historical
tory; 3. Concrete religious systematization of cul- roots of modern secular culture in the Protestant
ture.”4 The focus here is on Tillich’s engagement in Reformation and the codependence of various net-
the first task. works of culture, nature, society, and technology, all
The root of Tillich’s theology of culture is his of which continuously adapt and change in relation
understanding of the participation of the Uncondi- to each other.12
tional or later, being-itself or the ground of being, in Taylor concludes his historical-religious analysis
everything that is. The Unconditional is not a being, of cultural change with his own theological proposal
alongside other realities, nor the total unity of all that he images as “religion without God.” He posits
beings, but rather it is “above all beings” as uncondi- a dynamic, immanent understanding of the Infinite,
tional meaning without any specific content, and is with “two codependent rhythms: finitizing the infi-
simultaneously “the absolute Nothing and the abso- nite and infinitizing the finite.”13 He connects these
lute Something” and “the No and the Yes to every to two “moments of religion,” recognizing the im-
thing.”5 One never experiences the Unconditional portance of religious schema that offer meaning and
directly but rather it is always “thrust upon us” purpose to life but also the need for disrupting, dis-
through the mediation of conditioned realities, val- locating, and disfiguring fixed structures.14 Religion,
ues, and personal experiences. The human response then, would always be emerging, offering temporary
to the Unconditional pervades life as religion, de- and shifting “pockets of stability” in the midst of
fined by Tillich in the 1919 lecture, as “directedness flux and always interconnecting with other schemata
toward the Unconditional.”6 and networks. The “end” of such dynamic move-
People express their directedness toward the ment is not something static but rather ongoing flux
Unconditional in all spheres of culture and in all that and flow. The Infinite is “the creative interplay” of
they create. For any cultural creation, the depth or codependent, coevolving interrelationships of the
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 12

many dimensions of life.15 Alternatively, to put it in 2. Cultural-Theological Critiques of

words reminiscent of aspects of Teilhard de Chardin, Fundamentalism
the Infinite is “the divine milieu in which everything Tillich’s critique of fundamentalism stems from
is relative because all is related.”16 his emphasis on the Protestant Principle that cri-
In his application to religion and culture, Taylor tiques all absolutizations of the finite that do not si-
recognizes that people will continually create gods multaneously deny their absoluteness. In the first
that usually end up in dualist opposition to each few paragraphs of the 1951 Systematic Theology,
other. But, he argues, all such gods are finite, even if Tillich focuses on fundamentalism as a key element
declared infinite. His theology attempts to figure and of the religious-cultural situation of that time, refer-
disfigure the creative process that moves between ring to both American fundamentalists and European
identity and difference, with networks interdepen- orthodox theologians.21 He describes these move-
dently changing and emerging.17 In his application to ments as “demonic” because they attach “infinite
art, Taylor interconnects God, art, and life as a trin- and eternal validity” to “something finite and transi-
ity: “After God—art; after art—life. Three-in-one— tory” and as “fanatical” because they “suppress ele-
One-in-three.”18 Life, art, God, culture, nature, tech- ments of truth.”22
nology, and more, all interconnect in an ongoing But, Tillich’s broad understanding of faith en-
complex process, constantly changing relationships ables him to understand fundamentalists as respond-
and always in need of disfiguring and new figuring. ing to their experience of the Unconditional, albeit
The Infinite not only moves in the process but also is with a misplaced absoluteness and limited faith. As
the active rhythms of the process. he states in Dynamics of Faith: “Where there is faith
While Peter Berger has written primarily as a there is an awareness of holiness....What concerns
sociologist, not as a theologian, he has offered one ultimately becomes holy.”23 Tillich affirms fun-
analysis of religion and culture that he hopes will damentalist experience of ultimacy as real but cri-
contribute to Protestant theology’s response to mod- tiques their faith as partial, idolatrous, and poten-
ern cultural situations, with special focus on secu- tially destructive.24 Yet he recognizes the power that
larization, pluralism, relativism, and fundamental- it holds for many people, still noting that success
ism. In The Heretical Imperative, which focuses on does not entail truth.25 For individuals, Tillich argues
religious plurality and in a more recent book focused that “[t]he inescapable consequence of idolatrous
on relativism and fundamentalism, Berger offers a faith is ‘existential disappointment,’” that penetrates
middle position that recognizes that there is a “fun- the whole personality.26 For society, idolatrous faith
damental religious experience” but multiple forms of can lead to injustice, privileging insiders over those
it throughout the world, both past and present.19 He outside.27
encourages openness to others of diverse faiths, tak- Taylor also recognizes the power of fundamen-
ing seriously their religious experiences, and con- talism as he analyzes the recent growth in fundamen-
cludes that the Christian thinker “must remain open talist and evangelical movements as a “Fourth Great
to all the possibilities of a future that lies in God’s Awakening” and the Religious Right as “a counter-
hands.”20 counterculture.”28 He delineates a shared agenda for
All three thinkers propose theologies that can be conservatives in their opposition to particular ide-
open to plural ways of being religious. While Tillich ologies and groups and in some common theological
roots his approach in his affirmation of the participa- themes, but he also recognizes important differences
tion of the Unconditional in everything that is and on among fundamentalists, evangelicals, Pentecostals,
his broad definition of religion, Taylor and Berger and neo-orthodox Christians.29 Still, they share an
look more to religions as systems within culture, absolutism in their “religious foundationalism and
affected by numerous historical and cultural forces. exclusive moralism” that Taylor finds dangerous.
Taylor does share with Tillich a more immanent un- “In a world where everyone is increasingly intercon-
derstanding of ultimacy living and moving within nected, religious foundationalism and moral absolut-
the world than does Berger. But, all ground their ism threaten to bring about the very disaster their
theologies, at least in part, in religious experience adherents claim to be trying to avoid.”30 Taylor ana-
that is both personal and connected to society and lyzes interconnections between these conservative
culture. Because they share a goal of more positive religious movements and numerous social, eco-
interconnections of diverse religions, they also share nomic, scientific, technological, and moral develop-
criticisms of fundamentalist approaches. ments, with special focus on “the unholy alliance of
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 13

neofoundational religion, neoconservative politics, part of the controversy related to public tax monies
and neoliberal economics.”31 An underlying question that helped fund the exhibitions that included these
and purpose in Taylor’s analysis is how to challenge items, other protests focused on religious and moral
that unholy alliance. dimensions, targeting these objects as blasphemy35
In In Praise of Doubt, Berger and his co-author or obscenity36 or anti-Christian.37 Most recently, a
Anton Zijderveld share with Tillich and Taylor a woman in Loveland, Colorado used a crowbar to
view of fundamentalism as threatening and poten- destroy the plexiglass casing and then ripped up En-
tially destructive. Berger and Zijderveld grant that rique Chagoya’s print of a head, allegedly of Jesus
fundamentalism, like other worldviews, provides its Christ, in a suggestive pose near a mostly clothed
members with an identity in their social worlds. But woman’s body.38 The woman stated that she did this
they argue that fundamentalist identity counters because the image “desecrated” her Lord.39
freedom and that “[f]undamentalism, religious or Turning to Islam, examples include reactions to
secular, is always an enemy of freedom.”32 They Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in the late
connect fundamentalist approaches to totalitarian 1980s and more recently the publication of the car-
structures that may be more internalized in a subcul- toons depicting Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.
ture than imposed on all, but they fear efforts to Rushdie’s novel engendered huge public protests in
force others to fundamentalist ideas and values and the streets of Bradford, England as well as Islama-
multiplication of fundamentalist subcultures that can bad and Kashmir. Numerous countries including
undermine social cohesion.33 Berger and Zijderveld India, South Africa, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
argue that, “the danger of fundamentalism is a defi- Indonesia, and many others banned the book as
cit of doubt,” when at least some doubt is necessary blasphemous, and Ayatollah Khomeini issued a
to “a humanly decent society.”34 fatwa against Rushdie.40 The cartoons, published by
All four theorists recognize that countering rela- both a Danish paper and by several Norwegian pa-
tivism is one reason for people’s attraction to fun- pers, drew protests from various Muslim organiza-
damentalism (or foundationalism). Desire for cer- tions as well as from large crowds in the streets of
tainty and absolutes makes sense, but the absolutism various cities in the Muslim world.41
of fundamentalism carries too many destructive con- In India, filmmaker Deepa Mehta was forced to
sequences. The challenge for all four thinkers is to move the filming of Water from India to Sri Lanka
develop a middle position that takes doubt seriously because of protests by Hindu nationalists.42 Her film
without falling into a relativism with no grounding. focused on the controversial issue of treatment of
widows during the British Raj period, but protests
B. Application to Specific Fundamentalist Re- related not only to that issue but also earlier films
sponses to “Secular” Cultural Phenomena dealing with lesbian relations in one and religion and
politics in the other.43
Because fundamentalist reaction to specific
secular cultural phenomena occurs around the world, Science
I see this reaction as a common base for analysis and The most publicized scientific issue sparking
critique in interreligious dialogue. My examples here fundamentalist response has been the theory of evo-
will be familiar to most scholars of religion, but the lution. While most critics of evolution do not under-
purpose here is to discuss to what extent Tillich’s, stand the meaning of “theory” in science, their pro-
Taylor’s, and Berger’s “theologies” or theories of tests have centered on threats to their so-called bibli-
religion and culture can provide insight into these cal literalism, their understanding of humans, and
fundamentalist responses. their theology of God as creator. In my home state,
Australian investors developed the highly successful
Art and Literature Creation Museum, with Disney-like displays that
Over the last few decades, several examples of mix bits of theology, science, and Christian tradition
visual culture have drawn strong reaction from relig- to present a young earth, creationist understanding of
ious leaders and/or conservative politicians. Well- our physical world.
publicized examples include reactions against dis- Perhaps second to evolution, the medical issue
playing Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, Robert Map- of stem-cell research has drawn well-publicized pro-
plethorpe’s photographs of nude minors, and Chris test from religious groups opposed to abortion.
Ofili’s Virgin Mary depicted with cow dung. While While the issue of evolution has not received much
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 14

recent response by politicians, many conservative core in fundamentalist beliefs and actions and then
ones weigh in on the stem-cell issue. Most opposi- apply the same religious respect to fundamentalists
tion I have seen focuses on religious objections to that they offer to their mutual participants in inter-
use of embryonic stem cells. religious dialogue. Some acknowledgement of a
While I could multiply these examples, my common religious direction toward ultimacy or the
question is the extent to which the theories of Tillich Unconditional suggests a small but important
and Taylor can provide insights into these controver- counter to the dualist split between liberal and fun-
sies in a way that could foster interreligious dialogue damentalist approaches.
on the subject. The second part of inter-religious dialogue could
focus on the specific dualisms of the conflict be-
Analysis tween liberals and fundamentalists. Across cultures
If one uses Tillich’s understanding of the par- and religious traditions, even the content of these
ticipation of the Unconditional in all that is, one dualisms is often similar. Whether Christian, Jewish,
could understand these controversies as stemming Muslim, or Hindu, the following dualisms show up
from fundamentalists experiencing something un- in the conflicts between liberals and fundamentalists
conditional in these various finite images and theo- in those faith traditions:
ries but interpreting these cultural expressions as (1) Literal vs. symbolic readings of texts. While
destructive or demonic rather than creative and con- we may first associate that dualism with interpreta-
structive. For fundamentalists, these cultural phe- tion of scriptures, it also applies to interpretation of
nomena attack their faith, religious truth, and moral art, literature, film, etc. Even if the writer or artist
values. They must respond to protect their absolutes, intends a symbolic reading, she or he has no control
as there is no room for different views that might over people interpreting it literally. While many of
make them question their own. The religious- the artists and writers whose works have been con-
cultural situation is one of their values against all troversial understood their creations as offering cri-
others, their religion fighting falsehood and evil. tiques of negative or destructive aspects of religion
And, of course, to the extent that we see their cri- and culture, their conservative critics “read” their
tiques as false and dangerous, we join the dualist works as destructive of core truths and values in re-
conflict. ligion and culture.44
Using Tillich’s core tenet of his theology of cul- (2) Male dominating power over females versus
ture, the participation of the Unconditional, accentu- equality and empowerment of all humans. The
ates the religious dimension of the cultural conflicts prominence of patriarchal values and structures of
and recognizes the positive religious experiences of power in fundamentalisms crosses faith traditions.
fundamentalists. They are defending the meaning- While dominating power is the main issue, it often
giving substance of their lives. Recognition of that manifests in male authority and control of women
should engender some appreciation of fundamental- and in privileging heterosexuality against homo-
ists as directed toward the Unconditional and some sexuality. Connecting with sexual issues, one also
understanding of their tenacity in defending their often finds a negative view of the body, at times al-
faith. But, one can argue that it is this same recogni- most a fear of the body. One has to control the body
tion of directedness toward the Unconditional in di- and that usually means controlling women and non-
verse faith traditions that provides a common core heterosexual sexual activities.
that enables inter-religious dialogue and fosters re- (3) Control vs. freedom. While several analyses
spect for people of other faith. of fundamentalisms note efforts to create and control
However, these dialogues also occur mostly an enclave of similarly minded and similarly acting
among the “liberal” members of their faith tradi- people, more public political actions by fundamen-
tions. They are open to views of other people, not talists aim at controlling the behavior of people who
necessarily open to changing their own basic com- do not belong to their enclaves. All of the examples I
mitments but open to learning from others and dis- have put forth in this paper are of public political
covering some shared ideas and values. Many ac- efforts at controlling others. Their political efforts
knowledge the challenge, focused on here, of talking are not directed at all toward self-control or self-
with the fundamentalists in their own traditions. The critique but at countering what they see as evil and
first part of the dialogue might be discussion of dangerous in the “other.” (The challenge for liberals
whether participants can acknowledge the religious
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 15

is how not to be simply the mirror of this behavior of (1) Understandings of ultimacy and religion.
naming the “other” as evil and dangerous.) Both Tillich’s concept of the Unconditioned (or
(4) Religious vs. scientific truth. Some of the later, the ground or power of being) and Taylor’s
conflicts fundamentalists have with science relate to idea of the Infinite are sufficiently void of specific
the issue of literalist versus symbolic reading of content to enable them (or similar concepts) to be
texts. Certainly, this applies to creationism versus used in inter-religious dialogue. That participants
evolution, but increasingly, proponents of creation- will put in their own content from their specific tra-
ism spend little time talking about biblical texts. In- ditions is to be expected. Tillich anticipates that
stead, they put forward images of the origins of hu- most people will make a move from the Uncondi-
manity that fit people’s sense of their central place in tional or later the God above the God of theism to
the universe as given by God. Alternatively, some more concrete contents. In the 1919 essay, he de-
use a few scientific studies that they believe raise scribes the theologian of culture as a “free agent” in
questions about the truth of evolutionary theory. a cultural movement but notes that the theologian
Here, they often miss the irony of accepting some “lives on the basis of a definite concreteness, for one
scientific truths and not others. But the audience for can live only in concreteness.” Tillich calls on this
these scientific studies is not the broad scientific theologian to be “prepared at any time to enlarge and
community but their own religious communities. change this concreteness.”45 Likewise, in The Cour-
Although one could probably continue this list age to Be, Tillich states that within the courage to
of dualisms experienced across religious traditions accept the anxiety of meaninglessness, “all forms of
in the challenge of fundamentalisms, it is important courage are re-established in the power of the God
to recognize the underlying dualism of absolutism above the God of theism.”46 People live with con-
versus relativism. Symbolic readings of texts allows crete forms of courage, even when they have
for plural interpretations of texts in contrast to a reached meaninglessness as the boundary line of
more literalist, set interpretation understood as abso- doubt.
lute, divinely given truth. Challenges to patriarchal In a parallel way, Taylor argues that people need
structures of authority, whether in the religious tradi- both the temporary stability of meaning and purpose
tion or in the broad society or in the family, also in emerging forms as well as the ongoing disfiguring
suggest plural options for those in authority, how or critique of such forms.47 People will experience
they uses this authority, and how they treat diverse their god(s) as powerful, but he argues that they are
groups of people. Giving up control and allowing in fact, finite, subject to questioning and potential
more freedom to people results in variety and diver- disfiguring. While I suspect that many participants
sity of views, moral values, and actions. Allowing in inter-religious dialogue would reject Taylor’s de-
scientific discoveries to challenge traditional relig- scription of gods as finite, they might be more open
ious truths relativizes truth, allowing truth from di- to his understanding of the Infinite as in process and
verse sources that may not necessarily agree. Once incapable of being adequately figured or symbolized
again, the option of plural truths looms, and with this or conceptualized.
the fear of a relativism without absolutes. In his short essay on using Lutheran resources to
If participants in inter-religious dialogue can ac- address religious plurality, Berger, like Tillich and
knowledge their parallel experiences of these dual- Taylor, argues for keeping God (or for them, the
isms, they may also recognize the underlying dual- Unconditional or the Infinite) distinct from the con-
ism of relativism versus absolutism and want to dis- ditioned or the finite. He also shares the view that
cuss ways to address that dualism. Are there any God or the Unconditional or the Infinite is active and
alternatives to the dualist impasses? experienced in the midst of the finite.48 While Berger
maintains his commitment to the Word of God in
C. Addressing the Dualism of Relativism versus Scripture and to several doctrines of the Lutheran
Absolutism church, he also emphasizes keeping a freedom in
one’s attitude toward the institutional church.49 He
My purpose in this section is to discuss the ex- seeks a middle position that is both grounded and
tent to which ideas from Tillich’s, Taylor’s, and open.
Berger’s theologies of culture and theories of relig- (2) Working with and in the midst of polarities.
ion and culture can help us move beyond absolutism All three thinkers want to overcome both absolut-
and relativism. isms and the dualisms that result from absolutism.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 16

And while all embrace varying degrees of relativism, justice both affirms law but fights against injustices
all distinguish their proposals from a pure relativism. contained in it.56 In actual life, one can experience
All posit an absolute although Tillich’s Uncondi- theonomous moments, but still conflicts and splits
tional and Taylor’s Infinite resist any concrete con- are normal. But what Tillich’s theology of culture
tent or definition. Berger affirms the Word of God as provides, in addition to a vision of theonomy, is a
absolute but resists identification of this Word with critical principle that challenges absolutisms and
Scripture itself. While those approaches could never encourages living “on the boundary” in the midst of
satisfy fundamentalists of any tradition, their recog- polarities.
nition of human finitude and the non-absoluteness of Tillich’s critical principle shows up throughout
human interpretations are points on which partici- his theology and philosophy of religion, both in
pants in inter-religious dialogue often agree. The early and later works. This critical principle has a
varying degrees of relativism accepted by these three paradoxical form as we see in his examples of
thinkers are noticeable but not the primary focus. theonomy. In a 1919 essay on “Justification and
Rather, their proposals for moving beyond the dual- Doubt” (an earlier and different essay than the 1924
ism of absolutism and relativism and beyond the essay with the same title), Tillich develops the idea
polarities that divide are more pertinent to the argu- of the absolute paradox in connection with the Apos-
ment here. tle Paul’s theology of justification by faith but de-
Tillich’s theology of culture proposes a theono- veloped more broadly and stated in language that
mous approach to conflicts between religion and need not be tied to Christianity yet assumes a basic
culture, rooted in their underlying ground and aim, faith. The absolute paradox holds together uncondi-
namely the Unconditional. Rather than the autonomy tioned meaning and conditioned reality.57 Not only
of reason and science or the heteronomy of imposed does Tillich see this paradoxical form in experiences
doctrine or structures, a theonomous approach is of faith, especially as expressed by mystics and
paradoxical, with the Unconditional breaking prophets, but he also argues for holding the paradox
through both sides in favor of a dynamic union of as a criterion for a theological system. Faith includes
opposites. Cultural phenomena, interpreted theono- the experience of the unconditional by a finite, con-
mously, are seen as expressing both Yes and No. In ditioned person, but one can never hold the uncondi-
the 1919 essay, Tillich offers Expressionist art as tioned or attach unconditional to any conditioned
perhaps more strongly expressing No to traditional thing or person. Tillich states that the degree to
forms and content and yet aiming toward “a new and which a theological system includes the absolute
absolute Yes.”50 Similarly, he interprets Nietzsche’s paradox as a “living element” that animates and sus-
ethics as affirming an ethics of grace over an ethics tains the whole, the system will have greater cer-
of virtue and praises the theonomy of love that he tainty of faith. Of course, no system can be fully cer-
finds in some of the German poets.51 In these and tain.58 Tillich argues that both individuals and the
other examples, Tillich sees a move beyond the split church hold doubt as an element of the spiritual life
between autonomy and heteronomy—a move made and make the absolute paradox effective, by not ab-
possible by the breaking through of the Uncondi- solutizing any finite element of life.59 Connecting
tional. The experience of theonomy is paradoxical,52 this critical principle to logic, Tillich argues that
holding the tension in the unity of the Unconditional “there is an anti-logical element immanent in the
No to traditional forms and the Unconditional Yes to logical,” giving a paradoxical root to logic itself.60
new possibilities. To put in the terms of continental discussions of his
For Tillich, experience of theonomy, overcom- time, the paradoxical unity of identity and difference
ing dualist conflicts, always involves “revelation” or grounds knowledge. That Tillich tries to keep this
the Unconditional breaking through.53 In experiences guardian principle is clear in writings on knowledge
of theonomy, people experience a wholeness rather (“Kairos und Logos” of 1926), on faith (Dynamics of
than conflict.54 In the third volume of his Systematic Faith and The Courage to Be), and in his discussion
Theology, Tillich speaks of theonomy as fragmen- of encounter with the world religions (Christianity
tary and temporary experiences of the Spiritual Pres- and the Encounter of the World Religions and “The
ence overcoming the ambiguities of life.55 In each Significance of the History of Religions for the Sys-
example, he describes a paradoxical holding together tematic Theologian”). In relation to the dualism of
of opposites. Theonomous knowledge overcomes absolutism and relativism, the key element is hold-
the split between subject and object; theonomous ing together the Yes of the Absolute (essential to the
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 17

