Feast of Paul Tillich (October 22)   1 comment

Above:  Paul Tillich’s Grave Marker

Image in the Public Domain

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PAUL JOHANNES TILLICH (AUGUST 20, 1886-OCTOBER 22, 1965)

German-American Lutheran Theologian

Paul Tillich was a major theologian during the twentieth century–a peer of the great Karl Barth.  Both men shared some core ideas, such as the centrality of Christ, but differed regarding natural theology.

Tillich, born n Starzeddel, Prussia, the German Empire, on August 20, 1886, grew up in a devout Lutheran family.  His mother was Wilhemina Mathilde