possibility of religious experience at all) with the No of finitizing the infinite and infinitizing the finite,
(that nothing finite or conditioned is Absolute). In underscores the never-ending movement of the Infi-
Dynamics of Faith, he states the criterion of the truth nite.65 In language somewhat reminiscent of Tillich’s
of faith as including “an element of self-negation”: use of boundary, Taylor speaks of living “along the
“That symbol is most adequate which expresses not unfigurable edge,” where all is “in play,” with every
only the ultimate but also its own lack of ulti- stabilizing structure disrupted and disfigured but
macy.”61 also with ongoing construction and figuring.66
This generic way of stating the criterion allows On the practical level, Taylor argues that, “abso-
for application outside of Christianity, as Tillich did lutism must give way to relationalism.”67 Put differ-
in some writings on politics and ethics. I am arguing ently, “relativity is absolute” and the absolute is rela-
here that we can use the critical principle to criticize tive.68 In support of a relational approach and coun-
absolutisms wherever one finds them. Moreover, tering either/or logic, Taylor offers four governing
one can also use Tillich’s connection between idola- principles for ethics and for reframing the issues in
try and injustice to show the injustices that occur our culture: (1) “Embrace complexity,” (2) “Promote
when finite truths or people are absolutized. These cooperation as much as competition,” (3) “Accept
two criteria can work in other world religions, at volatility,” and (4) “Cultivate uncertainty.”69 Taylor
least for liberal thinkers of those traditions. Liberal calls on people to recognize the interdependence in
participants in interreligious dialogue generally our world, the network of networks that provide or-
agree on the limits of human experience and human der and meaning in life but also must adapt to
language to understand or to express absolute mean- change.
ing or reality. That the critical principle against While Taylor does not address world religions,
idolatry links to injustice might take more discus- his ideas of relationalism, interconnections, and co-
sion, but I believe many would acknowledge the dependence would find appreciation in several east-
connection and readily apply it to fundamentalist ern traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and
movements and actions with which they deal in their Taoism. With respect to the monotheistic traditions
own traditions. of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, at least some
Taylor calls “the conflict of competing absolut- theologies that take changes in nature and develop-
isms” the source of present day dangers in our ment in history seriously could work with Taylor’s
world, in part because one cannot mediate the oppo- approach.
sition of one absolutism against another.62 At the Berger and Zijderveld also try to work out a sys-
root of these conflicts is “the logic of either/or that is tem that allows for doubt and yet absolutes, for a
constitutive of all dualisms.” Taylor argues that this middle position between relativism and absolutism.
logic “becomes not only destructive but self- With much critique of absolutists or fundamentalists,
destructive: by defending self through the negation both religious and secular, Berger and Zijderveld
of the other, one destroys the other without whom explicitly agree with Tillich that doubt is “an intrin-
one cannot be oneself.”63 Here, the issue is not only sic part of faith.”70 In fact, they argue that doubt is
the injustice to the other but also the final injustice the middle ground between belief and unbelief, be-
to oneself. tween knowledge and ignorance.71 Doubt prevents
Taylor, like Tillich, connects the conflict of ab- one from turning to an “ism” on either side, as all
solutisms to the relation of identity and difference “isms” stifle doubt. They encourage living with
and sees the interplay of those in the Infinite or the “sincere and consistent doubt,” searching for “falsi-
ongoing emergent process. “The true Infinite is nei- fications” as a way to come closer to “a resemblance
ther dualistic nor monistic but is the creative inter- of truth.”72 They suggest that such doubt grounds
play in which identity and difference are codepend- both tolerance and democracy.73 Like Taylor, they
ent and co-evolve.”64 While I would argue that both offer principles that will help individuals and com-
Tillich and Taylor would see this relationship of munities develop and maintain a middle position
identity and difference as dynamic, clearly Taylor’s between relativism and fundamentalism. These prin-
description of it shows this dynamic quality much ciples are: (1) differentiating between the core of a
more clearly. For Tillich, the tension in the absolute view and marginal elements; (2) being open to ap-
paradox is dynamic, as one lives on the boundary of plying modern historical scholarship to one’s relig-
that unity of the Unconditional and the conditioned. ious tradition; (3) rejecting the “isms,” both of cyni-
Taylor’s emphasis on the two codependent rhythms cal relativism and closed fundamentalism; (4) ac-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 18

cepting doubt as positive in a faith community; (5)

not defining people with different world views as Ibid.
enemies; (6) developing and maintaining a liberal Ibid., 165.
democratic state and other institutions that offer Ibid., 162.
freedom of views and civil debate; and (7) seeing Ibid.
choice as morally desirable.74 Recognizing that 7
Ibid., 165.
doubt has limits, especially in some moral situations, Ibid., 166.
which may require immediate action to save a life, Tillich uses this term in his 1919 “Rechtfertigung
they still see doubt as helpful in most moral deci- und Zweifel,” Religion, Kultur, Gesellschaft: Unveröffen-
sions and in most areas of knowledge. tlichte Texte aus der Deutschen Zeit (1908-1933), edited
Pulling these approaches together, one sees an by erdmann Sturm (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter
ongoing process of negation and affirmation, of cri- Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1999), 127-230 (includes
tique but also openness to others and to diverse ideas both the 1919 and 1924 essays). Robert Scharlemann
and practices. All recognize the human need for translated the 1919 essay into English (unpublished).
meaning and order, for truth, but they want people to Tillich, “On the Idea of a Theology of Culture,”
address that need, not by grabbing at an easy cer- 168-181 and Paul Tillich, The Religious Situation, trans.
tainty, an “ism,” but through an ongoing process of H. Richard Niebuhr (New York: Meridian Books, 1956),
doubt and critique, coupled with meaningful af- originally published by Henry Holt and company, Inc.,
firmations and actions that are important but never 1932 and originally as Die religiöse Lage der Gegenwart
absolutized. None of the writers expects absolutists (1926). Also available in Gesammelte Werke X:9-93 and
of whatever stripe to follow their proposals, as they Hauptwerke 5:27-97.
write not for the fundamentalists but for more open- Mark C. Taylor, After God (Chicago: The Univer-
minded people. They write to encourage moderates sity of Chicago Press, 2007), 12.
to express their doubts, to criticize the “isms” around Ibid., 28-33.
them, to encourage this in both communities of faith Taylor, 347.
and in secular groups. They want people to recog- Ibid.
nize the complexity and interconnections of our Ibid., 346.
global world in order to foster respect and coopera- Ibid., 347.
tion rather than destructive oppositions. Ibid., 345-346.
While all ground their approaches in some di- Ibid., 345.
mensions of Christianity and more specifically the Peter L. Berger, The Heretical Imperative: Con-
Protestant tradition of Luther, their principles can be temporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation (London:
taken up by open-minded people of diverse faiths. Collins, 1980), 136. Peter L. Berger, “Introduction: Be-
Not only are the principles stated in relatively uni- tween Relativism and Fundamentalism” and “A Lutheran
versal terms but also thinkers in diverse traditions Approach,” Between Relativism and Fundamentalism:
can point to similar positions in their own faiths. We Religious Resources for a Middle Position, edited by Pe-
need voices from many faith traditions to address ter L. Berger (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K.:
and critique religious and cultural dimensions of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 11-13,
fundamentalisms. It is important that they do not 152-163. He exemplifies his position in a brief essay of-
simply supply the other side of a dualism but work fering a Lutheran Layman’s approach toward a middle
to develop positions that respect religious experi- position that finds helpful resources in several core Lu-
ence, are open to new possibilities, critique absolut- theran ideas, including faith alone, scripture alone, two
isms, and engage in self-critique. realms, and a statement from the Augsburg Confession
that allows diverse “ceremonies” in different places.
1 20
Paul Tillich, “On the Idea of a Theology of Cul- Peter L. Berger, The Heretical Imperative, 189.
ture,” What Is Religion? ed. James Luther Adams (New Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol.1 (Chicago:
York: Harper & Row, 1969), 162, 164, 178. Paul Tillich, The University of Chicago Press, 1951, 3-5.
Theology of Culture, ed. Robert C. Kimball (London, Ibid.
Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), 6-9, Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith New York: Harper
41-42. * Row, Publ., 1957), 12-13.
2 24
Tillich, “On the Idea of a Theology of Culture,” Ibid., 12, 16, 109-110.
178. Tillich, Systematic Theology 1:4.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 19

26 53
Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, 12. Tillich, Systematic Theology 1:83,85,88-89.
27 54
Tillich, Systematic Theology 1:216-217. Ibid., 148.
28 55
Taylor, 258, 254. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Chicago:
Ibid., 259, 264-265, 275 The University of Chicago Press, 1963), 249-268.
30 56
Ibid., 254, 255. Ibid., 255,257,258, 264-265.
31 57
Ibid., 255, 256-297. Paul Tillich, “Justification and Doubt,” (1919), 24.
32 58
Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld, In Praise of Ibid., 28-29.
Doubt: How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Ibid., 29.
Fanatic (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009), 86. Ibid., 31.
33 61
Ibid., 86. Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, 97.
34 62
Ibid., 87. Taylor, After God, xvii.
35 63
Donald Wildmon of the American Family Assoca- Ibid., 346.
tion in June, 1989 on the Serrano piece. Ibid.
36 65
Obscenity charges were placed against seven of the Ibid., 347.
Maplethorpe photographs in the 1990 trial in Cincinnati, Ibid.
Ohio.Also Senator Jesse Helms and others organized mail Ibid., 355.
campaigns and political efforts in Congress that described Ibid., 356.
these works as obscene, pornographic, and “perverted, Ibid., 356-358.
deviant art.” See discussion of this in Wendy Steiner, The Berger and Zijderveld, In Praise of Doubt, 103.
Scandal of Pleasure (Chicago & London: The Univrsity Ibid., 106.
of Chicago Press, 1995), 23-24. Ibid., 112-113.
37 73
See the May 11, 1989 editorial in the Arizona Re- Ibid., 113.
public quoted by Steiner, The Scandal of Pleasure, 13, Ibid., 116-119.
and Gustav Niebuhr’s discussion of comments by the
Roman Catholic Cardinal John O’Connor and Mayor Gi-
uliani, The New York Times, October 3, 1999.
See Dan Frosch, “Provocative Image of Christ Sets
Off a Debate Punctuated With a Crowbar,” Loveland
Journal (October 10, 2010).

Ibid. Coming in the Spring
Steiner, 96.
See Hjörtur J. Guɚmundsson, The Brussels Jour-
nal, January 22, 2006.
See discussion by Satish Jacob, “Water Fires Up
Hindu Controversy,” abcNews.com, May 26, 2006.
See www.BrightLightsFilm.com/28/water. (April
More papers from the San
2000, Issue 28)

Francisco Meeting, New

See Wendy Steiner, The Scandal of Pleasure, 33,
36-37, 60-61. Steiner critiques the literalism of fundamen-
talists from both the right and the left. Also see Ruthven,
ch.3; Almond, Appleby, and Sivan, 96.

Tillich, “On the Idea of a Theology of Culture,” Publications, et al.
Tillich, The Courage to Be, 190.
Taylor, After God, 347.
Berger, “A Lutheran Approach,” 156, 159.
Ibid., 157.
Tillich, “On the Idea of a Theology of Culture,”
Ibid., 171-172.
Ibid., 167.
Tillich’s Theology and Cognitive Sci- the dawn of human history and in our primate ances-
ence: The Prospects for Theological tors. Such functions include kin recognition, cheater
Anthropology detection, predator detection, food recognition, and
so on.
Samuel M. Powell 3. It is associated with cognitive science in its view
of the mind, which it seems as a set of processes that
Editor’s Note: This paper was delivered at the receive informational inputs from the environment
annual meeting in Atlanta in 2010. and produce behavioral outputs.

Introduction Tillich and Freud

It is well known that Paul Tillich had a high regard To see contemporary Tillichians might find a dia-
for psychology and incorporated it into his theology. logue with evolutionary psychology helpful, let us
He had, for example, a lengthy and active involve- ask what Tillich found attractive in depth psychol-
ment in the New York Psychology Group.1 It is also ogy. To keep things simple, I will focus on Tillich’s
well known that he had a special love for depth psy- use of Freud, with only minor reference to Jung. I
chology—the sort represented by Sigmund Freud, will also focus on psychoanalytic theory and its con-
Carl Jung, and others. tribution to theology, omitting any consideration of
Although it would be unfair to say that depth psychoanalytic therapy. What follows are some of
psychology is today discredited, it is true that it does the most important points of attraction.
not enjoy either the public confidence or the profes- First, Tillich located Freud within a grand narra-
sional stature that it had in Tillich’s day. It was le- tive of Western intellectual history. Within this his-
gitimate for Tillich to make use of depth psychol- tory were two impulses: a rationalistic impulse (il-
ogy, for in his day the only serious alternative was lustrated by Thomas Aquinas, Erasmus, and Des-
the Behaviorist school of psychology, whose inter- cartes) and an irrationalist (Duns Scotus, Luther, and
ests and presuppositions were alien to Tillich’s. Pascal). The irrationalist tradition culminated, for
However, the situation today differs from Tillich’s. Tillich, in 19th century existentialists such as
The number of basic psychological approaches has Dostoevsky, with their focus on the will, the uncon-
multiplied, scientific research into the brain and be- scious, and estrangement.2 Tillich shared with this
havior has made importance advancements, and the tradition a common vocabulary (alienation, authen-
theological community has developed increasingly ticity, and so on) and a common suspicion of the
sophisticated ways of relating to extra-theological rationalistic tradition.
disciplines. Tillich believed that Freud had brought the intui-
The question, then, is this: what would a Tilli- tions of this tradition to clear idea and scientific pre-
chian approach to psychology look like today? I cision: “All the things which in these men were on-
suggest there are good reasons to suppose that Til- tological intuition or theological analysis now
lich would be intrigued by evolutionary psychology, through Freud became methodological scientific
cognitive science and other overtly scientific modes words. Freud, in his discovery of the unconscious,
of psychological study. In spite of their scientific rediscovered something that was known that was
character and lack of humanistic, therapeutic con- known long since, and had been used for many dec-
cerns, I believe that Tillichians today should be in- ades and even centuries to fight the victorious phi-
terested in incorporating their insights into theology losophy of consciousness.”3
just as Tillich incorporated the insights of depth psy- For Tillich, who regarded the dominance of phi-
chology. losophies of consciousness with alarm, Freud was
Evolutionary psychology can be characterized in important because he supported the belief that the
the following ways: most important aspect of human nature is not reason
1. It is an attempt to make psychology a rigorous but the unconscious. Tillich’s embrace of Freud was
science by bringing the subjects of mind and behav- a function of his theological concern that an empha-
ior into theoretical connection with biology and es- sis on consciousness went hand in hand with an em-
pecially with the theory of evolution. phasis on moralism in religion. Freud’s psychology
2. It argues that human cognition is an ensemble of of the unconscious rendered such moralism unten-
many discrete functions of the brain that evolved at able.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 21

This brings us to a second point, which is that Both existentialism and depth psychology are in-
Tillich located modern Protestantism within this terested in the description of man’s existential
same grand narrative about rationalism and the irra- predicament…in contrast to man’s essential na-
tional. Tillich was disappointed with Protestantism ture…The focus in both…is man’s estranged ex-
because, he averred, it was no longer a religion of istence…The term ‘therapeutic psychology’
redemption but was instead a religion of conven- shows clearly that here something that contra-
tional morality. It no longer saw sin as a power and dicts the norm, [something] that must be healed,
as estrangement but only as individual sins and un- is expressed.9
conventional behavior.4 This was not Tillich’s only Accordingly, Tillich criticized Jung and others
critique of Protestantism, but it was the one to which who, he believed, had lost Freud’s sense of existen-
he repeatedly returned. As indebted as he was to the tial estrangement, and “went more to an essentialist
heritage of liberal theology—the theology of Ritschl, and optimistic view of man.”10 They “have described
Herrmann, Harnack, and Troeltsch—his understand- the human situation as correctible and amendable, as
ing of religion, nourished by Romanticism and exis- a weakness only…In all these representatives of
tentialism, was inevitably different from their Kan- contemporary depth psychology I miss the feeling
tian-inspired connection between religion and moral for the irrational element that we have in Freud.”11
Persönlichkeit. At the same time, Tillich was not an uncritical
As Tillich argued, “The first and most funda- reader of Freud. In particular, he felt that Freud
mental point [for theology today] is the rediscovery was not able and willing to distinguish between
of the truth of the doctrine of man’s predicament as man’s essential and his existential nature…He is
professed by Augustine and the Reformers.”5 Semi- very consistent in his negative judgments about
Pelagianism “weakened the valuation both of the man as existentially distorted. If you see man
hidden power of sin and the unconditional power” of only from the point of view of existence and not
grace.6 “Protestant theology had to rediscover its from the points of view of essence, only from
own tradition about what man is and about what the point of view of estrangement and not from
healing powers are through the impact of the psy- the point of view of essential goodness, then this
chology of the unconscious.”7 consequence is unavoidable.12
In a theological context in which liberal opti- Freud, in other words, had performed an impor-
mism and moralism seemed triumphant, Tillich felt tant and necessary service to theology by supporting
that Freud’s elevation of the unconsciousness pro- a robust idea of sin and laying a psychological basis
vided a needed critique of Protestant moralism: for rejecting moralism, rationalism, and free will. He
But with the empirical rediscovery of the old had presented a scientific analysis of humankind’s
philosophical concept of the unconscious, he existential condition. However, Freud, like Existen-
broke through his own moralism…The redis- tialists generally, mistook an account of our existen-
covery of the unconscious was the confirmation tial situation for an account of human nature as such.
of the inability of autonomous morals to lead He had overlooked the essential elements of human
man to his fulfillment…Freud showed the ambi- nature. That is why, beyond psychotherapy, divine
guity of goodness as well as of evil, and in doing salvation is required:
so, he helped to undercut Protestant moralism. Neither Freudianism nor any purely existentialist
This perhaps was the most important existential- consideration can heal these fundamental pre-
ist contribution of psychoanalysis to the doctrine suppositions [i.e., the existential presuppositions
of man. Man is not what he believes himself to of every disease]…The existential structures
be in his conscious decisions.8 cannot be healed by the most refined techniques.
For Tillich, Freud’s concept of the unconscious They are objects of salvation. The analyst can be
not only connected him to the irrationalist tradition, an instrument of salvation…But as analyst he
but also called into question the liberal picture of cannot bring salvation by means of his medical
human beings as autonomous moral agents, possess- methods.13
ing freedom. Freud’s psychology, in alliance with Besides this criticism, Tillich resisted reduction-
existentialist philosophy, set forth a view of human istic approaches. Writing about psychotherapy, he
nature both less flattering than the liberal picture and noted that “it makes two answers impossible: the
more in tune with historic Protestant convictions neo-orthodox one and the humanistic one.” If the
about sin: humanistic answer were true, the divine would sim-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 22

ply be the religious function of the human spirit and (such as the theory of dreams) played no role in Til-
“healing would be self-healing. But only something lich’s thought. On the contrary, Tillich carefully
healthy can heal what is sick…[What is sick] can made use of just those elements of Freud’s theory
only receive healing powers from beyond itself.”14 that agreed with Tillich existential commitments. So,
In summary, Tillich forged an alliance with although evolutionary psychology seems quite re-
depth psychology for several reasons, including: (1) mote from existentialist concerns, it could be that so
the fact that he felt an affinity to the larger existen- far no one has arisen to point those concerns out.
tialist tradition of which it was a part; (2) Freud’s Does evolutionary psychology reveal anything
emphasis on the unconscious, which supported Til- about our existential situation? Yes, and much more
lich’s revolt against the Protestantism of his day; and than does Freud’s psychology. What were Freud’s
(3) the fact that Tillich found Freud’s psychology to contributions to existential analysis? (1) Discovery
be a fundamentally correct analysis of humanity’s of the unconscious, which helped undercut Protes-
existential condition. tant moralistic views of salvation; (2) the rediscov-
ery of sin and its interpretation as estrangement.17
Tillichian Theology and Evolutionary Psychology These are important, but they surely do not provide
an exhaustive analysis.
What, then, might Tillich find attractive about evolu- Evolutionary psychology helps us see more con-
tionary psychology and related disciplines? Why cretely than ever the ambiguous nature of human
should Tillichians pay attention to it? There are sev- morality, which evolutionary psychology views as
eral reasons. the result of evolutionary pressures and which, in
many respects is ill adapted to modern life. To give
Its Scientific Character another example, it connects us to our evolutionary
primate ancestors with far greater empirical depth
The first reason is because of its scientific character. and precision than Freud’s conjectures in Totem and
One of the things that distinguished Tillich was his Taboo, thus making our sense of freedom and tran-
willingness to dialogue with disciplines outside the- scendence more puzzling than ever.
ology. Naturally, there were limits to this willing- The contemporary Tillichian, therefore, will
ness—Tillich was more interested in some fields gladly engage evolutionary psychology as a dialog
than in others—but to practice theology in the Tilli- partner, not least because of its scientific character.18
chian spirit is to seek out dialog partners. In our Although claims that evolutionary psychology will
situation today, this inevitably means a dialog with finally give to psychology the scientific character
the sciences, at least in so far as science contributes that it has so long sought are, like all such claims,
to an analysis of humankind’s existential situation.15 premature, exaggerated, and unnecessary, evolution-
This observation raises the question of whether ary psychology does show promise of providing a
evolutionary psychology actually does provide in- firm and extensive empirical basis for understanding
sight into humanity’s existential situation. It cer- human nature. In this, it represents a distinct advance
tainly does seek to describe concrete human phe- on depth psychology.
nomena such as thought and behavior. However, it
does so without express association with existential- Its Monistic Commitments
ist (or any other) philosophy. For that reason, it will
look quite foreign to a Tillichian looking for a con- However, more is required of evolutionary psychol-
temporary equivalent to depth psychology. Evolu- ogy than its scientific character; accepting the results
tionary psychology cannot, therefore, be for a con- of a science is not the same as using those results to
temporary Tillichian everything that depth psychol- practice theology. What also recommends evolution-
ogy was for Tillich. Moreover, with the plurality of ary psychology is the way in which it understands
approaches in contemporary psychology, there can the mind.
be no possibility of evolutionary psychology consti- The premise of evolutionary psychology is that
tuting a complete psychological paradigm and theol- the mind is an ensemble of evolved functions, and
ogy’s sole dialog partner. thus the result of evolutionary pressures. The human
At the same time, it is important to remember organism, interacting with a dynamic environment,
that Tillich use of depth psychology was both selec- long ago evolved a set of basic cognitive functions
tive and eclectic.16 Many aspects of Freud’s theories that process information from the environment. It is
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 23

those functions that condition human thought and consisted in presenting “a cogent ontological de-
behavior today. scription of humanity’s experience of the ambiva-
It is clear from this premise that evolutionary lence of divine life in terms of psychological experi-
psychology views mind in thoroughly monistic ence and language, and, in so doing, elevat[ing] the
terms. Tillichians will find this view attractive (as psychological to the domains of the ontological and
long as it does not imply a reductionistic view of religious.”20 As Tillich himself admits, Freud’s exis-
God). This is because Tillich’s anthropology is mo- tential analysis had to be supplemented with a phi-
nistic. Spirit is the actualization of life; it is not a losophical description of humanity’s essential na-
spiritual substance: ture.
Spirit does not stand in contrast to body. Life as Tillich understood that theology makes use not
spirit transcends the duality of body and only of empirical disciplines but also of ontology.
mind…Life as spirit is the life of the soul, which The use of ontology places the results of psychology
includes mind and body, but not as realities in an appropriate framework and mediates them to
alongside the soul. Spirit is not a ‘part,’ nor is it theology. Tillich found it relatively easy to use depth
a special function. It is the all-embracing func- psychology since it was at home, to some extent, in
tion in which all elements of the structure of be- the existentialist tradition that Tillich loved. It had
ing participate. Life as spirit can be found by already received, so to speak, an ontological media-
man only in man, for only in him is the structure tion. Evolutionary psychology seems initially to of-
of being completely realized.19 fer little to the Tillichian because, in its attempt to be
Evolutionary psychology is one of the most scientific and lacking a humanistic background, it
thoroughgoing scientific expressions of anthropo- has received little philosophical mediation (except in
logical monism. Through its link with neuroscience so far as modern science counts as an ontology).
and cognitive science, it argues that mind is an en- Nonetheless, the important thing is not whether a
semble of cognitive functions that have evolved in psychology has connections with any particular phi-
just the way in which all biological properties have losophical tradition, but instead whether it truly dis-
evolved. Moreover, in comparison with traditional closes elements of humankind’s existential situation
materialistic views of mind, evolutionary psychol- that can be mediated to theology via ontology.
ogy has a detailed model of the mind that gains em- Evolutionary psychology can be a suitable dia-
pirical content from its link to neuroscience and logue partner for theological anthropology as long as
theoretical robustness from its link with cognitive it can be joined without contradiction to an ontology
science. It is not just philosophical materialism with of spirit. It does not have to imply the idea of spirit
scientific jargon. On the contrary, it has a powerful but need only be capable of being interpreted within
research agenda, capable of generating empirical an ontology of spirit.
data and spinning off fruitful sub-theories. Why then prefer evolutionary psychology to
Nevertheless, can this approach leave room for a Freudian psychology? Not only because of its supe-
Tillichian conception of spirit? Is not its detailed rior scientific—empirical and theoretical—character,
explanation of humanity’s evolved functions so re- but also because it is perhaps the most consistent and
ductionistic as to eliminate any consideration of empirically informed statement of monism.
spirit? Although the task is daunting, it is not neces-
sarily more daunting than the task of merging Til- Its View of the Unconscious
lich’s concept of spirit with Freud’s view of the self.
Freud was, in his own way, as monistic and materi- Tillich valued depth psychology because it had
alistic as are evolutionary psychologists. No one given powerful theoretical and therapeutic content to
who began with Freud’s psychology would end up the idea of the unconscious. It thereby offered a se-
with Tillich’s view of the spirit. vere critique of rationalistic and moralistic views of
Yet, it is not required that the theologian derive human nature.
the idea of spirit from an empirical science. A Tilli- If this critique is important to Tillichians, they
chian view of spirit is not a deduction from psycho- ought to receive evolutionary psychology with en-
logical science, whether Freudian or evolutionary. A thusiasm. Evolutionary psychology, in conjunction
Tillichian view of spirit is instead an addition to with neuroscience, posits of view of mind in which
psychology based on ontological analysis. rational decisions and ideas appear, not so much the
According to John Dourley, Tillich’s method cause of action, as the result of complex neural
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 24

events. Conscious thought, in other words, is not the poses that the ‘whole’ is a harmony of contrasting
most salient fact in human action and morality. Most forces. This idea was first expressed in connection
salient are the cognitive capacities, linked to specific with health, bodily and psychic, by the Pythagorean
regions of the brain, which enable us to perform Alkmaion…[and was later used by Hippocrates and
many everyday moral judgments and calculations Galen] who considered disease as a disturbance of
unconsciously and almost instantaneously. the harmonious constitution of the body based on the
What Tillich found most important in Freud’s balance of dynameis or juices…This tradition con-
view of the unconscious was two things: first, “con- tinued in Paracelsus, in the early 19th century psy-
firmation of the inability of autonomous morals to chologists, and in Schelling…The present day dy-
lead man to his fulfillment…Freud showed the am- namic psychology of the unconscious belongs
biguity of goodness as well as of evil, and in doing clearly to this line of thought, from which it bor-
so, he helped to undercut Protestant moralism. This rows…the basic idea of illness as the disturbance of
perhaps was the most important existentialist contri- a dynamic balance by conflicting drives.24
bution of psychoanalysis to the doctrine of man. This view of the self reflects the influence of
Man is not what he believes himself to be in his con- Friedrich Schelling, for whom being consists of
scious decisions.”21 Second, “To the degree in which tensed opposites. The self, for Tillich, is essentially
the unconscious motivations were discovered, even “a harmony of contrasting forces.” These forces in-
in our fully conscious acts, the appeal to ‘free will’ habit (or constitute) the “intermediate area” between
became impossible. The question now had to be: body and soul—the unconscious. Illness in this mid-
How can unconscious motivations be changed? And dle area occurs when, under the conditions of exis-
the answer was: By forces which enter the uncon- tence, the contrasting forces become conflicting.
scious even if the entering door is consciousness.”22 Salvation is the restoration of balance, the overcom-
The concept of the unconscious, then, performed ing of conflict. (Of course, salvation shares in the
two services: (1) it critiqued an ensemble of con- ambiguity of all life and is only provisional and
cepts (free will, conventional morality, rationality, fragmentary.)
consciousness) which constituted a decadent anthro- Freud’s psychology lent itself to an anthropol-
pology; and (2) it identified the ontological location ogy based on conflicting forces. Does evolutionary
of the divine Spirit’s work on the human person. The psychology? In at least one important respect, evolu-
view of evolutionary psychology clearly performs tionary psychology is analogous to Freud’s theory.
the first of these services. Anyone who takes the an- For Freud, one of the fundamental conflicts within
thropology implicit in evolutionary psychology must the person is between the demands of the id and
revise the idea of human agency, thought, and mo- those of the super-ego. Each creates its own sort of
rality. But can it perform the second function? Can it anxiety. The task of the ego is to find ways of reduc-
identify the place of estrangement and sin? This is, ing these two sorts of anxiety in healthy ways, such
perhaps, the most problematic aspect of evolutionary as sublimation. Evolutionary psychologists have no
psychology for a Tillichian. patience for Freud’s language, but they are con-
The unconscious was important ultimately for cerned about the central insight of Freud’s theory,
Tillich because it was the field in which salvation namely that there is a conflict between our instinc-
and healing take place: tive desires and the demands of morality.
The basic problem in the relation of religion and If we abstract from Freud’s particular conceptu-
health is the ‘intermediate area’ [between body ality of id and super-ego, we can say with fairness
understood as mechanism and soul understood that evolutionary psychology likewise locates a con-
as consciousness], the psychic, including the un- flict between the rather “hard-wired” cognitive and
conscious, the ‘drives,’–that which is open to behavioral processes given to us by evolution and
magic or psychotherapy. The whole doctrine of the moral demands of human life. On one hand,
man is centered in this problem.23 there are powerful evolutionary incentives to coop-
For Tillich, existential estrangement is found con- erate with and care for those who are genetically in
cretely to the extent that we are not centered selves. close relationship to us. On the other hand, most
In other words, whereas our essential nature is to be people feel the moral force of injunctions to love the
centered selves, existentially we are a mass of drives neighbor, regardless of genetic connection. The ten-
that conflict. Tillich commented on the idea of dis- dencies of evolutionarily guided sexual behavior
turbance in the ‘whole’ [person] itself. This presup- likewise conflicts with the moral and legal precepts
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 25

of most societies.
Perhaps, then, what is called for is a more pre- 138.
cise conception of morality that locates the funda- Paul Tillich, “The Impact of Pastoral Psychology on
mental place of conflict, not in the person, but in the Theological Thought,” in The Meaning of Health: Essays
interaction between the evolved brain and our moral in Existentialism, Psychoanalysis, and Religion, ed. Perry
sense. Of course, our moral sense is not disembod- LeFevre, 144-50 (Chicago: Exploration Press, 1984), 144.
ied; it is a product of the brain. Perhaps the point is “The Impact of Pastoral Psychology on Theological
that historical communities have the capacity to cre- Thought,” 145.
ate moral insight and sensitivity that transcends “The Impact of Pastoral Psychology on Theological
evolved human nature. If so, then maybe spirit is a Thought,” 145.
function of human communities interacting with the Paul Tillich, “Existentialism and Psychotherapy,” in
evolved brain. To speak of spirit, then, would be to The Meaning of Health: Essays in Existentialism, Psy-
speak of a harmony between evolution and morality. choanalysis, and Religion, ed. Perry LeFevre, 151-64
(Chicago: Exploration Press, 1984), 158-159.
Concluding Questions “Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,”
My purpose in this essay has been to explore the “Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,”
possibility of a Tillich-inspired engagement between 134.
theology and evolutionary psychology. Necessarily, “Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,”
I have been overly brief and adumbrative. Any fu- 137.
ture development of this engagement would need to “Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,”
consider the following questions: 135.
• Can the idea of the centered self, which is so “Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,”
important for Tillich’s concept of freedom and 137. Elsewhere (“Existentialism and Psychotherapy,”
spirit, be sustained if we take evolutionary psy- 160-162) Tillich discussed the difference between neu-
chology seriously? rotic anxiety, which is amendable to psychotherapy, and
• Is evolutionary psychology compatible with a existential anxiety, which is not.
Tillichian ontology? “The Impact of Pastoral Psychology on Theologi-
• What are the points of tension between Til- cal Thought,” 149.
lich’s thought and evolutionary psychology? Just Orville S. Walters comments on Tillich’s overly
as psychology can heal neurotic anxiety but not generous estimation of depth psychology’s scientific
existential anxiety, what are the limits of evolu- character: “Tillich depreciated the importance of con-
tionary psychology– what can only grace do? scious activity and overestimated the scientific status of
• What is the therapeutic and pastoral contribu- psychoanalysis.…The repeated references to scientific
tion of evolutionary psychology and ancillary discovery imply an empirical foundation. Tillich treats the
psychological disciplines? How do they describe unconscious as an existent explanatory entity rather than
or address existential concerns? as a descriptive term denoting mental material that is
more or less inaccessible.” “Psychodynamics in Tillich's
See Allison Stokes, Ministry after Freud. New Theology,” Journal of Religion and Health 12/4 (1973):
York: The Pilgrim Press, 1985. Chapter 6, pp. 109-141 346. This quotation points to Tillich’s validation of scien-
discusses the New York Psychology Group. See also: tific criteria, even if he misapplied them in this case.
Terry D. Cooper, Paul Tillich and Psychology: Historic “Tillich does not consistently follow any one model
and Contemporary Explorations in Theology, Psycho- of personality, but uses terms from both Freud and Jung,
therapy, and Ethics, Mercer Tillich Studies. Macon, GA: although the two systems are incompatible,” Orville S.
Mercer University Press, 2006, chapters 4-5. Walters, “Psychodynamics in Tillich's Theology,” Jour-
Paul Tillich, “Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and nal of Religion and Health 12/4 (1973): 343.
Theology,” in The Meaning of Health: Essays in Existen- “Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,”
tialism, Psychoanalysis, and Religion, ed. Perry LeFevre, 138.
131-39 (Chicago: Exploration Press, 1984), 133. Admittedly, Tillich’s conception of science was
“Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,” probably more in tune with the Germanic tradition than
134. with the empirical tradition and its conception of science.
“Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, and Theology,” Moreover, the dialog may well be one-sided, with the
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 26

theologian learning from the psychologist but with little Russell Re Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge University
motivation for the psychologist to listen to the theologian. Press, 2009), 241.
But was it really much different in Tillich’s day? Al- “Existentialism and Psychotherapy,” 159.
though Tillich shared the vocabulary of estrangement “The Impact of Pastoral Psychology on Theologi-
with Erich Fromm, was Fromm’s psychology materially cal Thought,” 145.
affected by Tillich’s theology? Paul Tillich, “The Relationship of Religion and
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology: Three Volumes Health: Historical Considerations and Theoretical Ques-
in One (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), tions,” The Review of Religion 10:4 (Ma7 1946):376.
1:250. “The Relationship of Religion and Health: Histori-
John Dourley, “Tillich in Dialogue with Psychol- cal Considerations and Theoretical Questions,” 371-372.
ogy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Paul Tillich, ed. ________________________________________

Tillich at the Tip of the Spear realize it most concretely—in armed conflict for in-
Jeffrey Moore Although Tillich’s ethical thought does not ex-
plicitly deal with “combat ethics,” it, like the rest of
Editor’s Note: This paper was delivered at the his thought, was forged and recast through the expe-
annual meeting in Atlanta in 2010. rience of military chaplaincy.5 As a chaplain for the
German Army in World War I, Tillich lived,
Humanity (and human beings) is (are) “es- thought, and ministered on the front where he “be-
tranged from the ground of [their] being, from other came a grave-digger as well as a pastor.”6 These ex-
beings and from [themselves].”1 Love, as the “striv- periences and the thought that they informed make
ing for the reunion of the separated,” is able to over- Tillich an ideal dialogue partner as we seek to think
come this estrangement.2 Yet, this estrangement is ethics “at the tip of the spear.”
only ever overcome in “fragmentary and ambigu-
ous” ways.3 By locating our lives within love, we Ethics
place ourselves on the boundary as we experience The ethical dilemma for Tillich lies in the ten-
estrangement, its being overcome, and its remaining sion between absolutism and relativism. Tillich’s
lingering effect. solution is to overcome this dichotomy by choosing
As Tillich says, “The human boundary-situation both as opposed to either. “There must be something
is encountered when human possibility reaches its immovable in the ethical principle, the criterion and
limit, when human existence is confronted by an standard of all ethical change. And there must be a
ultimate threat.”4 During the Cold War, the notion power of change within the ethical principle itself;
and policy of mutually assured destruction (MAD) and both must be united.”7 What he finds that is able
suggested that war could have been and was an ulti- to be both eternal and realized in finite ways is love.
mate threat. Although the Cold War has ended, war “Love alone can transform itself according to the
remains a reminder of the human boundary- concrete demands of every individual and social
situation, even when it is only a penultimate threat. situation without losing its eternity and dignity and
Tillich offers love as way to develop an ethic unconditional validity.”8
that is both eternal and able to experience change. I In Love, Power and Justice, Tillich seeks to un-
want to explore this ethical theory “at the tip of the derstand the relationship between these three primal
spear,” where warrior confronts warrior. It is at the realities through ontology. He argues that, “the prob-
tip of the spear that we experience as is that this let- lems of love, power, and justice categorically de-
ter to overcome it with any permanence. What I mand an ontological foundation and a theological
hope to show is how Tillich’s thought, how thinking view in order to be saved from the vague talk, ideal-
with Tillich and perhaps beyond Tillich (beyond in ism, and cynicism with which they are usually
the sense of having gone through), will allow us to treated. Man cannot solve any of his great problems
envision some fragmentary ways in which we might if he does not see them in light of his own being and
overcome our estrangement even at the moments we of being-itself.”9
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 27

Even as Tillich seeks to ground solutions to the ontological perspective, morality is not “inevitable”
problem of love ontologically, he finds himself or “determined” in any sense.20 “Morality is the ab-
pushing toward a pre-ontological solution.10 “Meta- solute beginning.”21
physically speaking,” he tells us, love “is as old as It is at this point that Bauman helps us move into
being itself.” He even goes so far as to say that love Tillich’s unthought. Bauman tells us that, “morality
was a “god” before it “became a rational [quality] of is endemically and irredeemably non-rational.”22
being.”11 There can be “no definition of This is the indefinable love that serves as the mean-
love…because there is no higher principle by which ing of ethics. It transcends all concrete realizations
it could be defined.”12 in indefinable infinity, and it is simultaneously em-
Heidegger tells us that the uniqueness and great- bodied in “the forms and structures in which life is
ness of a thinker is to be found in the inexhaustible possible.”23 This tension between love’s infinite con-
and “unthought” within his or her thought.13 What sistency and particular realization are what constitute
remains unthought in Tillich is this idea of love as a morality that is filled with a “gnawing sense of
the pre-ontological ground.14 In order to mine the unfulfilledness.”24 Because there is always “more of
depths of this unthought in Tillich, we shall engage love” that can be realized, the “moral self is always
his thinking along two different trajectories. haunted by the suspicion that it is not moral
The experiential roots of morality in the person-to- The first way in which we have engaged the
person encounter unthought in Tillich was through Bauman’s articula-
Tillich’s ethical thought is significantly influ- tion of morality as pre-ontological. Bauman’s lan-
enced by the thinking of Martin Buber’s I and guage of the willingness to let the command come to
Thou.15 Buber’s mystical thinking locates the emer- us and command us before we even know what will
gence of the individual in the direct encounter of be commanded points us in a second direction (sec-
another subject. Every time that immediate experi- ond more in the sense of following than in the sense
ence is abandoned and subject is transformed into an of taking a different way, or of taking different steps
object (Thou into It, to use Buber’s language) this along the same path) that helps us understand the
encounter is lost. Objects, according to Buber, are pre-ontological dimension of morality. This has been
able to be surveyed, coordinated, ordered, and ulti- articulated in Heidegger and subsequently in Marion
mately understood. The confrontation between two and Caputo in the language of the call.
subjects (I and Thou) avoids being understood; it
comes in the way of a pure confrontation. As soon as Call
we seek to understand and classify the other, we The notion of the call continues to think out the
have objectified him or her. We have failed to en- unthought in Tillich.26 It moves us into that preon-
counter the other as a radical subject. Tillich de- tological space. As Marion has articulated, “Before
scribes Buber’s articulation here as the “experiential Being has claimed, the call as pure call claims.”27 Or,
root of morality.”16 as Caputo has suggested, the event of the call is be-
Following the work of Lévinas, Zygmunt Bau- yond being.28
man articulates the roots of morality in the willing- In the second chapter of the second section of
ness to let the other make demands upon us. For the Being and Time, Heidegger takes up Dasein’s at-
ability-to-be-commanded to be moral, our response testation of an authentic potentiality-for-being, and
must be more than compulsory. Morality exists resoluteness (Die daseinsmäßige Bezeugung eines
when we are free to ignore or disregard the com- eigentlichen Seinkönnens und die Entschlossenheit).
mand and yet obey it. Morality transcends being Heidegger argues that Dasein gets carried along with
when “…I am willing to listen to the command be- the nobody and finds authenticity by bringing “itself
fore the command has been spoken, and to follow back from the ‘they.’”29 Dasein finds itself. Dasein is
the command before I know what it commands me brought back to itself by the call of conscience:
to do.”17 If we analyze conscience more penetratingly, it
What this means for Bauman is that “morality is is revealed as a call. Calling is a mode of dis-
before ontology; for is before with.”18 Acknowledg- course. The call of conscience has the character
ing the ontological impossibility of placing some- of an appeal to Dasein by calling it to its own-
thing “before being,” Bauman still proceeds to state most potentiality-for-Being-its-Self; and this is
that, “Ethically, morality is before being.”19 From the
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 28

done by way of summoning to its ownmost Be- self/herself) aloof from any way of becoming
ing-guilty.30 known. We should hear Tillich talking of being
Heidegger tells us that the “call is from afar unto grasped by the God beyond God. With the pure form
afar.” (Gerufen wird aus der Ferne in die Ferne.)31 of the call, we are again returned to that pre-
Heidegger tells us that the call of conscience comes ontological space. In Marion’s words,
in the mode of keeping silent and that the summons …I recognized myself as inetloqué well before
comes without calling for anything. Furthermore, having consciousness or knowledge not only of
Heidegger tells us that the call “does not require us my eventual subjectivity, but especially of what
to search gropingly for him to whom it appeals.”32 leaves me interloqué. The imprecision, the inde-
This is because “Der Rufer des Rufes” (that which cision, and indeed the confusion of the claiming
calls the call) “simply holds itself aloof from any instance attests much rather that in the beginning
way of becoming well-known.”33 Heidegger will go is found the pure form of the call, as
on to say that “Das Dasein ruft im Gewissen sich such…Without knowing either by whom or by
selbst.”34 Yet this location of the call in Dasein’s self what, I know myself from the beginning already
does not violate Heidegger’s position that being inerloqué.37
drawn into being considered and talked about goes We can think of being for before we are because
against the kind of Being of the caller. we are always already interloqué. It is in this sense
Indeed the call is precisely something which we that we are morally grounded and constituted. For
ourselves have neither planned nor prepared for Tillich, the tension between this absolute call and
nor voluntarily performed, nor have we ever our relative, finite, and temporal responses to it are
done so. ‘It’ calls, against our expectations and summed up in the notion of love, which is however
even against our will. On the other hand, the call indefinable.38 It is Der Rufer das Rufes.
undoubtedly does not come from someone else The time and space of this paper do not allow us
who is with me in the world. The call comes the liberty to further examine the unthought in Til-
from me and yet from beyond me and over me.35 lich. Having briefly sketched the ways in which love
In words that foreshadow Caputo’s weak theol- grounds ethics in a preontological space-time, we
ogy, Tillich rethinks the nature of the call with the move into the space-time of the warrior and look at
locution “being grasped.” Although the idea is re- ways in which love is realized within the historical
peated within his thought under the idea of the kai- moments of combat.
ros and the tension between the transcendent and Does this theory of morality allow for truth to be
imminent in the kingdom of God, it is perhaps most determined along pragmatic lines? In order to an-
clearly found near the conclusion to The Courage to swer that question, we return with Tillich to the
Be. front, to the tip of the spear. Can we apply this non-
Absolute faith, or the state of being grasped by rational (pre-rational/ pre-ontological) notion of mo-
the God beyond God, is not a state which ap- rality to warriors in the “thick of the fight?”
pears beside other states of the mind. It never is
something separated and definite, an event War
which could be isolated and described. It is al- As Walzer points out, “the world of war is not a
ways a movement in, with, and under other fully comprehensible, let alone a morally satisfac-
states of mind. It is the situation on the boundary tory place.”39 Our desires and attempts to understand
of man’s possibilities. It is the boundary…It is and make it more satisfactory are continually
not a place where one can live, it is without the thwarted. As Baumann points out, we cannot defeat
safety of words and concepts, it is without a ambivalence. We can only “learn to live with it.”40
name, a church, a cult, a theology. But it is mov-
ing in the depth of all of them.36 Calling
When Caputo tells us that the “hiddenness of the Dick Couch argues that being a warrior is not
source is actually constitutive of the call, part of its something one turns on and off. It is an identity that
positive phenomenal makeup, a positive function of pervades one’s life. They “follow a warrior ethos”
its weak force, and a permanent feature of our anar- both “in combat” and “off duty and in garrison.”41
chic and weakened theological condition,” we Those who live this way “find virtue and nobility in
should hear Heidegger behind his thinking saying their calling.”42
that Der Rufer des Rufes holds itself (him-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 29

The men and women of the United States Mili- that was inflicted directly and indirectly by this indi-
tary are an all-volunteer, or as Martin Cook sug- vidual. As he reflects on guilt and innocence, he
gests, an all-recruited military force. Those who looks back on the four years he spent on the front
serve represent less than one percent of the larger and how those he served with “didn’t want to kill.”
population and are “unrepresentative of” and Now, it is very difficult—indeed, often impossi-
“deeply alienated from” the “society [they] serve.”43 ble—for a refined, sensitive person to slay a
Brennan identifies the source of this alienation in the guilty person, because a refined sensitive person
militaries hermetic nature, which seals “it off from accommodates himself to others, and what he
the large, inchoate civilian society, and in this re- must do to others, he does to himself. And it is
sides at once its difference, its obligation, its sense difficult for a refined, sensitive, human person to
of isolation, and its honor.”44 This separation and slay the enemy on the battlefield, because he has
difference simultaneously necessitates and generates a sense of him as the son of a mother or as the
the call. husband of a wife or as the father of children.48
The modern member of the military is one who Tillich’s observations are reinforced by the re-
has answered a call for which the caller remains hid- search of S.L.A. Marshall, whose research Grossman
den by the sheer multiplicity of possible callers. reviews. Marshall initially interviewed soldiers com-
They are called by their own conscience, their own ing off the line in World War II. Based on these in-
desire for a better life. They are called by recruiting terviews he concluded that only 15 to 20 percent
campaigns. They are called by their nation. They are actually fired their weapons at the enemy.49 Gross-
called by communities (civic and private). They are man reinforces the point that this was not simply a
called by those whose presence on a field of battle form of sentimentality or a sign of weakness. These
summons others to respond to their challenge. They combatants were “courageous and strong.”50 “Those
are called by those who ask for help and those who who would not fire did not run or hide (in many
cannot. They are called by justice. cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue
Although the call originates from “we know not comrades, get ammunitions, or run messages), but
where,” we know all too well to where those who they simply would not fire their weapons at the en-
are called must go. emy, even when faced with repeated waves of ban-
If we accept that we need an army, then we must zai charges.”51
accept that it has to be as capable of surviving as These numbers have been reversed through con-
we can make it. But if society prepares a soldier certed effort within the military.52 As Grossman puts
to overcome his resistance to killing and places it, “every modern soldier or police officer who
him in an environment in which he will kill, then shoots at a silhouette or a photo-realistic target or a
that society has an obligation to deal forth- video training simulator should take a moment to
rightly, intelligently, and morally with the result remember and thank S. L. A. Marshall.”53 More
and its repercussions upon the soldier and the combatants are actually killing.
society.45 In order to navigate the challenges for the war-
rior in combat, Grossman provides us with a contin-
On Killing uum that seeks to help us identify the different ways
Grossman argues that “Looking another human a warrior kills. On the one end, he would put slaying
being in the eye, making an independent decision to the noble enemy. At the other end of the spectrum,
kill him, and watching as he dies due to your action he puts executions. Between the two, he puts am-
combine to form one of the most basic, important, bushes and slaying the ignoble enemy.54 Much
primal, and potentially traumatic occurrences of thought today reflects on how technological ad-
war.”46 Tillich speaks of the resistance to killing that vances in weaponry place killing more in the middle
Grossman says must be overcome.47 of this continuum.55 The warrior is not necessarily
June 4, 1942, SS-Obergruppenfüher Tristan asked to make sense of the ambiguity, but to live
Heydrich dies from wounds sustained by an assassi- with it.56
nation attack coordinated by the Czechoslovak gov-
ernment in exile and executed by the British Special The person-to-person encounter in battle
Operations Executive. Four days later, Paul Tillich One way that warriors seek to eliminate the am-
addresses the German people via “The Voice of biguity of the space-time of battle is through the de-
America.” Tillich talks about the death and suffering humanization of the enemy. This “impulse to dehu-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 30

manize and disrespect the enemy must be resisted, human state into which Achilles has tragically
whether its basis is religious, nationalistic, or racist. fallen. Homer’s warriors are never weakened by
The soldier’s physical and psychological survival is respecting the enemy.63
at stake.”57 Resisting this impulse begins with the Shay’s insight on this reality within our culture
pre-ontological grounding of the second-personal is particularly astute. What he fails to give adequate
standpoint that is articulated by Tillich, Buber, Levi- time and space to is the complexity of culture that
nas, Bauman, et al. That this thinking is rooted in produces both those who dishonor the enemy and
Jewish and Christian traditions is complicated when those who honor the enemy. The same cultures pro-
Shay argues that it is “biblical culture, which insists duce both kinds of people, or even produce the same
on turning every story into a war of good and evil behavior within the same person.64 The enemy is
and a drama of blame and punishment.”58 honored and dehumanized within classic Greek
thought. The enemy is honored and dehumanized
Classical Greek Morality versus Ethical within the biblical literature. The enemy is honored
Monotheism and dehumanized by contemporary warriors.
Shay’s study compares the stories of Vietnam The desire to distinguish between Greek and
combat veterans with Homer’s story of the Iliad. Biblical sources and to set them up in a polar rela-
Shay shows how damaging it is for warriors to dis- tionship is very old. References to Jerusalem and
honor the enemy, to see them as non human through Athens are many in the Christian tradition and they
the use of derogatory slang. When he compares the are present from its beginning. Tillich is but one ex-
racism and dehumanizing tendency in Vietnam with ample of those who have found this dichotomy to be
the Iliad he demonstrates a drastic difference. In the false. We are not Greek or ethical monotheists. Our
Iliad, the warriors honor their foes. His conclusion is identities, as Terrence Tilley so aptly put it, are
that the source of the “modern habit of dehumaniz- muddy.65 We are Greek and ethical monotheists.66
ing the enemy originates in biblical religion.”59 Ultimately, Shay’s simple dichotomy fails and we
Shay reaches this conclusion by comparing and are left with a complex problem with no easy an-
contrasting the communication between combatants swers.
in the Iliad with that of communication David and Dismissing Shay’s dichotomy of Greek/ biblical
Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Within Homer’s epic, the must not cause us to avoid the hard work involved in
combatants maintained respect for the enemy. The resisting our tendency to dehumanize the enemy.
enemy was seen as equally good, valiant, and holy. The way to overcome this tension within our tradi-
This is contrasted by the way in which “Philistine” tions is not to remove the ambiguity of the other but
sounds like a racial epitaph in the exchange between to fully encounter them as stranger and other. All
David and Goliath. There is even a contrast between attempts to avoid this ambiguity through either uni-
the tone of Goliath’s challenge and David’s. versal rules or particular relativism “turns into poi-
Shay notes that the key difference is that David son.”67
identifies divine favor for Israel’s cause. This is con-
trasted with Hector in the Iliad who “does not boast Conclusions
of divine favor, even though he knows he has it.”60 Tillich made clear the need of attributing human
Shay draws from the contrast here that modern dignity to “every person—even the enemy, even the
forms of nationalism and racism have developed weak, even the foreigner.”68 An ethic of love rooted
from the biblical idea that “God’s enemies should be in notions of calling the second-personal standpoint
exterminated like vermin.”61 The final result is the points a way forward for warriors engaged “at the tip
form of a new form of patriotism. Patriotism, loyal- of the spear.” Current military literature suggests
nationalism “has taken over the biblical tendency to that this is not wide-eyed optimism but rather the
measure loyalty by how vehemently one dehuman- way many in our military already see the situation.69
izes the enemy.”62 As he says: As this project took shape and I explained what I
The Judeo-Christian (and Islamic). worldview envisioned discussing, the comment that often arose
has triumphed so completely over the Homeric was that it seemed silly to think about ethics at the
world view that dishonoring the enemy now tip of the spear. In that situation, when the door was
seems natural, virtuous, patriotic, pious. Yet in being taken and guns were blazing, it was kill or be
the Iliad only Achilles disrespects the enemy. In killed. In such situations, they argued, it is so obvi-
Homer’s world, this is not a natural but an in- ously right to kill that the question does not even
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 31

make sense. I hope that Shay, Grossman, et al. have Darwall, Stephen. The Second-Person Standpoint:
helped to demonstrate that the ethical considerations Morality, Respect and Accountability. Cam-
at the tip of the spear involve not whether one kills, bridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.
or even necessarily how or who one kills. What mat- Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Women and War. Chicago:
ters is how one sees the enemy and understands the The University of Chicago Press, 1987.
killing that one does oneself. However, as Shay so Feaver, Peter D. Armed Servants: Agency, Over-
eloquently opines, the ethical choice to see the world sight, and Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge:
in this way “cannot be coerced. It can only be called Harvard University Press, 2003.
forth by persuasion, education, and welcoming ap- Fields, Rick. The Code of the Warrior: In History,
peal.”70 Myth, and Everyday Life. New York: Harper
Much of current military training in ethics is Collins Publishers, 1991.
based on virtue models and deontological models. Grossman, Dave, with Loren W. Christensen. On
The radical ambiguity of life and combat in the Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of
twenty-first century suggest that a more dynamic Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace. Millstadt,
and robust approach to ethical existence (thinking Illinois: Warrior Science Publications, 2008.
and being in a way that acknowledges being for be- Grossman, Dave. On Killing: The Psychological
fore being with) is needed. I think that Tillich’s ethi- Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.
cal thoughts around love open up a vibrant way of New York: Little Brown and Company, 2009.
thinking through ethical existence that avoids the Hallock, Daniel. Hell, Healing and Resistance: Vet-
traps of relativism and absolutism. Thinking with erans Speak. Farmington: The Plough Publish-
Tillich and thinking the un-thought in Tillich are ing House, 1998.
helpful resources for ethical development whether Hauser, Marc D. Moral Minds: How Nature De-
one finds oneself at the tip of the spear or not. signed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.
New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.
Bibliography Hazlitt, Henry. The Foundations of Morality. Los
Angeles: Nash Publishing, 1972.
Beebe, Shannon D., and Mary H. Kaldor. The Ulti- Kaplan, Robert D. Warrior Politics: Why Leader-
mate Weapon is No Weapon: Human Security ship Demands A Pagan Ethos. New York: Ran-
and the New Rules of War and Peace. New dom House, Inc., 2002.
York: Public Affairs, 2010. Keegan, John. The Face of Battle. New York: Pen-
Brennan, Joseph Gerard. Foundations of Moral Ob- guin Books, 1976.
ligation: The Stockdale Course. Novato: Presi- Marion, Jean-Luc. Reduction and Givenness: Inves-
dio Press, 1992. tigations of Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenome-
Buber, Martin. I and Thou, trans. Walter Kaufmann. nology. Evanston: Northwestern University
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970. Press, 1998.
Celeski, Joseph D. Hunter-Killer Teams: Attacking Nardin, Terry, ed. The Ethics of War and Peace:
Enemy Safe Havens. Hulburt Field: The JSOU Religious and Secular Perspectives. Princeton:
Press, 2010. Princeton University Press, 1996.
Cole, Darrell. When God Says War is Right: The Pauck, Wilhelm and Marion. Paul Tillich: His Life
Christian’s Perspective on When and How to & Thought, Volume 1: Life. New York: Harper
Fight. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, and Row, Publishers, 1976.
2002. Pearse, Meic. The Gods of War: Is Religion the Pri-
Cook, Martin L. The Moral Warrior: Ethics and mary Cause of Violent Conflict? Downers
Service in the U.S. Military. Albany: State Uni- Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007.
versity of New York Press, 2004. Rhodes, Bill. An Introduction to Military Ethics: A
Couch, Dick. A Tactical Ethic: Moral Conduct in Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-
the Insurgent Battlespace. Annapolis: Naval In- CLIO, LLC, 2009.
stitute Press, 2010. Shay, Jonathan. Achilles in Vietnam: Combat
Crawford, George A. Manhunting: Counter-Network Trauma and The Undoing of Character. New
Organization for Irregular Warfare. Hurlburt York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1994.
Field: The JSOU Press, 2009.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 32

Sherman, Nancy. Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Phi-

losophy Behind the Military Mind. New York: the war. This places Tillich’s thinking on the side of jus
Oxford University Press, 2005. ad bellum, as opposed to the question of jus in bello.
Smith, Rupert. The Utility of Force: The Art of War Wilhelm & Marion Pauck, Paul Tillich (New York:
in the Modern World. New York: Alfred A. Harper and Row, Publishers, 1976), 45.
Knopf, 2007. The Protestant Era, 154. That this solution is
Sreenivasan, Gopal. “Duties and Their Direction,” in theonomous, is easily recognized to the reader familiar
Ethics (April 2010): 465-494. with Tillich. Schweitzer’s excellent introduction to Mo-
Stenger, Mary Ann and Ronald H. Stone. Dialogues rality and Beyond, makes the theonomous nature of Til-
of Paul Tillich. Atlanta: Mercer University lich’s ethical thought quite explicit.
Press, 2002. The Protestant Era, 155.
Taylor, Paul W. Principles of Ethics: An Introduc- 124-125.
tion. Encino: Dickenson Publishing Company, Tillich’s drive toward a pre-ontological solution is
Inc., 1975. also created in his use of the locution “ground of being.”
Tillich, Paul. Against the Third Reich: Paul Tillich’s In that the ground is that from out of which being rises
Wartime Radio Broadcasts into Nazi Germany, and into which being returns and is ultimately prior to
eds. Ronald H. Stone and Matthew Lon Weaver. being, it is pre-ontological.
Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998. 21
Tillich, Paul. Love, Power and Justice: Ontological The Protestant Era, 160. Again in Love, Power and
Analyses and Ethical Applications. New York: Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 21.
Oxford University Press, 1954. Heidegger, What is Called Thinking, trans. J. Glenn
Tillich, Paul. The Protestant Era, trans. James Lu- Gray (New York: Harper Collins, 1968), 76.
ther Adams Chicago: The University of Chicago Heidegger’s language of “unthought” suggests a
Press, 1957. certain arrogance in the interpreter being able to think
Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology: Volume Two, what the original thinker could not. Heidegger seeks to
Existence and the Christ. Chicago: The Univer- mitigate this by indicating that the unthought is not a lack,
sity of Chicago Press, 1957. yet one could argue that unarticulated might be a more
Walzer, Michael Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral humble way of identifying the phenomenon and that the
Argument with Historical Illustrations. New pre-ontological is unarticulatable for Tillich. Although
York: Basic Books, 1977. Heidegger’s language is used, it is acknowledged that it
Wilson, James Q. The Moral Sense. New York: The has a variety of complications, not the least of which is
Free Press, 1993. the suggestion of interpretive arrogance.
Wright, Evan. Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, The fourteenth chapter of a Theology of Culture
Captain America, and the New Face of Ameri- makes this relationship explicit and provides Tillich’s
can War. New York: The Berkley Publishing interpretation and presentation of Buber’s thought.
Group, 2008. Tillich, Morality and Beyond, 36.
Bauman, Postmodern Ethics, 73.
1 18
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume Two Bauman, 71; emphasis in original.
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 44. Bauman, 75.
2 20
Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume Two, 47, Bauman, 75.
3 21
Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume Two, 177. See Bauman, 74.
also, 165-180. Bauman, 60. Tillich’s work with the idea of relig-
Tillich, The Protestant Era, trans. James Luther ious ecstasy help us to reframe this understanding of non-
Adams (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957) rational. Tillich argue that the ecstatic state “does not de-
197. stroy the rational structure of the mind.” (ST I, 113) Thus,
Mary Ann Stenger and Ronald H. Stone argue that “although ecstasy is not a product of reason, it does not
Tillich’s articulated and explicit thought on war focused destroy reason.” (114) Tillich describes that which ap-
on the question of the goal of the war. Mary Ann Stenger pears within the structures of reason and yet “transcends
and Ronald H. Stone, Dialogues of Paul Tillich, 22. As them in power and meaning” as “the depth of reason” (ST
Erdmann Sturm’s excellent study of Tillich’s war theol- I, 79). As Darwall points out, second-person rationality
ogy points out, Tillich’s preaching during World War I operates within its own constituted rationality (Darwall,
tended also to come back to this question of the reason for 59).
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 33

Tillich, The Protestant Era, 160. side of the ultimate crisis of collective survival; the
Tillich, 80. greater number by far of the crimes they commit can nei-
Bauman, 80. Tillich articulates the source behind ther be defended nor excused. They are simply crimes.
this feeling in The Courage to Be, 52: “…under the condi- Someone must try to see them clearly and describe them
tions of man’s estrangement from himself this is an actu- “in express words.” Even the murders called necessary
ality. Even in what he considers his best deed nonbeing is must be similarly described; it doubles the crime to look
present and prevents it from being perfect. A profound away, for then we are not able to fix the limits of neces-
ambiguity between good and evil permeates everything he sity, or remember the victims, or make our own (awk-
does, because it permeates his being as such.” ward) judgments of the people we kill in our name” (326).
26 46
Specifically, the unthought here lies within Til- Grossman, 31. One example of this is recorded in
lich’s correlational approach of question and answer. In Daniel Hallock, Hell, Healing and Resistance
this case the call is simultaneously call and answer. It is (Farmington: The Plough Publishing House, 1998), 69:
also found in his ideas of salvation as participation and “When I got back to Can Tho, I started to cry – and I
the gospel as decision. Decision assumes call. Tillich’s couldn’t stop. For two days I wept continuously, never
thought around the Kairos also reveals the unthought of stopping. All I could think about were the people I had
the call. killed, about the good men I saw die about my buddy –
Jean-Luc Marion, Reduction and Givenness, 197. and I kept crying until our company doctor sedated me. I
John D. Caputo, The Weakness of God (Blooming- was taken to 3rd Surg where I told a doctor everything I
ton: Indiana University Press, 2006), 5. had seen and done in nineteen months. All he did was put
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John me on 60 mg of valium a day and lock me in a room for
MacQuarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper- two weeks.”
one, 1991), 313. (Hereafter abbreviated as BT.) There are those in the military who think Grossman
BT, 314. got this wrong and that it is not that difficult for an indi-
BT, 316 (German 271). vidual to kill.
32 48
BT, 318. Tillich, Against the Third Reich, 36. Jean Bethke
BT, 319. Elshtain articulates this theme that Tillich touches on as
Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, 275. she describes the masculine character of the Just Warrior
BT, 320. and feminine equivalent of the Beautiful Soul. Tillich’s
The courage to Be. 188-189. language clearly refers back to this idea of the woman at
Marion, Reduction in Givenenness, 202. home who is left a widow as motivating the combatant.
The Protestant Era, 160. Elshtain focuses more on how women sent men to kill and
Walzer, 327. took pride in the conquest of their man (son, lover,
Baumann, 182. spouse) than on the reverse effect it had on dissuading
Dick Couch, A Tactical Ethic (Annapolis: Naval combatants from killing.
Institute Press, 2010), 92. Grossman, On Killing, 3-4.
42 50
Couch, 92; emphasis added. Stone and Weaver, 37.
43 51
Martin L Cook, The Moral Warrior (Albany: State Grossman, 4.
University on New York Press, 2004), ix. Couch speaks The firing rate (the percentage of soldiers who fired
of the same phenomenon, citing Thomas Ricks, Making their weapons) increased from around 15% in World War
the Corps, which speaks of a “widening gap between the II to around 90% in Vietnam. Grossman, 132. Grossman
military and society.” Couch describes the gap as “Grand puts the first stat at 15-20% and the second as 90-95%
Canyon-esque—and growing.” (A Tactical Ethic, 15) Ac- Grossman, xix.
cording to Peter Feaver, this gap exists because of “differ- Grossman, 197-204.
ent moral and political competencies” that are developed Zizek argues that we construct the fantasy of the
within the civilian and military spheres despite the occa- face-to-face encounter in order to escape the Real of the
sional “civilinization of the military” or “militarization of depersonalized war turned into an anonymous technologi-
the civilian sphere.” Armed Servants (Cambridge: Har- cal operation.” (The Fragile Absolute [New York: Verso,
vard University Press, 2003), 8. 2000], 77.)
44 56
Brennan, Foundations of Moral Obligation, 8. This ambiguity is heightened by the changing form
Grossman, 287. Walzer makes the same point in of conflict. “War no longer exists. Confrontation, conflict
another way: “Soldiers and statesmen live mostly on this and combat undoubtedly exist all around the world . . .
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 34

and states still have armed forces which they use as sym- between Greek and Judeao-Christian (Biblical) sources.
bols of power. Nonetheless, war as cognitively known to Cole also identifies “Christian virtue” as rooted in “Jew-
most non-combatants, war as battle in a field between ish, Greek, and Roman thought.” (When God Says War is
men and machinery, war as a massive deciding event in a Right, 54).
dispute in international affairs: such war no longer exists” Bauman, 239. “…while universal values offer a
Rupert Murdoch, The Utility of Force (New York: Alfred reasonable medicine against the oppressive obtrusiveness
A. Knopf, 2007), 3. Murdoch’s point on the transition of parochial backwaters, and communal autonomy offers
from industrial interstate warfare to war among the people an emotionally gratifying tonic against the standoffish
represents the predominate thinking among military callousness of the universalists, each drug when taken
thinkers. Crawford, Manhunting (Hurlburt Field: The regularly turns into poison.”
JSOU Press, 2009), 38-39: “Industrial-age and informa- Tillich, Against the Third Reich, 131.
tion-age warfare have become cost-prohibitive and politi- Generation Kill, 75: Sgt. Colbert “…make sure you
cally untenable.” Others use a broader and vaguer defini- don’t shoot the civilians… We are the invading army. We
tion of war that does not reveal the shift in current politi- must be magnanimous.” The contrast is also highlighted
cal realities: i.e. David Mapel, “Realism and the Ethics of between the professional warrior, a Marine Officer, and
War and Peace,” in The Ethics of War and Peace, ed. the general public. One Bullet Away, 143: Describing a
Terry Nardin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, visit to Ground Zero, the Pentagon and the White House,
1996), 56. “war is ‘organized violence carried out by po- Fick tells his readers that he “saw mourning and sorrow.
litical units against each other,’ . . . .” This definition in- But also bluster. Posturing. People vowed not to interrupt
cludes “undeclared wars, total wars, and some kinds of their daily routines, not to let “them” destroy our way of
internal conflict and rebellion.” life. My time in Afghanistan hadn’t been traumatic. I
Shay, 119. hadn’t killed anyone, and no one had come all that close
Shat, 118. to killing me. But jingoism, however mild, rang hollow.
Shay, 104. Flag-waving, tough talk, a yellow ribbon on every
Shay, 113. bumper. I didn’t see any real interest in understanding the
Shay, 114. war on the ground. No one acknowledged that the fight
Shay, 115. See also Cole, 87: “. . . nations usually would be long and dirty, and that maybe the enemy had
like to get their citizens on the war-fighting band-wagon courage and ideals, too. When people learned that I had
by inciting a crusading spirit. In such propaganda, the just come from Afghanistan, they grew quiet and deferen-
enemy is typically dehumanized to the point of beastli- tial. But they seemed disappointed that I didn’t share in
ness, while our own cause is glorified to the point of pure the general bloodlust.”
righteousness.” Shay, Achilles in Vietnam, 209. Emphasis added.
Shay, 115.
One example of those who fought in Vietnam and
honored the enemy will suffice here. Harold G. Moore Dr. Farris’s Birthday
and Joseph L. Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once… and
Young (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992), 5: The Society is grateful for the presence of Paul
“While those who have never known war may fail to see Tillich’s daughter at our annual meeting in San
the logic, this story also stands as tribute to the hundreds Francisco this past November.
of young men of the 320th, 33rd, and 66th Regiments of the
People’s Army of Vietnam who died by our hand in that
On February 13, 2012, Dr. Mutie Tillich Farris
place. They, too, fought and died bravely. They were a
worthy enemy. We who killed them pray that their bones
will celebrate her birthday. If any one wishes to
were recovered from the wild, desolate place where we send her a greeting, please do so: her address
left them, and taken home for decent and honorable bur- is:
ial.” 540 West 122 St./ Apt. 63
Terrence. W. Tilley, “Incommensurability, In- New York, NY 10027
tratextuality, and Fideism,” in Modern Theology 5, 2
(January 1989), 105.
An excellent example of this is Brennan’s Founda-
tions of Moral Obligation which weaves back and forth
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 35

Tillich and the Spilled Coffee Cup: ples, and is particularly parsimonious in providing
The Breakthrough of the Spirit in practical suggestions.7 However, despite the fact that
Contemporary Church Architecture he treats architecture only on the periphery, as a re-
sponse to invitations from meetings of architects,
Bert Daelemans rather than in systematical thought, he is one of the
few theologians with a particular interest in architec-
Editor’s Note: the Figures mentions in the fol- ture. A few months before his death he recalls:
lowing article can be found immediately after In my early life I wished to become an archi-
the text and note. To see them perfectly, one tect and only in my late teens the other desire, to
must download the Bulletin; they will not be du- become a philosophical theologian, was victori-
plicated perfectly in the printed copy. ous. I decided to build in concepts and proposi-
tions instead of stone, iron, and glass. But build-
In recent years, it has become fashionable for ing remains my passion, in clay and in thought,
well-known “starchitects”1 to build a church, which and as the relation of the medieval cathedrals to
can be a statement of contemporary architecture in- the scholastic systems shows, the two ways of
asmuch as a railway station or a concert hall, to building are not so far from each other. Both ex-
which the huge amount of visitors witness. We may press an attitude to the meaning of life as a
think of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the whole.8
Light in Oakland, California. From the outside, this In the light of the controversies around the Oak-
building, designed by Craig Hartman and opened to land Cathedral, Tillich’s following comment is clari-
the public in 2008, looks like a huge steel and glass fying: “Every new church in a new style is an ex-
shrine, with its materials not too different from the periment. Without the risks of experiments that fail,
surrounding buildings [Fig. 1, 2]. It would appear there is no creation…New church building is a vic-
that the originality of its shape offends some people, tory of spirit, of the creative human spirit and of the
as reported by a blog contemporary to the building spirit of God that breaks into our weakness.”9 At
project, which considers it “[p]erhaps the greatest some distance from the modernist architectural op-
theological failure of our age,” and makes fun of it timism of his time, I believe that Tillich’s intriguing
with the title “Our Lady of the Laundry Basket,” as a connection between architecture and spirit is more
complement to “Our Lady of Maytag” in San Fran- than a poetic metaphor, and intimately reflects the
cisco.2 Particularly amusing is another post, calling it theology of his later years. Today, fifty years later, is
“Our Lady of the Spilled Coffee Cup.”3 Worthy of it possible to claim the same spiritual victory when
note is the interpretation of this failure not so much considering contemporary church architecture, such
as architectural but as theological. In one of his re- as the Oakland Cathedral? This will be the main
cent well-received books on Catholic church archi- question of my paper, which aims at demonstrating
tecture, the author of this blog claims that a church is the ongoing validity of Tillich’s intuitive criteria for
not a church when “it does not look like a church.”4 a contemporary theology of architecture.
Roman Catholic architects and theologians like him Instead of presenting Tillich’s theology of archi-
discard contemporary church architecture theologi- tecture, which has been done well by Bernard Rey-
cally as “no place for God” and “ugly as sin,” plead- mond and Martin Dudley,10 I will first of all focus on
ing for revival styles as the only appropriate ones three theological polarities that I claim are still valu-
today, for only these are, in their view, open to di- able today. This will shed new light on the particular
vine transcendence.5 place of architecture within a Tillichian theology of
Without denying that church architecture is art. Then, by focusing on breakthrough
theological expression, or that architecture should be (Durchbruch) as the expressionistic element in ar-
open to divine transcendence, is it possible to draw chitecture, this article will aim not only at giving a
on Paul Tillich’s occasional dealings with architec- constructive complement to the pioneering study of
ture in order to provide an apologetics of contempo- “breakthrough documents” by Uwe Carsten Scharf,11
rary church architecture in general, and of the Oak- but also at providing a first tentative answer to Rus-
land Cathedral in particular? It is only during the last sell Re Manning’s and Wessel Stoker’s suggestion
decade of his life that Tillich delivered his four lec- for interpreting breakthrough anew in order for a
tures on religious architecture.6 Unlike his dealing Tillichian theology of art to have validity in a post-
with the fine arts, he never discusses concrete exam- modern context.12 Perhaps somewhat stretching Til-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 36

lich’s thought, but, I hope, in fidelity to him, I will “Space is infinite because the human mode of creat-
explore his intuitions in two directions: on the one ing space for oneself is that of breaking through
hand, I propose a closer connection between break- every finite boundary.”19 It also transcends inwards,
through and the spirit; and on the other, I examine because by dwelling, human beings appropriate
this connection with a controversial example of con- space, that is to say, they create space into theirt 1st
temporary Catholic church architecture. and most immediateeworthy. Instead of attributing
the creation of space only to architects, he under-
The Spatial Polarity between a Movement stands the common human feature of dwelling as
Inward and a Thrust Forward synonymous to creating space. Dwelling is the first
and most immediate human relationship (Beziehung)
In retracing Tillich’s theological principles of with space: only from there are they able “o “thrust
architecture, Reymond and Dudley somehow over- forward into space at large, into infinite space.”20
looked Tillich’s first address on architecture of This relation is essentially creative: as dwellers and
1933, on the occasion of the dedication of a house in users of the space, we are the architects of our space.
Potsdam.13 This relatively short philosophical ac- According to John Dillenberger, “Architecture is an
count in a delightfully pagan setting establishes two exercise in creating space… Architecture should
essential characteristics of dwelling as the creation express our finitude and our openness to the infi-
of space, which are also proper to a theological ac- nite.”21 This creative way of appropriating space is
count, namely a movement inward and a thrust for- for Tillich the only way to reach towards infinite
ward. Tillich discusses the relationship between the space, that is to say, to discover the infinite within
“concrete, living reality” of dwelling and the abstract the finite.
notions of space and time, “[f]or in the proximate, The relationship between dwelling and time is
the daily, the apparently small, there is hidden in characterized by newness: A human being “goes
truth the metaphysical; the here-and-now is the place beyond every configuration, and beyond every form-
where meaning is disclosed, where our existence ing space, toward something new; and in the new,
must find interpretation.”14 Space is neither a mere the boundary of the old space and the old configura-
object nor a container of things, but the way and the tion is breached.”22 Time becomes present only in
power (Raummächtigkeit) in which living beings space: “Time gains presence only in space; presence
come into existence, by creating their own spatiality is the mode in which time is near to space.”23 Space
(Räumlichkeit).15 and time are only united in the present. Only the one
Tillich examines four ways of “creating space.” who has found space can live in the present. Each
Inorganic spatiality is “filling” space (Raumerfül- situation thrusts towards the new, towards a space of
lung): things endure in time, next to each other (Ne- unity (einheitlichen Raum),24 toward ever growing
beneinander) and even against each other (Gegene- living spaces (immer wachsender Lebensräume),
inander), without any inner unity of space: “eine towards “an integrated house of mankind, detached
innere Einheit des Raumes gibt es hier nicht.”16 Or- from every special territory.” This thrust forward
ganic spatiality is unfolding (Enfaltung): plants are fights against the “original holiness of space” (eine
characterized by a thrust forward (ein Vorstoßen), a ursprüngliche Heiligkeit des Raumes), the territorial
self-expansion (ein Sich-Ausbreiten), and a mutual demons of finite space, which simultaneously sus-
penetration (gegenseitige Durchdringung) in time.17 tain and bind us to the soil.25 Every building is called
There is a unity, even a “sympathy” of space. Vege- to provide such a unity of space and time, within
tative space is at the same time concentrated and finite space.26 The first polarity that has to find archi-
unfolded. Animal spatiality is characterized by mo- tectural expression is the balance between the will to
bility (Bewegung). The animal can break through the fence oneself off (abzugrenzen) and the urge to
vegetative stability of place and thrust forward into thrust forward (vorzustoßen).27 The four occurrences
distant spaces. At the same time, there is a drive to- of breakthrough explored by Scharf in this text all
wards an enclosing, sustaining, limited space (nest concern the overcoming of the limits of a former
or cave). Human spatiality transcends the other spatiality. In the new human creation, the limits of
forms forwards and inwards; forwards, in the sense the old are broken through. In order to create a hu-
that, even though it remains always finite, human man space for dwelling, architecture aims at giving
space has an infinite capacity, because its character- expression to this breakthrough of the human spirit,
istic is to break through18 every finite boundary: able to unfold both inwards and forwards.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 37

only the ones that “have died,” that is to say, “when

The Religious Polarity between Sacred Emptiness the relationship they have mediated in opening up
and Religious Symbolism the soul is no longer powerful.”39 Second, Tillich is
aware of the expressive power of the empty space as
The notion of breakthrough brings to mind Til- such. One could say it is “expressive emptiness,” in
lich’s problematic claim that “all specifically relig- contrast with the “desperate,” “ugly,” “painful,” and
ious art is expressionistic.”28 All authors on the ques- “simple” emptiness of the early Reformation, which
tion agree that his understanding of the expressionis- did not understand the Roman Catholic expressive-
tic style as “the principle of breaking through the ness of their inherited churches.40 Tillich calls it “sa-
beautified naturalistic surface of things to the real cred,” which means that as space it is a religious
depths which break out with disruptive power”29 symbol in itself. It is a symbol only when it ex-
needs some correction if it is to have any future.30 presses something more than just void. It is able to
On the one hand, due to its practical purpose, archi- express the presence of the holy through its absence,
tecture has “a definite character,” without going in opposition to an “abundant manifoldness” of
“wild with irrational imagination.”31 Therefore, Til- symbols. It is emptiness not by privation, but by in-
lich calls architecture the “basic artistic expression” spiration, “filled with the presence of that which
which may even provoke a renewal of religious art.32 cannot be expressed.”41
On the other hand, the expressiveness of architecture The sacred void can be a powerful symbol of
is not as easy perceivable as in the fine arts, for “ar- the presence of the transcendent God. But this
chitecture cannot be in the same way directly and effect is possible only if the architecture shapes
purposely expressive as a picture or sculpture.”33 As the empty space in such a way that the numinous
a result, its religious character might be difficult to character of the building is manifest. An empty
perceive. room filled only with benches and a desk for the
From my point of view, the so-called disadvan- preacher is like a classroom for religious instruc-
tage of architecture caused by its practical purpose tion, far removed from the spiritual function
indicates a real advantage for understanding the which a church building must have.42
breakthrough anew as spatial expressiveness, that is In discussing this notion of sacred emptiness,
to say, less identified with the disruptive expressive- Tillich might have been inspired by the German
ness of German Expressionism, which, in the perspi- Roman Catholic architect Rudolf Schwarz. In 1955,
cacious view of Russell Manning, took Tillich in “as Tillich refers explicitly to Schwartz’s visionary Vom
the Trojan Horse of a secular and nihilistic aesthetic Bau der Kirche of 1938, in fact just before dealing
alternative to religion.”34 Indeed, Tillich was aware with sacred emptiness.43 Although the literal term
of the specific expressiveness of architecture, in its “sacred void” appears only once in this original the-
structure, its space, and the play of light within, as “a ory of church architecture, emptiness is a recurring
mysticism from below,” which he wanted to pre- theme and always a synonym for God’s “resplendent
serve from imitating naturalism and beautifying ide- abundance.”44
alism.35 It is my contention that Tillich’s recognition Tillich believed that the renewal of religious art
of a specific architectural expressiveness—and would start within the church building, which is its
therefore religious character—caused him to plead greatest symbol expressing our ultimate concern.45
for what he called “sacred emptiness” as the expres- Ultimate concern needs our creativity.46 “The con-
sionistic element of religious architecture. vincing power of a religious building strengthens the
As far as I could retrace, there are five occur- convincing power of that for which it is built.”47
rences of the term “sacred emptiness” in Tillich’s Prophetically, Tillich suggested sacred emptiness as
writings.36 It appears for the first time in 1952, dur- the preliminary space “for the next foreseeable
ing his first lectures on art and architecture in the time,”48 in which old symbols regain their expres-
United States.37 He suggests that “the most expres- siveness afresh, not by being at our disposal, but
sive form of art today in connection with religion rather by “looking at us.”49
might be sacred emptiness; an emptiness which does For Tillich, sacred emptiness is the adequate ar-
not pretend to have at its disposal symbols which it chitectural expression of the Protestant principle,
actually does not have.”38 There are two valuable which ensures “the majesty of the Divine against
elements in this intuition. First, it does not mean that every human claim, including every religious
church space should be devoid of all symbols, but claim.”50 André Gounelle speaks of the Protestant
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 38

principle and Catholic substance as two complemen- Honest architecture does not imitate former
tary attitudes.51 In my understanding, Catholic sub- styles, but is in touch with an unconscious, symbol-
stance finds architectural expression in the symbols creating side of the artistic process. Honest architec-
displayed in sacred emptiness, for “[t]he experience ture does not beautify the structure, but looks for the
of the presence of the holy by the kind of space the expressivity of the structure itself, for “the beauty
architect has created is what must be intended, even must lie in the adequacy and expressive power of the
before anything else happens within this space…. structure.”55 Tillich pleads for replacing the word
Since the experience of the holy is never directly “beautiful” by “expressiveness.” Honest is the archi-
possible, because it transcends everything finite, its tect who penetrates “into the demands of the mate-
presence must be mediated by authentic representa- rial.”56 Tillich was aware of the coldness and hard-
tion and symbolic expression.”52 Although Tillich ness that sacred emptiness could create, in losing the
did not provide specific practical suggestions in or- character of owning the space—corresponding to
der to maintain and create such sacred emptiness, he dwellers, as we noticed above. Sacred emptiness
pointed out its lasting importance even for us today. emphasizes the thrust forward, but must be balanced
Appropriate symbolism within sacred emptiness is with the movement inwards of dwelling as creating
the architectural expression of the complementary and appropriating the space.
balance between Catholic substance and Protestant Out of the personal passion of individuals who
principle. in total honesty and total seriousness penetrate
into the demands of the material with which they
The Expressive Polarity between Artistic Honesty work, who have a vision of the form which is
and Religious Consecration adequate to their aim, and who know that in the
depth of every material, every form and every
Towards the end of his life, another polarity sur- aim something ultimate is hidden which be-
faces in Tillich’s theology of art, namely the polarity comes manifest in the style of a building, of a
between honesty as form-affirmation and consecra- poem, of a philosophy. Out of this depth, sym-
tion as form-transcendence. We perceive this evolu- bols can and will be born which, by their very
tion both in the fourth part, “Life and the Spirit,” of character, say “no” to present conformity and
his Systematic Theology and in his writings on art which point to an environment in which the in-
and architecture. I believe they emerge here, espe- dividual can find symbols of his encounter with
cially because of their relationship with the Spiritual ultimate reality.57
Presence. As far as I could retrace it, the term “hon- Tillich’s manifest for honest religious architec-
esty” in the context of art appears first in 1954. Six ture can be understood in the modernist optimism of
years later, honesty and consecration form a pair in his time, which reacted perhaps too fiercely against
his thought. I believe they form an essential polarity an overloaded sentimentalism of Saint-Sulpice art,
of the late Tillich to understand architectural expres- perceived as unnecessary decorative distraction.
siveness as a spatial breakthrough. Similar claims for artistic honesty can be heard in
For Tillich, “religiously expressive art” should those years from a Roman Catholic perspective.58
be “more honest than any other art,” that is to say, According to Tillich, honesty is an ethical principle.
the “result of a creating ecstasy,” not imitating crea- The architect who imitates and beautifies “has
tive ecstasies of the past.53 ceased to be a mirror to his contemporaries and in-
The request that new buildings be stylistically stead prevents them from awareness of their actual
contemporary is rooted in the nature of creativity being. He deceives them—even though often they
and in the ethical principle of honesty. A crea- like to be deceived.”59
tive act is normally born out of a cognitive and Nevertheless, in pursuing honesty, one does not
emotional participation in many or few creations yet create automatically a consecrated place. In
of the past. But when the creative power of the principle, God can be found in every place on earth,
artist or architect goes to work, it breaks through but due to our existential estrangement, we need
to the new, expressing the creator and through specific places that remind us of God’s majesty:
him his period. After a certain inevitable resis- It is the task of the church architects to create
tance and hesitation, his contemporaries come to places of consecration where people feel able to
recognize themselves in his work.54 contemplate the holy in the midst of their secu-
lar life. Churches should not be felt as some-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 39

thing which separates people from their ordinary look at another “experiment” in church architecture,
life and thought, but which opens itself up into and speak of another “victory” of the human and the
their secular life and radiates through the sym- divine spirit.
bols of the ultimate into the finite expressions of
our daily existence.60 Spiritual Victory in Architecture
These places of consecration do not undo the
principle of honesty. The principle of consecration Let us now come back to the sentence that
allows places of honesty to “radiate through the started this reflection, and focus on the intriguing
symbols of the ultimate,” rather than being separated presence of the spirit in this discussion on architec-
from them. In contrast with Martin Dudley, who, ture: “New church building is a victory of spirit, of
favoring honesty above consecration, concludes that the creative human spirit and of the spirit of God
Tillich’s criteria rule out the need for a specifically that breaks into our weakness.” I will focus subse-
religious architecture, we can say with Tillich that quently on the terms spirit, breaking into, and vic-
churches, places of consecration, are necessary for tory.65
the moment, as pointers to unambiguous life, in the Firstly, let us examine the term spirit. It is strik-
midst of existential estrangement.61 One could say ing that Tillich, when considering church architec-
that the principle of honesty is necessary for a relig- ture of his time, spontaneously speaks of the human
iously expressive architecture in the broad sense— and the divine Spirit in one breath and in one
for “[t]here is truth in every great work of art, breadth. In his Systematic Theology, he claims that
namely the truth to express something”62—but this in places where honesty and consecration are hon-
principle should be balanced with the principle of ored, where a sacred emptiness is created for new
consecration for a religiously expressive architecture symbols to emerge, and where the polarity between
in the narrow sense. The emphasis on the autonomy a thrust forward and inward is balanced, “[t]he Spiri-
of architecture is not enough, for “surprise wears off, tual Presence makes itself felt in the architectural
and the new, if it lacks genuine adequacy to the space, the liturgical music and language, the picto-
meaning of the church buildings, becomes almost rial and sculptural representations, the solemn char-
intolerable.”63 The principle of religious consecration acter of the gestures of all participants, and so on.”66
is “the power of expressing the holy in the concrete- According to Frederick Parrella, “[w]ithout his
ness of a special religious tradition.”64 Such expres- doctrine of the Spirit, [Tillich’s] theology of culture
sion is therefore rooted in tradition. Tillich claims …would lie on infertile ground.”67 The problem that
that religious architecture should express the holy, concerns us here is recognizing the work of the di-
more than being merely a room for a gathering vine Spirit within a cultural object. In other words,
community. This has nothing to do with style, un- he concern is to apprehend the Unconditional in the
derstood as the obligation to follow some normative conditioned, which is always, as Werner Schüßler
canon, but rather through the expressiveness of its points out, “a symbolical apprehension of the di-
structure. According to Tillich, this can be done nei- vine.”68 Therefore, the cultural creation never gives
ther by the naturalistic way of imitating former absolute certainty about the Unconditional, but only
styles, as following a sort of magical formula, nor by points towards it. For Tillich, “[t]he conditioned is
the idealistic way of beautifying the structure. The the medium in and through which the Unconditional
issue is about the way in which the space is ar- is apprehended. To this medium belongs, likewise,
ranged, whether there is room for “sacred empti- the perceiving subject. It too, never appears as some-
ness,” and whether there is an honest search for new thing that provides the ground, but rather as the
symbols—or a new way of presenting old symbols. place where the Unconditional becomes manifest
The three polarities essential to a Tillichian the- within the conditioned.”69 Applied to my research
ology of architecture discussed here are the spatial question, I therefore propose looking at contempo-
balance between intimate and infinite space, that is rary church architecture as this “place where the Un-
to say, the building must allow dwellers to create conditional becomes manifest within the condi-
and appropriate the space at the same time as to tioned.”
reach beyond into infinite space; the religious bal- Let us briefly recall that Tillich uses the same
ance between symbolism and sacred emptiness; and word “spirit” for two purposes.70 First, this word des-
the expressive balance between honesty and conse- ignates the dimension of human life where morality,
cration. Only under these conditions are we able to culture, and religion originate and where they find
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 40

fulfillment.71 Second, it is used symbolically for God. these functions and raise them beyond them-
For Tillich, it is the “most embracing, direct, and selves by the creation of faith. Although created
unrestricted symbol for the divine life,” which does by the Spiritual Presence, faith occurs within the
not need to be balanced by another symbol.72 Tillich structure, functions, and dynamics of man’s
remarks that it would have been impossible to un- spirit. Certainly, it is not from man, but it is in
derstand and to express the experience of God’s man. Therefore, in the interest of a radical tran-
presence as Spirit without the experience of the hu- scendence of the divine activity, it is wrong to
man spirit as unity of power and meaning. For this deny that man is aware of his being grasped by
experience, he uses the radically spatial symbol of the divine Spirit, or as it has been said, ‘I only
Spiritual Presence. believe that I believe.’ Man is conscious of the
The relationship between the human spirit and Spiritual Presence’s work in him.82
the divine Spirit, which is “no correlation, but rather, This consciousness of the Spiritual Presence is at
mutual immanence,”73 can be expressed by the spa- once called faith and love, the former emphasizing
tial metaphor of indwelling.74 As the Spirit “breaks the ecstatic thrust, the latter the indwelling reunion
into” the spirit, it “drives the human spirit out of it- of both spirits: “The divine Spirit manifests itself
self.”75 The first spatial metaphor implies the other: within the human spirit through the ecstatic move-
“The ‘in’ of the divine Spirit is an ‘out’ for the hu- ment, which from one point of view is called faith,
man spirit.”76 The ecstasy caused by the divine Spirit namely being grasped by the ultimate concern; and
does not destroy the structure of the human spirit as from the other love, being taken into the reunion of
in demonic possession, however much driven and unambiguous life.”83 Faith is the “human reaction to
grasped by something ultimate that comes from out- the Spiritual Presence’s breaking into the human
side. spirit; it is the ecstatic acceptance of the divine
Man in his self-transcendence can reach for it, Spirit’s breaking-up of the finite mind’s tendency to
but man cannot grasp it, unless he is first grasped by rest in its own self-sufficiency.”84 As such, the Spiri-
it. Man remains in himself. By the very nature of his tual Presence makes itself felt in the architectural
self-transcendence, man is driven to ask the question space in an ecstatic movement of faith, aiming at an
of unambiguous life.77 The question of unambiguous indwelling communion of love.
life is born in the self transcendence of the human Secondly, let us examine the term breaking into.
spirit, but the answer can come only from the crea- In both the fourth part of the Systematic Theology on
tive power of the Spiritual Presence. Without being “Life and the Spirit,” published in 1963, and in his
grasped, the human spirit cannot grasp the divine lecture of 1961 on the theology of art and architec-
Spirit: “Only Spirit discerns Spirit.”78 For our inves- ture, Tillich uses the same verb “breaking into” (ein-
tigation, it is essential to note that for Tillich, the brechen) instead of “breaking through” (durchbre-
only valid criterion to discern the Spirit is the mani- chen), which was the dominant term for the early
festation of creativity.79 In indwelling, the Spiritual Tillich, according to Robert Scharlemann:
Presence makes itself known: “The relation to the The concept of breakthrough (Durchbruch),
divine ground of being through the divine Spirit is which is one of the identifying marks of his re-
not agnostic (as it is not amoral); rather it includes jection of idealism, is introduced into Tillich’s
the knowledge of the ‘depth’ of the divine.”80 There- thought about 1919 – it appears in “On the Idea
fore, we can argue that it is the Spirit who gives per- of a Theology of Culture” in that year – in order
sonality to the otherwise still anonymous Grundof- to formulate the way in which the unconditional
fenbarung as “presence of God prior to any knowl- is manifest in the conditional: it breaks into it.
edge of God.”81 As author of the breakthrough, the To a theology of culture, the unconditional Ge-
Spirit gives accurate knowledge of God, and can do halt that is breaking in shows itself in the con-
so through ‘cultural victories of spirit,’ that is to say, tent by means of the form—the ordinary content
theonomous forms of our creativity. These do no becomes accidental and the form is transformed
force the Spirit in a direct way, but can be grasped as it tries to grasp the depth-content breaking in.
by the Spiritual Presence and raised “beyond them- Revelation is a breakthrough in this sense.85
selves by the creation of faith”: Scharf has pointed out that this latter term lost
Man’s spirit cannot reach the ultimate, that its importance in Tillich’s later writings, at least in
toward which it transcends itself, through any of its prophetic and political urgency.86 From my part, I
its functions. But the ultimate can grasp all of would argue that his use of einbrechen recuperates
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 41

and restores an older, perhaps softer and smoother as it is a spatial experience. In some instances men-
meaning of breakthrough: not the disrupting and tioned by Scharf, the verb durchbrechen still implies
alienating breakthrough of German Expressionism, the destruction of the autonomous human creativity.
but a more spatial one, closer to Tillich’s own initial In contrast, even if the verb einbrechen could give
pre-reflective experience of the expressive power of the impression of a heteronomous impact from
art, which he recalls when standing in front of the above, it does not destroy human autonomy. Accord-
Botticelli: ing to Scharf, "[f]or a breakthrough to occur, there
Gazing up at it, I felt a state approaching ec- needs to be an element which must stay continuous
stasy. In the beauty of the painting there was while being altered, a structure that needs to main-
Beauty itself. It shone through the colors of the tain its integrity while an opening is created in it—
paint as the light of day shines through the and through it as well—for something new to
stained-glass windows of a medieval church. As emerge out of the old.”92 In the phrase on which we
I stood there, bathed in the beauty its painter had are commenting, this autonomy is even more em-
envisioned so long ago, something of the divine phasized through the adjective schaffenden. The in-
source of all things came through to me. I turned dwelling collaboration between the human and the
away shaken.87 divine Spirit is an expression of theonomy, the “state
Essential to this account are the spatial terms in of culture under the impact of the Spiritual Pres-
which Tillich describes his experience. The space of ence.” George Pattison affirms that theonomy “does
the painting opened up. Through it and in it shone not negate the principle of autonomy but accepts and
Beauty, which filled the space and surrounded him. deepens it until it becomes transparent to its divine
The enveloping effect of the painting is similar to ground; it is the discovery of new substance, new
that of architecture, as shown in the spatial analogy content, on the ground of autonomous existence, but
of light filling a medieval church, and in the “feeling with no weakening of the principle of autonomy; it
of inner fulfillment in places where good architec- is the unity of the horizontal (autonomous) and ver-
ture surrounded” him.88 An example of good archi- tical (heteronomous) dimensions of life.”93 Tillich
tecture for him was the fifteenth-century Gothic states in another context:
church of his hometown, which “had influence on The Spiritual Presence which creates the
[his] decision to become a theologian and on some Spiritual Community does not create a separate
lasting elements in [his] theological thought.”89 entity in terms of which it must be received and
This spatial experience has a strong and lasting expressed; rather, it grasps all reality, every
effect on him: the Beauty moving towards him puts function, every situation. It is the ‘depth’ of all
him in a state of near ecstasy, outside of himself. cultural creations and places them in a vertical
This reminds us of the aforementioned comment: relation to their ultimate ground and aim. There
“The ‘in’ of the divine Spirit is an ‘out’ for the hu- are no religious symbols in the Spiritual Com-
man spirit.”90 Indeed, Tillich himself points out the munity because the encountered reality is in its
similarities with Revelation, and being grasped by totality symbolic of the Spiritual Presence, and
the Spiritual Presence: there are no religious acts because every act is
That moment has affected my whole life, an act of self-transcendence.94
given me the keys for the interpretation of hu- Every reality, every cultural object, can be
man existence, brought vital joy and spiritual grasped by the Spiritual Presence, so that in the ideal
truth. I compare it with what is usually called situation of the Spiritual Community, every act and
revelation in the language of religion. I know every reality is theonomous, expressing the Spiritual
that no artistic experience can match the mo- Presence. The Spiritual Presence is able to grasp
ments in which prophets were grasped in the every honest reality, “placing it in a vertical relation
power of the Divine Presence, but I believe there to its ultimate ground and aim.”
is an analogy between revelation and what I felt. An important element in this matter is that the
In both cases, the experience goes beyond the Spiritual Presence is not only grasped intellectually
way we encounter reality in our daily lives. It or spiritually, but through the theonomous forms of
opens up depths experienced in no other way.91 culture. In this sense, Frederick Parrella argues:
The spatial description of depths opening up to If Tillich’s understanding of the multidimen-
him will be his description of the expressive element sional unity of life is disregarded and the person
in art. This breakthrough is not so much disruptive, is understood only in terms of moral will and in-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 42

tellect, then the reality of the divine Spirit can be Finally, the victory of spirit is “the conquest of
mediated to the person only in terms of his/her the ambiguities of culture by creating theonomous
moral and intellectual grasp of it.… The Spiri- forms in the different realms of the cultural self-
tual Presence, when grasped only intellectually, creation of life.”102 The ambiguous character of our
is not genuinely spiritual at all.95 existence “is not conquered by avoiding the finite as
Only theonomous forms of culture will be di- much as possible, that is, by ontological asceticism.
rected towards the Spiritual Presence. For Tillich, The tragic is conquered by the presence of being-
theonomy gives direction to human autonomy. On itself within the finite.”103 The fact that the tragic is
its own, human creativity has no direction: “The de- conquered within the finite, not by discarding it, em-
velopment of all human potentialities, the principle phasizes its being also the victory of the creative
of humanism, does not indicate in what direction (schaffenden) human spirit. Transposed to our con-
they shall be developed.”96 By themselves, human cern, we might say that the aim of church architec-
beings cannot break through their estrangement and ture is creating space for this “presence of being-
achieve reunion with God: “In the reunion of essen- itself within the finite,” giving it architectural ex-
tial and existential being, ambiguous life is raised pression, as “theonomous forms” in this realm of the
above itself to a transcendence that it could not cultural self-creation of life. However, this victory is
achieve by its own power.”97 This comment reminds always fragmentary, as Tillich explains:
us of another occurrence of breakthrough unnoticed But theonomy can never be completely victo-
by Scharf, taken from the second volume of the Sys- rious, as it can never be completely defeated. Its
tematic Theology: victory is always fragmentary because of the ex-
Grace does not destroy essential freedom; but istential estrangement underlying human history,
it does what freedom under the conditions of ex- and its defeat is always limited by the fact that
istence cannot do, namely, it reunites the es- human nature is essentially theonomous.104
tranged. Nevertheless, the bondage of the will is Nevertheless, even fragments have value, as Til-
a universal fact. It is the inability of man to lich acknowledges: “The fragment of a broken statue
break through his estrangement. In spite of the of a god points unambiguously to the divine power
power of his finite freedom, he is unable to which it represents. The fragment of a successful
achieve the reunion with God.… Man, in rela- prayer elevates to the transcendent union of unambi-
tion to God, cannot do anything without Him. guous life.”105 A church building is a theonomous
He must receive in order to act. New being pre- form of culture when, representing a fragmentary
cedes new acting.98 victory of spirit, it is able to point towards, and
Only the impact of the Spiritual Presence lays thrust forwards, into unambiguous life, in the midst
bare the “directedness of the self-creation of life un- of its ambiguities of existential estrangement.
der the dimension of the Spirit toward the ultimate in One of Tillich’s lasting contributions to a theol-
being and meaning.”99 Tillich continues, “Theono- ogy of art, and of architecture in particular, is his
mous culture is Spirit-determined and Spirit-directed claim that “[t]here is no theonomy…where a new
culture, and Spirit fulfils spirit instead of breaking style of artistic creation is suppressed in the name of
it.”100 Transposed to our concern, we could say that assumedly eternal forms of expressiveness.”106 This
any church building, which is not a “victory of the is a still valuable answer to the current critique,
spirit,” would be either unable to express the divine which dismisses the Oakland Cathedral for lacking
Spirit at work (as a mere autonomous and empty “the conventional architectural markers of churchli-
container for gatherings), or unable to express our ness”—“a cross, tower, dome, conventional shapes,
creative humanity (as merely the heteronomous and and proportions.”107 Theonomy, in “permanent
aseptic product of a predetermined program, that is struggle”108 with autonomy and heteronomy, is dis-
to say, naturalistic imitation or beautifying ideal- torted into heteronomy when there is no place for
ism). Neither naturalism nor idealism has a direct autonomy, when “the freedom which characterizes
relationship with the Spiritual Presence in architec- the human spirit as well as the divine Spirit is re-
tural space. Tillich seems to suggest that the way to pressed. And then it may happen that autonomy
experiencing the Spiritual Presence architecturally is breaks through the suppressive forces of heteron-
only opened—although without direct causality— omy and discards not only heteronomy but also
through expressiveness. Once again, “[t]he ‘in’ of theonomy.”109 In this quote, we note the surprisingly
the divine Spirit is an ‘out’ for the human spirit.”101 disruptive use of breaking through, where we would
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 43

have expected breaking apart. The reason for this which expresses meaning, or at least one interpreta-
may be the subject of the breakthrough, which is tion of it. It was this expressive power that Tillich
autonomy in disregard of theonomy, as an extreme was looking for.
reaction to heteronomy. This happens when the Which attitude to the meaning of life can be per-
healthy polarities between the thrust inwards and ceived in the Oakland Cathedral? Considering only
forwards, between the Protestant principle and its exterior, the message of Oakland Cathedral is
Catholic substance, that is to say, between sacred unmistakably contemporary, adopting a postmodern
emptiness and religious symbolism, and between look, blurring the distinctions with its secular envi-
artistic honesty and religious consecration, are bro- ronment. At first sight, the Cathedral is not easily
ken. According to André Gounelle, “[s]pirit unites discernable in the grey sea of office buildings [Fig.
the opposites. Spirit does not suppress one or other 1]. Our eyes rest on the glass shrine as the focus of
of the opposites, but it changes their negative an- our journey, initially blurring the solid “bunker” un-
tagonism into positive polarity.”110 The negative an- derneath, which we have to “conquer” in order to
tagonism between autonomy and heteronomy in reach the main entrance. Surrounded by much taller
contemporary theonomous church architecture are buildings, this glass dwarf does not impose itself by
united into a positive paradox. Paraphrasing Tillich, its size. On the one hand, this could clash with more
we could say that “theonomous architecture is Spirit- traditional, vindicatory conceptions of religiosity,
determined and Spirit-directed architecture, and which promulgate more prominent presences in
Spirit fulfills spirit instead of breaking it.”111 post-modernity, stretching the distance between the
so-called profane and the sacred. On the exterior, the
Spirit Breaking into Christ the Light lack of “churchliness” (McNamara), the lack of
Christian symbols, apart from the modest and unfor-
Let us finally look at the Oakland Cathedral tunately faceless wooden cross [Fig. 7], could indeed
through the lens of Tillich’s criteria for a religiously be perceived as the absence of transcendence, or at
expressive architecture.112 In the limited context of least as the absence of any desire to promulgate di-
this article, what follows can only be an initial ex- vine transcendence, that is to say, in Tillichian
ploration in a contemporary Tillichian theological terms, the lack of religious consecration. This could
aesthetics of architecture, tentatively tested on one be interpreted even as a shameful capitulation to the
example. This can be done here only in a general secular, which is perhaps seen as sinful and in des-
overview of the current situation rather than examin- perate need of salvation. On the other hand, even if
ing every one of its specific details and symbols in one does not like the Oakland Cathedral, at least it
the unpredictability of their contextual design proc- has the honest courage to attempt a contemporary
ess. translation of tradition into the new. Without the risk
The first polarity we have to deal with, because of failure, there is no creativity.
it strikingly appeals from the building itself, is the As mentioned earlier, the shape of this building
expressive tension between architectural honesty is unusual for a church, confirming its autonomy, not
and religious consecration. Not surprisingly, most only in the immediate context of downtown Oak-
current critiques are addressed here, claiming that land, but also in the long history of church building.
this building lacks religious consecration in favor of Therefore, the first legitimate question from a Tilli-
architectural honesty, as a merely autonomous form chian point of view, even before entering this
of culture rather than a theonomous one. church, is to ask if it is a theonomous form of cul-
In 1965, when Tillich noticed his passion for ture. Does it keep autonomy and heteronomy in the
building in architecture and in theology, this one-off right balance, so that it not only corresponds to its
comment may indeed, as Dudley suggests, be mere practical purpose, but also to its being, albeit frag-
politeness addressed to architects, confirmed by mentary, a symbol of unambiguous life? The ques-
some of Tillich’s own comments on his lack of ar- tion with this particular church is not whether it is an
chitectural expertise.113 Nonetheless, the reason Til- expression of our creative human spirit, for even if it
lich provides for this passion is noteworthy: it is not is a product of a particular architect’s mind, it par-
so much their structural and systematic order that he ticipates at our common creative humanity. As an
underlines, but the fact that both theology and archi- autonomous product of the human spirit, it is am-
tecture “express an attitude to the meaning of life as biguous. As a finite product, it cannot force the di-
a whole.”114 A building appears as a whole, a totality, vine Spirit to reveal itself. The question is whether
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 44

this particular church is able to allow the Spiritual present, too judging, too dominating. Personally, I
Presence to express itself within this space, that is, to have not come across people who actually like it. On
lay bare the “directedness of the self-creation of life the one hand, I believe that Tillich would deplore
under the dimension of the Spirit toward the ultimate this picture due to its being a copy, a photograph,
in being and meaning.”115 How does this cultural that is to say, an imitation, of the sculpted master-
form express ultimate concern understood by a par- piece of the cathedral of Chartres. Perhaps this rela-
ticular tradition—in this case, the Roman Catholic tionship with a European archetype is meant to give
tradition? Which architectural features point towards the cathedral some legitimacy. On the other hand, I
this understanding of unambiguous life? suggest that Tillich might have appreciated the fact
The form is unique for a church, born as a new that this sculpture is reinterpreted, transformed and
creation out of the architect’s intention to shape a corrected into a new creation through digital tech-
distinctive space, as an attempt perhaps to grasp the nology. It is computer-enhanced and made out of
essence of “churchliness,” or a specific “attitude to 94,000 perforations in aluminum panels. He might
the meaning of life as a whole,” rather than imitating have considered it as a powerful reinterpretation of
traditional ideas of churches [Fig. 2]. In Tillichian an old symbol. In fact, the image we are looking at is
terms, such intention is understood as honest. Fur- actually not there. The light that breaks into it not
thermore, its materials (glass, concrete, steel, stone, only allows us to look at Christ the Light, but also
marble, and wood) are left bare, without particularly “to be looked at,” as Tillich would say. Even before
beautifying them through the addition of special or- anything happens in this space, we can experience
namentation. The materials are shown in the inner the presence of the holy, mediated by authentic rep-
beauty of their structure, in the simplicity of their resentation and symbolic expression.
purpose. For instance, concrete—so massive and Other symbols of significance are the circular
inhumane at the plaza outside—forming a ring, baptismal font and square marble altar on the main
which embraces the liturgical space inside, is treated axis, the way of the cross on eyelevel around the
with delicacy [Fig. 4]. Its smooth, polished surface liturgical space, the bronze crucifix as a tree of life
appeals to the sense of touch. The concrete wall hovering above the ambo, and the bronze statue of
gives a sense of protection, and yet, by its subtle in- the Virgin at the foot of the clergy seating area. Fur-
clination upwards, not only ensures stability in the thermore, there are floor inscriptions, literally “foot-
likely event of an earthquake in this area, but also notes,” rendering the space readable, guiding to-
gives leeway to the space, playfully rejecting its re- wards a deeper interpretation of the space, pointing
duction to well-known associations as cold, hard, towards another space, like delicate subtitles inter-
vast, and solid. The same can be said for the jet mist weaving bible and building. For instance, the in-
granite of the baptismal font and ambo, and the Car- scription in the porch reads: “I am the door. Who-
rara marble of the altar, which, as material, become ever enters through Me will be saved” (John 10:9).
symbols in a sacred emptiness [Fig. 6, 8]. In contrast, Words become image, wood, and door, which can be
the glass, so prominent that the Cathedral is identi- touched in all its heaviness. By pulling the handle,
fied by it from the outside, even though remaining words pass syn-aesthetically through the body by
virtually invisible from the inside, unconsciously means of the door [Fig. 3]. Behind the wooden
and archetypically speaks of transparency, whereas doors, which so dramatically stop vision beyond
the building comes across as hermetically opaque, them, opens a horizon, a direction, a desire towards
except when exiting the church. According to Til- light. Then, draped around the baptismal font, an-
lich’s criteria, this church, therefore, due to its other footnote reads: “The Spirit of God hovered
unique shape and its straightforward use of materi- over the waters. And God said ‘Let there be light’
als—apart perhaps from the treatment of the glass— and there was light” (Gen. 1:2-3). After entering
could be understood as an artistically honest build- through Christ the Door, pilgrims are welcomed by
ing. the Spirit, around this baptismal sea in miniature,
Inside, this building respects the principle of this huge basin of holy water inviting them to dress
consecration through the careful mise-en-scène of themselves with the Trinitarian name in which they
well-chosen symbols, such as, for instance, the were baptized, converting their itinerary, in order to
dominating image of the Christ in Majesty from enter Christ the Light [Fig. 6].
Chartres [Fig. 5]. In fact, this image is highly con- In terms of symbols, according to the second, re-
troversial. For many people, it is too oppressive, too ligious, polarity between sacred emptiness and relig-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 45

ious symbolism, the space created by this building curve, over translucent glass walls, into air held to-
can be described in Tillichian terms as “sacred emp- gether, as it were, by svelte “architectural exclama-
tiness.” This light-filled emptiness is the cathedral’s tion points,” as the architect puts it.119 These metallic
greatest implicit religious symbol. It is especially pointers become apophatic when reaching the sky,
created as one, unified, whole space, accentuating opening this seemingly roofless church as a sym-
only slightly the distinction between sanctuary and bolic axis mundi to the heavens, and at the same
nave. Nevertheless, because of cost, the original plan time as converging into one invisible point. Inside,
for a sloping floor towards the sanctuary was aban- the generosity of light and space raises the spirit up
doned, leading to the unfortunate solution of the far to the infinite space of the heavens [Fig. 5]. At the
too elevated altar and bishop’s cathedra, which cre- same time as moving inwards, creating a protected
ates too sharp a distance within the celebrating interior space without any exterior view—except
community. It seems that, at this point, an unneces- when one exits the building—the space lifts the
sary heteronomous element breaks the expressive mind upwards. Within the visual uplifting, a spiri-
symbolism of the building as unified and yet differ- tual one is addressed to our embodied spirit. We en-
entiated gathering space apart, instead of speaking ter light, which is formed through natural light, and
the same theonomous language, letting the gathering yet which speaks of the transcendent Light of Christ.
and yet differentiating Spirit break through (See 1 Nevertheless, the building stands or falls with
Co 12). the Tillichian criterion of a movement inwards, that
Leaving this particular question aside, let us re- is to say, the building’s ability to be appropriated by
turn to light as the cathedral’s major symbol, which a particular community. In a Tillichian view, this
consecrates the building’s emptiness, albeit in the particular building is an experiment that risks failure,
broadest religious sense. The cathedral bears the that is, if it does not work for people to appropriate
name of Christ the Light, and we may indeed agree it, to shape the spirit of the place into their own—in
with Tillich that the great symbol of this church is Reymond’s words, if the structure is not by itself,
the building itself, for light inhabits generously its apart from all visual symbols displayed in it, a sym-
sacred emptiness, and is indeed an adequate archi- bol inviting into prayer and communion.120 For many
tectural expression of the Protestant principle, pre- reasons, which this article cannot explore, apart from
serving God’s Majesty. We enter light itself, which hinting at some architectural ones, the community’s
is the same light as outside, and yet different, fil- absence in the Oakland Cathedral is almost tangibly
tered, enriched. According to Mary-Cabrini Durkin: felt in its most profane and disgracefully inhumane
“Light does not simply illuminate this cathedral. It is emptiness. If it is the Cathedral of Christ, the Light
intrinsic to it. The building creates an experience of of all Nations, I deplore the fact that all nations pre-
light, a fluid, ever-changing experience.”116 Light has sent in the diocese do not find or receive their place
become the dynamic and ungraspable material of the and their home in this building. I believe the Cathe-
architect. In Lefebvrian terms, it is light that, break- dral’s sacred emptiness is flexible enough to be ap-
ing into the space, continuously “produces” it. propriated by a multiplicity of nations adoring one
Finally, the spatial polarity between the move- Lord, expressing their identities not in a uniform
ment inwards and the thrust forwards can also be way, but in a paradoxically integrated manifoldness
examined in this building. I believe Tillich would of expressions. Today, sacred emptiness, born out of
applaud the exterior appeal of this church as relig- a modernist tradition, seems to wait for a return of
ious in the broadest sense, for, sculpturally, the religious symbols, preferentially provided by the
shape brings together an uplifting and a gathering living community.121 Today, in downtown Oakland,
dimension [Fig. 2]. More than aiming to be merely a there is an empty, color-low, and experimental space
container for liturgical action or a “praying ma- waiting for a colorful community of nations to be
chine,”117 this symmetrical and colorless—or at least appropriated, in order to become truthfully a place
color-low—building aims to be an expressive work for all nations, a symbol and vision of whom, and
of art. Theologically, its vertical and circular dimen- where, the Church wants to be in our age.
sions can be read as transcendence and ecclesia, im- Therefore, the living community will be the
plicitly suggesting its nature as a domus Dei and a building’s greatest acid proof. Is this space indeed
domus ecclesiae.118 Outside, the uplifting dimension flexible enough to be appropriated by a particular
from solidity to airiness is oblique. The vertical pro- community? That is the question, to which an an-
cession goes from a massive but gentle concrete swer has to be found in the years to come. But even
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 46

apart from that, instead of the “greatest theological sité Laval, Québec 18-22 août 1986. Edited by
failure of our age,” the Oakland Cathedral can be Michel Despland, Jean-Claude Petit, and Jean
considered a victory of spirit, albeit fragmentary, Richard, 159-171. Québec: Presses de
because it dares to search for new forms to express l’Université Laval and Éditions du Cerf, 1987.
an attitude to the meaning of life as a whole. It does Stoker, Wessel. “Does Tillich’s Theology of Art
so, at least by the choice of emphasizing light and by Have a Future? In Response to Russell Re Man-
providing an explicit communitarian space, gathered ning, Theology of the End of Culture: Paul Til-
around the altar. Taken as a whole, I believe this lich’s Theology of Culture and Art.” In Interna-
church is an honest victory of humanity’s spirit, by tional Yearbook for Tillich Research, edited by
conquering deceptive compromises of being Chris- Christian Danz and Werner Schüßler, 197-208.
tian.122 Vienna, Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2006.
Thiessen, Gesa Elsbeth. “Religious Art is Expres-
Select Bibliography sionistic: A Critical Appreciation of Paul Til-
Dudley, Martin. “Honesty and Consecration: Paul lich’s Theology of Art.” Irish Theological Quar-
Tillich’s Criteria for a Religious Architecture.” terly 59/4 (1993), 301-311.
In The Church and the Arts, edited by Diana Tillich, Paul. “Art and Society.” In On Art and Ar-
Wood, Studies in Church History 28, 515-522. chitecture. Edited by John Dillenberger and Jane
Oxford: Blackwell, 1995. Dillenberger, translated by Robert P.
Durkin, Mary-Cabrini. The Cathedral of Christ the Scharlemann, 11-41. New York: Crossroad,
Light (Oakland, California). Strasbourg: Édi- 1989.
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versity Press, 2009. stanz der Kultur. Edited by Renate Albrecht,
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Concrete Spirit.” In The Cambridge Companion 1967. English translation: “Dwelling, Space, and
to Paul Tillich, 74-90. Time,” In John and Jane Dillenberger, eds., On
Reymond, Bernard. “D’un temps à l’autre, d’un style Art and Architecture, 81-85.
d’architecture religieuse à l’autre.” Science et ____. “Honesty and Consecration in Art and
Esprit 53/2 (2001): 293-307. Architecture.” In John and Jane Dillenberger,
____. “L’architecture entre ‘substance catholique’ et eds., On Art and Architecture, 221-228.
‘principe protestant.’” In En chemin avec Paul ____. Systematic Theology, 3 volumes. Chicago:
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Reymond, Tillich Studien 12, 205-210. Münster: 1963.
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____. “Le Paradoxe de l’architecture religieuse: re- Jane Dillenberger, On Art and Architecture,
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théologie et de philosophie 127/2 (1995): 143- ____. “Zur Theologie der bildenden Kunst und der
153. Architektur.” In Gesammelte Werke, Vol. IX:
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through of Revelation: Interpreting the Divine- Renate Albrecht, 345-355. Stuttgart: Evan-
Human Interplay in Paul Tillich’s Work 1913- gelisches Verlagswerk, 1967. English transla-
1964. Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann 83. tion: “On the Theology of Fine Art and Archi-
Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1999. tecture.” In John and Jane Dillenberger, eds., On
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Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 47

1 9
I borrow this term from Edward W. Soja, Third- OAA 213. “Der neue Kirchenbau ist ein Sieg des
space: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real and Geistes, des schaffenden Menschengeistes und des in un-
Imagined Spaces (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 79. sere Schwäche einbrechenden Gottesgeistes.” GW 355.
2 10
Denis R. McNamara, “Oakland Cathedral Update,” Martin Dudley, “Honesty and Consecration: Paul
(February 28, 2008) Tillich’s Criteria for a Religious Architecture,” in The
http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2008/02/oakland- Church and the Arts, ed. Diana Wood, Studies in Church
cathedral-update.html [accessed January 11, 2011]. He is History 28 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 515-522. Bernard
the author of Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit Reymond, “Le Paradoxe de l’architecture religieuse: re-
of the Liturgy (Chicago, Mundelein, Il: Hillenbrand, marques en marge de Paul Tillich,” Revue de théologie et
2009) and How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in de philosophie 127/2 (1995): 143-153; “D’un temps à
Ecclesiastical Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 2011). l’autre, d’un style d’architecture religieuse à l’autre,” Sci-
This reaction was posted on the same date of the ence et Esprit 53/2 (2001): 293-307; and “L’architecture
original post, February 28, 2008. entre ‘substance catholique’ et ‘principe protestant,’” in
For McNamara, in order for a church to look like En chemin avec Paul Tillich, ed. André Gounelle and
one, it needs “the conventional architectural markers of Bernard Reymond, Tillich Studien 12 (Münster: LIT Ver-
churchliness,” which are “a cross, tower, dome, conven- lag, 2004), 205-210. Dudley reads Tillich’s four papers on
tional shapes, and proportions.” McNamara, 2009, 27. religious architecture (1955-1965), placing them within
Michael Rose, Ugly as Sin: Why They Changed Our their biographical and theological context, and in relation
Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces and How to the modernist architecture of Otto Bartning, Dominikus
We Can Change Them Back Again (Omaha, NE: Sophia Böhm, and Rudolf Schwarz after Schneider, 1938. Focus-
Institute Press, 2001). Moyra Doorly, No Place for God: ing mainly on the principles of honesty and consecration,
The Denial of the Transcendent in Modern Church Archi- Dudley deals with sacred emptiness, purpose and symbol,
tecture (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007). and the differences between Protestant and Roman Catho-
Paul Tillich, “Theology and Architecture,” in Archi- lic churches. Reymond presents the paradoxical ability of
tectural Forum CIII, 6 (December 1955): 131-134, 136; finite architecture to express the ultimate. In doing so, he
in On Art and Architecture, ed. John Dillenberger and focuses on the Protestant principle, confronting Tillich’s
Jane Dillenberger, trans. Robert P. Scharlemann (New thought with the contributions of Joseph Rykwert. Never-
York: Crossroad, 1989), 188-198. Henceforth, OAA. “Zur theless, in this comparison, he seems to overlook Tillich’s
Theologie der bildenden Kunst und der Architektur,” in very first dealing with architecture in his early conference
Auf der Grenze (Stuttgart: Evangelisches Verlagswerk, “Das Wohnen, der Raum, und die Zeit” of 1933. Rey-
1962); in Gesammelte Werke, Vol. IX: Die Religiöse Sub- mond concludes that the essential symbol of religious
stanz der Kultur, ed. Renate Albrecht (Stuttgart: Evan- architecture is its powerful invitation to prayer and com-
gelisches Verlagswerk, 1967), 345-355. Henceforth, GW. munion: “À bien la prendre, une architecture religieuse
English translation: “On the Theology of Fine Art and n’est rien, ou n’est que la moitié d’elle-même, sans le
Architecture,” OAA 204-213. “Contemporary Protestant culte qui y prend place, donc sans le paradoxe même de la
Architecture,” in Modern Church Architecture: A Guide foi qui y trouve son expression vécue. C’est dire que le
to the Form and Spirit of 20th Century Religious Build- symbole dont le caractère paradoxal de l’architecture reli-
ings, ed. Albert Christ-Janer and Mary Mix Foley (New gieuse a le plus besoin tient moins aux symbolismes vi-
York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1962), 122- suels qu’on peut y ajouter (Tillich pensait surtout à la
125; OAA 214-220. “Honesty and Consecration in Art croix), qu’à sa destination même. Cette architecture ne
and Architecture,” first published as “Wanted for Relig- devient expression symbolique idoine, dans son insur-
ious Architecture Today: Honesty and Consecration,” in montable opacité, que dans la mesure où elle appelle la
Protestant Church Buildings and Equipment (September prière, la prédication et la communion qui en sont à la fois
1965); OAA 221-228. la raison d’être et la fondamentale contestation. Elle est
When, in his first talk on architecture, Tillich still pour ainsi dire un plein qui, par son vide, appelle une au-
opts for specific preferences, as colored glass, broken tre plénitude, mais d’ordre eschatologique.” Reymond,
light, and geometric forms, as supposedly more relig- “Le Paradoxe,” 153.
iously expressive, he tends to become normative. OAA Uwe Carsten Scharf, The Paradoxical Break-
193. through of Revelation: Interpreting the Divine-Human
OAA 221. Interplay in Paul Tillich’s Work 1913-1964, Theologische
Bibliothek Töpelmann 83 (Berlin and New York: de
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 48

Gruyter, 1999). In this study, Scharf discusses 39 writings vitality in which the self-affirmation of life becomes al-
in which the term Durchbruch or related terms can be most ecstatic.” (OAA 94) Although without religious con-
found. He examines three periods, in which the term is tent, that is to say, not religious in the narrow sense, this
dominant (1919-1936), totally absent (1936-1951), and painting is religious in the broad sense. We might also
feebly rediscovered (1951-1965). Whereas different terms refer to Tillich’s lasting experience of the Botticelli.
as Zerbrechen (breaking apart), Einbrechen (breaking (“One Moment of Beauty,” OAA 234-235) Third, Stoker
into), and Durchbrechen (breaking through) are still used reacts against Tillich’s inclusivism, that is to say, identify-
interchangeably in Tillich’s early writings, the latter be- ing the ultimate to the Christian God. Therefore, “the
comes the dominant term in the twenties and early thir- theological considerations of other representations of the
ties. The term Durchbruch is related to divine revelation ultimate in art are too quickly cut off in advance.” Stoker,
and its historico-political kairos of Religious Socialism. 10. Instead of Tillich’s broad concept of religion, which
After 1936, Scharf notices a decline of this term, which understands all art as potentially—one could even say in a
pops up only in occasional writings, limited to the realm Rahnerian way ‘anonymously’—Christian, Stoker sug-
of art. In the present article, I provide other occurrences of gests to take the more neutral ‘worldview’ as the basis of
the term, focusing on Tillich’s later writings, and propos- a dialogue.
ing a closer connection between Durchbruch and the Paul Tillich, “Das Wohnen, der Raum, und die
spirit. I will examine especially Tillich’s Systematic The- Zeit,” in Die Form 8 (1933), 11-12; GW IX, 328-332.
ology, in which Scharf only noticed one occurrence of English translation: “Dwelling, Space, and Time,” OAA
breakthrough (ST I, 143), arguing that, even if he over- 81-85.
looked other references, “it certainly does not appear to be “Drei Begriffe sind in diesem Thema verbunden,
a dominant concept.” Scharf 278. von denen zwei, Raum und Zeit, Ergebnisse höchster phi-
Russell Re Manning, Theology at the End of Cul- losphischer Abstraktion sind, während der dritte, das
ture: Paul Tillich’s Theology of Culture and Art (Leuven: Wohnen, konkrete, lebensnahe Wirklichkeit bezeichnet.
Peeters, 2005); Wessel Stoker, “Does Tillich’s Theology […] Denn im Nächsten, im Alltäglichen, im scheinbar
of Art Have a Future? In Response to Russell Re Man- Kleinen steckt in Wahrheit das Metaphysische; das Jetzt
ning, Theology of the End of Culture: Paul Tillich’s The- und Hier ist der Ort, wo sich der Sinn erschließt, wo un-
ology of Culture and Art,” in International Yearbook for sere Existenz Deutung finden muß, wenn sie überhaupt
Tillich Research, ed. Christian Danz and Werner Schüßler Deutung finden kann.” GW IX, 328; OAA 81.
(Vienna, Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2006), 197-208. In fact, “Raum ist kein Ding, auch kein Behälter, in dem
Stoker suggests three corrections to Tillich’s theology of Dinge sind, sondern Raum ist die Art des Lebendigen, zur
art. First, he recommends a broader interpretation of ex- Existenz zu kommen.” GW IX, 329; OAA 82.
pressiveness, for the expressionistic view of disruption of GW IX, 329; OAA 82.
a surface is not the only model to evoke the ultimate in Ibid.
art. Second, and linked with the first, Stoker claims that In “Das Wohnen, Der Raum, und die Zeit,” there
Tillich is primarily concerned with alienation, and sug- are four occurrences of breakthrough (Durchbruch),
gests to give more attention to different subject matter, as which Scharf left unnoticed, not even mentioning this
resurrection and grace. Stoker refers here to Tillich’s arti- article. One occurrence concerns the animal, which by its
cle Existentialist Aspects of Modern Art, in which Tillich mobility breaks through the subjection of the soil
indeed discusses paintings that show the human situation (“durchbricht die vegetative Bodengebundenheit,” GW
of horror, disruptiveness, existential doubt, emptiness, and IX, 329; OAA 83). The next two occurrences concern the
meaninglessness without any cover. However, in my human being, breaking through every spatial limit,
view, the point here is not the expression of the alienation through every finite boundary: “Der Mensch durchbricht
as such, but the fact that these paintings without explicit jede Raumgrenze,” and “die menschliche Art des Sich-
religious subject matter do not cover up anything in an Raum-Schaffens Durchbrechung jeder endlichen Grenze
idealistic beautification of the surface. The point is the ist.” GW IX, 330; OAA 83. The last occurrence, trans-
expressiveness of the depths of reality as perceived in the lated by “breached,” concerns how the new breaks
present. These depths are uncanny in the case of the situa- through the old: “im Neuen ist die Grenze des alten
tion which led to these paintings. Nevertheless, I would Raumes und der alten Gestaltung durchbrochen.” GW IX,
respond to Stoker that, in the same article, Tillich dis- 331; OAA 84.
cusses a picture of Jan Steen that struck him for its vital-
ity, expressing “power of being in terms of an unrestricted
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 49

“Unendlich ist der Raum, weil die menschliche Art economic structures which reveal a little of this tendency
des Sich-Raum-Schaffens Durchbrechung jeder endlichen toward self-transcendence, of the will to break through
Grenze ist.” GW IX, 330; OAA 83. the limits of self-sufficient finitude. Religious architecture
“Er ist die erste und unmittelbarste Beziehung, die on the other hand is like religious painting; it is without
der Mensch zum Raum überhaupt hat. In ihr schafft er symbolic power to express the religious situation of the
sich den Raum, der sein Raum ist. Und erst von seinem present.” OAA 70-71.
Raum aus kann er vorstoßen in den Raum überhaupt, in Manning 2009, 168.
den unendlichen Raum.” GW IX, 328; OAA 81-82. OAA 192-93.
21 36
OAA xxv. Namely, in 1952 (OAA 40), 1955 (OAA 193),
22 1962 (OAA 218), 1963 (ST III, 171), and 1965 (OAA
“Er geht über jede Gestaltung, auch über jeden
gestaltenten Raum hinaus, auf etwas Neues zu; und im 227).
Neuen ist die Grenze des alten Raumes und der alten Paul Tillich, “Art and Society,” OAA 11-41.
Gestaltung durchbrochen.” GW IX, 331; OAA 84. OAA 40.
23 39
“Die Zeit gewinnt Gegenwart nur im Raum; Ibid.
Gegenwart ist der raumnahe Modus der Zeit.” GW IX, OAA 215.
331; OAA 85. OAA 227.
24 42
Rather than “uniform space” in Scharlemann’s OAA 217.
translation. OAA 85. OAA 192.
GW IX, 331; OAA 84. Rudolph Schwartz, The Church Incarnate: The Sa-
“Jedes Haus sucht eine solche Gegenwart im be- cred Function of Christian Architecture, trans. Cynthia
grenzten Raum zu geben.” GW IX, 332; OAA 85. Harris (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958), 187. Orig: Vom
27 Bau der Kirche, Heidelberg: Verlag Lambert Schneider,
Architecture has “to single out from the infinite
1938. On emptiness, see Schwartz’s discussion of the
space, into which we are thrown in our nakedness, a piece
open ring (67-94), esp. 68, 77, 86, 90.
of finite space which protects us against the infinite,” and 45
“The renewal of religious art must come out of the
“to give him that limited space from which he can then go
house, the building, the building for the assembly of those
forward toward infinite space.” OAA 192.
who are grasped by an ultimate concern and express it in
OAA 190.
similar symbols. We must start with the unity of technical
OAA 191. and artistic creation. In most creative centuries, church
In addition to the aforementioned works of Man-
buildings gave the most important impulse to everything
ning and Stoker, see also Russell Re Manning, “Tillich’s
religious art was doing. I believe that this has to be done
Theology of Art,” in The Cambridge Companion to Paul
again. We do not know how far we can go, but we know
Tillich, ed. Russell Re Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge
that if we start soberly, asking ourself [sic] what is the
University Press, 2009), 152-172; Michael Palmer, Paul
meaning, the purpose, the aim of the building in which the
Tillich’s Philosophy of Art (Berlin and New York: Walter ultimate concern shall be the dominating reality – ask this
de Gruyter, 1984) and Gesa Elsbeth Thiessen, “Religious
in terms of external, physical techniques and of technical
Art is Expressionistic: A Critical Appreciation of Paul
means to produce this meaning – then we may find a way
Tillich’s Theology of Art,” Irish Theological Quarterly
which avoids the terrible distortion of religious art in the
59/4 (1993), 301-311.
last century. Purpose, in building assembly houses for
OAA 191-192.
ultimate concern, means not external purposes; it means
“Architecture is the basic artistic expression, just adequacy to the religious character of the ultimate con-
because it is not only art but because it serves a practical
cern which is supposed to be expressed.” OAA 39-40.
purpose. It is quite probable that the renewal of religious 46
OAA 41.
art will start in co-operation with architecture.” OAA 124. 47
OAA 212.
Ibid. In his 1926 text The Religious Situation, Til- 48
OAA 228.
lich had written that “architecture made use of expression- 49
OAA 40.
istic forms only rarely and then with evident lack of suc- 50
OAA 188, 218.
cess. For its relation to the practical end of construction 51
“On the one hand, there is an insistence on the sub-
forces a realism upon it from which the free arts with their
stantial presence of God in certain places and, on the
non-utilitarian character can readily emancipate them-
other, an affirmation that God is to be found beyond all
selves.…It is highly characteristic of the religious situa-
we can touch, imagine, or think. God situates Godself
tion of the present that it is not religious buildings but
outside and above even that which manifests God’s pres-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 50

ence. These two attitudes towards the sacred or the relig- For the following discussion, I will draw mainly on
ious are dealt with in all the Christian Churches. The first references of the fourth part on “Life and the Spirit” of
corresponds, however, to a faith rather of a Catholic type, Tillich’s Systematic Theology, particularly “The Spiritual
the second rather to a Protestant type of faith. It is impor- Presence,” ST III, 111-161; and “The Spiritual Presence
tant to distinguish clearly between attitude and confes- and the Ambiguities of Culture,” ST III, 245-265.
sion.” André Gounelle, “Tillich: A Vision of Protestan- ST III 198.
tism for Today,” in Spirit and Community: The Legacy of Frederick J. Parrella, “Tillich’s Theology of the
Paul Tillich, edited by Frederick J. Parrella (Berlin and Concrete Spirit,” in The Cambridge Companion to Paul
New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), 162. Tillich, ed. Russell Re Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge
OAA 226. University Press, 2009), 89.
53 68
OAA 194, 231-232. Werner Schüßler, “Where Does Religion Come
OAA 216. From? Paul Tillich’s Concept of Grundoffenbarung”, in
“If some building is architecturally perfect in itself, Religion et culture: actes du colloque international du
namely, completely adequate to its purpose, one should centenaire Paul Tillich, Université Laval, Québec 18-22
not add anything to beautify it. The beauty must lie in the août 1986, edited by Michel Despland, Jean-Claude Petit,
adequacy and expressive power of the structure, not in and Jean Richard (Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval
contingent additions; and I believe that the word expres- and Éditions du Cerf, 1987), 164-165. My emphasis.
siveness must, at least for thirty years from now, replace Paul Tillich, “The Conquest of the Concept of Re-
the desecrated word beautiful, desecrated most by relig- ligion in the Philosophy of Religion,” in What is Relig-
ious art at the end of the nineteenth century.” OAA 223. ion?, tr. J. L. Adams (New York: Harper and Row, 1973),
OAA 203. 137-138 (GW I, 377). My emphasis.
57 70
OAA 203. ST III 111ff.
58 71
“The Christian has only contempt for pious frauds ST I 249.
which are passed off as art, concrete used as though it Ibid.
were wood, steel used as if it were stone, false beams, ST III 114.
simulated marble, imitation drapes. This is the heresy of ST III 111. Tillich refuses the metaphors of inspi-
Docetists in art. It is Christ seeming to be man, but not ration and infusion, when they are understood as merely
being man in reality.” Kilan McDonnell, “Art and the information about something rather than transformation.
Sacramental Principle,” Liturgical Arts 25 (1957): 92. ST III 112.
“What is required are well-made, genuine things: things Ibid.
that are simple, manly, solid, chaste, honest, unsentimen- Ibid.
tal, noble, hieratic.” John Julian Ryan, “Toward a Sound ST III 161.
Religious Art,” Catholic World 187 (1958): 11. Modernist ST III 120.
architects as Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Mies van der ST III 117. My emphasis.
Rohe, and Adolf Loos promoted values like authenticity, Schüßler, 161.
functionalism, simplicity, essentialism, and honesty in ST III 133. My emphasis.
architecture. Already in 1908, the modernist Austrian ST III 129.
architect Adolf Loos claimed: “Lack of ornament is a sign ST III 134. My emphasis.
of spiritual strength.” Adolf Loos, “Ornament and Robert P. Scharlemann, “Tillich’s Religious Writ-
Crime,” in Adolf Loos: Pioneer of Modern Architecture, ings,” in Paul Tillich, Main Works/Hauptwerke, Vol. 5,
ed. Ludwig Münz and Gustav Künstler, London: Thames Writings on Religion/Religiöse Schriften, ed. Robert P.
& Hudson, 1966, 231. Scharlemann (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1988), 5 n6. My
OAA 216. emphasis.
60 86
OAA 226. My emphasis. See also OAA 189. “[B]reakthrough is used intensively during a four-
Dudley, 522. year period (1924-1927), and later only sporadically.”
OAA 194. Scharf, 7. See also Scharf, 300ff.
63 87
OAA 223. “One Moment of Beauty,” OAA 235.
64 88
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, 3 volumes OAA 221.
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1951, 1957, OAA 222.
1963), III, 198. Henceforth, ST. ST III, 112.
OAA 235.
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 51

Scharf 306. brates there.” Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture,
George Pattison, Art, Modernity and Faith: Restor- and Worship: Guidelines of the National Conference of
ing the Image (London: SCM Press, 1998), 106. Catholic Bishops (Washington, D.C.: United States
ST III, 158. My emphasis. Catholic Conference of Bishops, 2000), 16. My emphasis.
Frederick J. Parrella, “Tillich’s Understanding of This last point, being “reflective of the community that
Symbol and Contemporary Catholic Sacramentality,” in celebrates there,” corresponds in my view with Tillich’s
Das Symbol als Sprache der Religion: Internationales argument for a movement inwards in architectural space,
Jahrbuch für die Tillich-Forschung, Vol. 2, edited by which I call the “appropriation” of the space.
Christian Danz, Werner Schüßler, and Erdmann Sturm Durkin, 30.
(Wien, Münster: LIT Verlag, 2007), 104-105, referring to Reymond, “Le Paradoxe,” 153.
ST III, 121. Apart from being physically present, a living
ST III, 249. My emphasis. community can express their presence in a church through
ST III, 129. My emphasis. See ST III, 112-113: the display of the names of baptized and deceased,
“The finite cannot force the infinite; man cannot compel catechetical and charity works, images or statues of par-
God.” ticular saints, and so on.
98 122
ST II, 79. My emphasis. Tillich’s use of the term victory in church architec-
ST III, 249. ture might surprisingly correspond to Schwartz’s refresh-
ST III, 250. ingly pleading for “true and sacred failure,” for I believe
ST III, 112. that both intuit the same mystery. According to Schwartz,
ST III, 252. My emphasis. “church building is the great form of surrender, the work
103 of hands which open sacred inaction. It is that work which
ST I, 254. My emphasis.
104 grows ever smaller, gradually ceasing, that work in which
ST III, 250.
man grows ever weaker, until, empty to the dregs, he
ST III, 140. stands at the brink before God… [B]y ourselves, we can
ST III, 251. build no churches, that God must do.…That which s new
McNamara, 2009, 27. in the world comes straight from God at the moment that
Ibid. it is no longer hoped for; this is the mystery of true and
Ibid. sacred failure (Schwartz, 229-31).
Gounelle, 166.
See ST III, 250.
For the following discussion, I will refer to the
presentation of this church in Mary-Cabrini Durkin, The
Cathedral of Christ the Light (Oakland, California)
(Strasbourg: Éditions du Signe, 2008).
Dudley, 521. See OAA 188, 191.
OAA 221.
ST III, 249. My emphasis.
Durkin, 8. My emphasis.
Paraphrasing Le Corbusier’s well-known comment
of a house as “une machine à habiter,” the French painter
Jean Charlot wrote that, “from God’s point of view a
church is a machine to live in, and from man’s point of
view, a machine to pray in.” Jean Charlot, “Catholic Art
in America: Debits and Credits,” Liturgical Arts 27
(1958): 21.
In their document Built on Living Stones, the Ro-
man Catholic Bishops of North America argue for
churches that are “both the house of God on earth (domus
Dei) and a house fit for the prayers of the saints (domus
ecclesiae).” They must be “expressive of the presence of
God and suited for the celebration of the sacrifice of
Christ, as well as reflective of the community that cele-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 52

Fig. 1 View from lake Merritt Fig. 3 Entering the cathedral

Fig. 4 Interior view of concrete ring

Fig. 2 View from the plaza and wooden vault in douglas fir
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 53

Fig 5. View of the sanctuary with

Christ in Majesty (Omega window)

Fig. 7 Porch and front

Fig. 6 View of the central axis from

baptismal font to altar

Fig. 8 Crucifix and ambo

Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 54

Being and Gaia: finitely and absolutely nonbeing. Thus, in The Cour-
Seeking Resources Toward a Vo- age to Be, we find the following:
cabulary for Naturalistic Theology [i]f being is interpreted in terms of life or proc-
ess or becoming, nonbeing is ontologically as
Ryan T. O’Leary basic as being. The acknowledgement of this
fact does not imply a decision about the priority
Tillich’s Ontological Theology of being over nonbeing, but it requires a consid-
eration of nonbeing in the very foundation of on-
In perhaps one of Tillich’s most famous (and tology. Speaking of courage as a key to the in-
most difficult to unpack) statements, Tillich claims terpretation of being-itself, one could say that
that, “God is being-itself.” More, “Since God is the this key, when it opens the door to being, finds,
ground of being, he is the ground of the structure of at the same time, being and the negation of be-
being. He is not subject to this structure; the struc- ing and their unity.3
ture is grounded in him. He is this structure, and it is Beings can only exist as an instantiation of—or
impossible to speak about him except in terms of through participation in—the prior dialectical activ-
this structure. God must be approached cognitively ity of the self-manifestation of being-itself as the
through the structural element of being-itself. These power of being infinitely overcoming nonbeing…
elements make him a living God, a God who can be and the religious symbol for this is the divine life.
man’s concrete concern.”1 We have in this one short “Power of being,” in this interpretation, names
passage a number of important—indeed crucial— the power of being-itself to realize itself by resisting
themes for the development of an ontological con- nonbeing and unifying the power of being and non-
cept of Nature. First, we see the identification of being in an active dialectic by which finite being is
God with being-itself (which is, of course, arrived at structured. On the basis of this dialectic, the self-
through the method of correlation, which connects world and subject-object contrasts are grounded and
theological, religious symbols with philosophical, empowered in their operation and in their unity. It is
ontological concepts). Along with this, we find ref- in and through the dual participation of being-itself
erence to God as the ground of being. We see that and finite being that both finite life and the divine
God not only grounds the structure but that in some life are enacted. That is, finite being participates in
important way God is the structure of being, and that being-itself and does so through the generating and
to speak of God we must speak of the structure of empowering participation of being-itself in finite life
being. We see that somehow the structural elements as the power of its being, and through the active dia-
of being make God a living God—hence, we can lectic of the power of being and nonbeing. Hence,
speak of the symbol “divine life” ontologically in Tillich writes,
terms of an active interplay of the structural ele- God himself is said to participate in the negativ-
ments of being. Finally, Tillich suggests that God ities of creaturely existence…God as being-itself
can be our concrete concern since God is a living transcends nonbeing absolutely. On the other
God that we can approach cognitively through an hand, God as creative life includes the finite and,
understanding of the structure of being. with it, nonbeing, although nonbeing is eternally
In Tillich’s ontology, being-itself needs to be conquered and the finite is eternally reunited
understood first as the unifying principle of the “ba- within the infinity of the divine life. Therefore, it
sic articulation of being”: “the self-world structure.” is meaningful to speak of a participation of the
This self-world structure, in turn, is the precondition divine life in the negativities of creaturely life.4
of the “subject-object” structure that makes possible And again: “Life itself is dialectical. If applied sym-
asking questions and attaining knowledge.2 Being- bolically to the divine life, God as a living God must
itself is thus the presupposition of the self-world be described in dialectical statements. He has the
structure of existence, which in turn is the presuppo- character of all life, namely, to go beyond himself
sition of the subject-object structure, which is the and return to himself.”5
necessary condition for knowledge. Most impor-
tantly, in its self-manifestation, being-itself has the B. The Ontological Concept “Nature”
character of “the power of being.” That is, being-
itself, in its self-manifestation and self-realization, To attempt an articulation of the vocabulary of a
has the character of the power of being resisting in- “naturalistic,” panentheistic theology—centrally in-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 55

corporating a theological understanding of the value constitutions and drives of organisms, and the forces
of nature—we will need to formulate the concepts controlling the physical phenomena that are ob-
“nature” and “naturalism” in terms of the grounding served. It is from this understanding that the final,
ontology interpreted above. The ontology itself cuts most common and most general sense of the term is
off from the beginning the possibility of both reduc- derived: “nature,” in this sense, means everything
tionist naturalism and religious naturalism that sim- apart from the “artificial,” the man-made (and, of
ply identifies “God” with “nature.” A reductive natu- course, apart from the “supernatural”). “Nature” in
ralism—that is, an ontology, epistemology, and this sense, therefore, does not possess those attrib-
methodology which identify all of reality with inor- utes which are specifically, particularly, and essen-
ganic substance deterministically regulated by tially human—recall echoes of the first sense of the
mechanistic processes and laws—is already shown term shading the fourth. That is, nature is held to be
to be less than ontologically adequate insofar as the deterministic, not free, and mindless, not self-
ontology posits a transcendent unity into which such conscious. Here the second, theological sense shades
reductive naturalism cannot inquire. Moreover, for this fourth sense, precisely because humans are cre-
reasons that will become more clear below, a simple ated in the image of God that we are free and con-
conflation (or correlation) of the symbol “God” with scious.
the concept “nature” is insufficient insofar as Nature This fundamental ambiguity, and the self-
must be seen as subject to and constituted by the referencing shadings between the four primary
self-world structure of being. meanings of the term, is crucial to our analysis. On
Here, though, let us begin by noting that “na- the one hand, it is important to make clear that the
ture” is a constructed concept. Historically, “nature” term “essence” must be maintained as a technical
has been used in at least four crucially important ontological concept and that where we seek to render
ways, corresponding to two basic categorical types. “nature” another technical ontological concept, we
In the first type of way the term has been em- must be careful not to conflate the two. Of course, in
ployed, “nature” is discussed in terms of “essence,” so doing we cannot forget the overlap and reciprocal
or the inherent character or basic constitution of a shading that the various senses of the term have his-
person or thing. Of course, “essence” has its own torically involved. Hence, it is with the second
place in Tillich’s ontology, and therefore it is impor- type—nature as non-human and non-divine—that
tant for our purposes that we not confuse the onto- our analysis can most productively work.
logical concept “nature” with the ontological con- Before continuing with the analysis, let us stop
cept “essence.” Just so, a second, more classically to make a point concerning terminology. In particu-
theological sense of the term used in this first sense lar, with the word “nature,” there will be times in
must be separated out—this concerns the idea of which the first set of meanings—recalling “essence”
humanity’s “natural” state as distinguished from a and the like—will be useful. Grammatically, we do
state of grace. Not only does this understanding not want to render ourselves incapable of saying, for
carry with it theological baggage beyond the scope example, “Writing of this type, by its very symbolic
of this project, but it can also introduce confusion nature, runs the risk of imprecision.” To try to avoid
into our attempt to articulate “nature” as an onto- the risk of terminological imprecision, however, I
logical concept. will consistently capitalize the term to distinguish it
In the second type of way the term has been as an ontological concept grounded in Tillichian on-
used, another understanding of nature has been his- tology and participating in the fundamental self-
torically prevalent, and it is this understanding that world structure of being. Hence, we will develop the
should be finessed. “Nature” in this third sense con- concept of “Nature” in terms of an ontological polar
cerns the observable phenomena of the material uni- contrast, while still reserving the word “nature” in
verse, and it is generally contrasted with both human all its linguistic ambiguity. Just so, when we formu-
artifice and the “supernatural.” Of course Tillich late the polarity as the Man-Nature contrast, we are
rejects both supernaturalism and a pantheism that intentionally using “Man” as the other term of the
would identify God with the cosmos. In any case, contrast, rather than the gender-neutral “human” we
this understanding of the term—that is, the observ- would otherwise employ. This is intended to convey
able phenomena of the material universe— the modernist sense of “Man” as the object of scien-
commonly includes the “material” substance of the tific knowledge, the organizer of that knowledge,
universe (however this may be defined), the physical and the master of nature—evoking the modern pro-
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 56

ject of reason and Foucault’s claim that “man” is a Now, in these same terms, we posit another con-
recent invention, a product of the modernist project.6 trast instantiating the same dynamic: the Man-
Now, not only does the term “nature” ambigu- Nature contrast. The concept of Nature is directly a
ously shift between essentialist and materialist product of the existential estrangement so funda-
meanings, but also, even in the second sense, it con- mental to human existence. Estrangement is itself a
tains a fundamental and productive ambiguity. This product of the ontological constitution of finite exis-
takes us straight to the heart of the concept and is tence, in which being and nonbeing are mixed im-
crucial to our discussion. On the one hand, nature perfectly. Existence, experience, and knowledge are
refers to wilderness, to the determining laws govern- made possible by separation, according to which
ing the functioning of the cosmos—that is, that (relative) nonbeing is a principle of differentiation
realm of reality conceptually constituted by being and otherness—but this constitutive separation of the
distinguished from the products of human artifice. human being from other human beings, from the
On the other hand, as organisms, as biological enti- world, and from God produces the experience of
ties, humans clearly are part of nature. Hence, Na- nonbeing manifested in anxiety, the ontological
ture is both that from which we come and that from shock, and estrangement. That is, it is the transcen-
which we distinguish ourselves. As beings that pos- dental awareness of separation that constitutes es-
sess freedom and reason we see ourselves, in our trangement and is experienced in anxiety.
“essential nature” standing apart from the unreason- In Man’s consciousness of the world of which
ing, deterministic, threatening “wild.” This ambigu- he is a part, then, he instantiates the separation of
ity, based in separation, can be situated squarely in existence from its source—being-itself or God—in
Tillich’s ontological schema by showing it to be a the conceptual constitution of Man as separate from
product of the existential estrangement produced by and over against Nature. Moreover, just as human
finitely occupying the self-world structure. As such, existence is both estranged from God and partici-
the Man-Nature contrast clearly partakes of that pates in the divine life (through the dual participa-
structure, and belongs to the fundamental condition tion we named above), just as infinity encompasses
of humanity. and includes finitude even as finitude separates itself
We saw above that the structure of being is a from the infinite in its very constitution, so too does
dynamic dialectic, in which the power of being infi- Man participate in and take his being from Nature
nitely overcomes nonbeing in the self-manifestation even as he constitutes himself in terms of his es-
of being-itself. Again, the basic articulation of the trangement from Nature. Both Man and Nature con-
structure of being is the self-world structure, in ceptually constitute each other in this primordial act
which human beings have a self and have a world. of separation.
While the self belongs to the world, it is not the Just as being-itself grounds, incorporates, and
world—while the self is free in the world it is also transcends the power of being and nonbeing in the
conditioned by the world. It is the self-world con- dynamic dialectic of the infinitely unifying divine
trast that makes existence possible and that makes life, Nature does the same on a lower level. Nature
the ontological question pressing. The self-world gives rise to the subject which separates himself
contrast is the condition of the possibility of the sub- from her both as the biological and environmental
ject-object contrast, and hence the two together are precondition of the species and as the conditions for
the conditions for the possibility of existence, expe- individual organic generation through genetics and
rience, and knowledge. We also saw that it is not the mechanisms of conception and birth. Hence, the
simply the division of subject and object that makes primordial unity of Man and Nature makes the con-
knowledge possible, but—as Heidegger shows— trast possible. Nature also gives rise to the subject
more primordially the unity of subject and object in conceptually, as the reality of the object from which
being. That is, the contrast makes knowledge possi- he is separated—that which Man observes and util-
ble, but only insofar as the contrast is grounded in a izes is that from which Man separates himself in the
prior unity, and that contrast is reunited in the very acts of observation and utilization. In that sepa-
knowledge of truth that it makes possible. Of course, ration Man defines his identity as Man—that is, as
this is an expression of the dynamic dialectic that neither beast nor determined material process, but as
drives the divine life, and continues to be instanti- free, rational, and inquiring—and in the same
ated at each level of the structure of being. movement defines the Nature from which he is sepa-
rate. Again, this is clearly an expression of the more
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 57

primordial self-world contrast, according to which James Lovelock, the scientist who developed the
the self is that being which finds itself thrown into a theory he named the “Gaia hypothesis,” has given us
world that the self must negotiate, learn about, strive the revitalized symbol. Lovelock himself uses the
to master, or seek harmony with. term Gaia metaphorically to denote the “system of
So, while knowledge and experience require organisms and their planet” which co-evolves as a
separation—hence Nature becomes objectified, as single system such that the planet is “able to regulate
does Man himself when he becomes an object of its climate and chemical state.”7 In other words, the
inquiry—Man also participates in Nature in a more earth is self-regulating and self-maintaining. The
fundamental way. He does so, however, on the earth is “alive,” Lovelock says, “only in a physio-
ground of a still more primordial structure grounded logical sense,” not in the sense that it has motives or
in the unity of being-itself as the ground and neces- consciousness.8 Perhaps most important for our pur-
sary condition of the structure of being. Thus Nature poses is a central insight of the theory: “The evolu-
as the unity from which Man separates himself is tion of the species and the evolution of their envi-
dependent on a deeper unity—Nature remains finite ronment are tightly coupled together as a single and
being, conditioned by and dependent upon that inseparable process.”9
which is neither conditioned nor dependant, being- Gaia is alive symbolically, insofar as the earth
itself. This is why a pantheism that simply equates and its inhabitants are engaged in an ongoing proc-
God with Nature cannot work—Nature is grounded ess whereby the elements structuring the conditions
in a God who transcends the self-world and Man- for the possibility of organic life—self-propagating
Nature structures. organisms and collective species, the environment of
Nature is that from which Man is estranged, these species, weather patterns, atmospheric consti-
right along with all his other ways of being es- tutions, the processes of evolution, and many
tranged, and she is that from which Man takes his more—move “divergently and convergently,” and
organic being. However, she is also that which uni- “separate and reunite simultaneously.” This process
fies her own internal separation of Man from Nature, forms the ground of organic life and its ultimate re-
insofar as Man participates in Nature and Nature unification in biological interdependence. When we
participates in Man. Nature participates in Man name these processes “Gaia,” we intentionally evoke
through evolution and wonder, and Man participates the image of the Earth Goddess, one of the most
in Nature as a learner and a shaper. primal of religious symbols, and we reinterpret that
symbol according to the insights of ecology and
C. The Religious Symbol, Gaia guided by the grounding ontology of Tillichian the-
In developing the symbol, Gaia, we will need to Gaia, then, partakes of the ontological structure
remember that Gaia is a religious symbol, correlated of life as an instantiation of the divine life—itself a
to the ontological conceptual schema of Nature we symbolic expression—on a lower ontological level.
have sketched above. Yet where God as being-itself Gaia lives in a process of going out beyond herself
is not subject to the structure of being, Gaia as Na- in evolution and returning to herself in the co-
ture is subject to that structure. It is within the struc- evolution of organisms and environment necessary
ture of being that Nature is separated from Man. It is to the process of her self-realization. Hence, not only
because Man is a self who has a world that he can is the environment necessary for the maintenance of
separate himself from what he calls Nature, yet all the conditions of the possibility of organic life on
separation is always already united and eternally earth, but that organic life is the very mechanism of
reunited in the dynamic dialectic of the structure of the maintenance of those conditions. Here we find
being expressing and grounded in being-itself. Thus, the idea of dual participation recast and given con-
Gaia operates as a symbol for the dynamic through crete content in the terms of ecology and symbolic
which Nature forms a primordial unity from which expression in the idea of the life of Gaia. Just as the
Man separates himself and in which that separation structure of being is grounded in the dynamic self-
can be overcome in reunion. Gaia lives, not because manifestation of being-itself, and just as Man is part
she is an organism, but because she expresses a of the very Nature from which he conceptually sepa-
process through which “actualization of the struc- rates himself, organic life is absolutely grounded in
tural elements of being in their unity and in their and fully participates in the life of Gaia. Gaia
tension” is made organically possible. grounds the possibility of organic life by providing
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 38, 1, Winter 2012 58

its necessary conditions. Gaia continuously goes out do—and participating in our lives empowered by the
beyond herself in evolution in the increasing com- participation of the divine in finite being—can pro-
plexity and capacity of life as organic life, and she vide the imaginative resources to religiously express
returns to herself insofar as all organic life is con- the moral and existential import of ecological sci-
tinuously in the process of integration and reintegra- ence. This symbol, moreover, is especially effective
tion. insofar as it can be articulated in the terms of a
The life of Gaia hence partakes of the process of grounding theological ontology. This Tillichian on-
creative tension that is the divine life—the dialecti- tology allows us to articulate conceptually what we
cal dynamic which gives rise to creaturely life and to symbolize religiously. It allows us to develop an on-
the conditions of its limitation. Gaia unifies birth and tological understanding of Nature. It allows us to
death in a life of structured, infinite complexity, and develop a theological account of the relation of hu-
does so as part of the self-manifestation, self- man existence, Nature, and the divine life. It allows
transcendence, and self-realization of the divine life. us to articulate a correlation grounded in Tillichian
As part of the divine life, Gaia expresses the same ontology and theology, connecting the religious
dynamic which is the movement of the divine life on symbol of Gaia to the ontological and existential
a lower ontological level. Yet it could be argued Man-Nature contrast: Gaia transcends and reunifies
that, as that which grounds and encompasses human that which was structurally separated in the dynamic
life as organic life, Gaia participates in the divine unity of the living earth… just as the power of being
life in many ways at a higher ontological level than eternally overcomes nonbeing in the dynamic life of
does human existence. If humans are created in the the living God.
“image of God”—and we can ontologically explicate
this in terms of the structure of being, through which Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume One
human life expresses and participates in the divine (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951), 238-39.
life—then so too is Gaia created in God’s image. Ibid., 164.
Lovelock writes, “Gaia theory forces a planetary Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be (New Haven: Yale
perspective. It is the health of the planet that matters, Univ. Press, 2000), 32.
not that of some individual species of organisms,” Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume One, 270.
not even the human species.10 This insight is funda- 5
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume Two
mental to what is called deep ecology, which is (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1957), 90.
grounded in the recognition of the deep intercon- Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeol-
nectedness and interdependence of organic life. Yet ogy of the Human Sciences (New York: Random House,
a simple recognition of interconnectedness— 1994), xxiii.
provided by philosophical reflection and given con- James Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of
crete content in scientific study—is not enough to Our Living Earth (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988), 7.
provide the resources and motivation to live in the Ibid., 11.
necessary ways. Nor can simple self-interest accom- Ibid.
plish this, as self-interest is conflicted and fickle. Ibid., xix.
The image of a living earth, created in the image
of God, participating in the divine life even as we
Bulletin of the North American Paul Tillich Society, vol. 36, 1, Winter 2010 59

The Officers of the North American

Paul Tillich Society
Courtney Wilder, Midland Lutheran

President Elect
Echol Nix, Furman University

Vice President
Duane Olsen, McKendree University

Secretary Treasurer
Frederick J. Parrella, Santa Clara University

Past President
Russell Re Manning, University of Cambridge

Board of Directors

Term Expiring 2012

Robison James, University of Richmond
Matthew Tennant, Oxford University
Gregory Walter, St. Olaf College

Term Expiring 2013

Nathaniel Holmes, Florida Memorial University
Bryan Wagoner, Harvard University
Wesley Wildman, Boston University

Term Expiring 2014

Marc Dumas, Université de Sherbrooke
Janet Giddings, Santa Clara University and San Jose State University
Marcia MacLennan, Kansas Wesleyan University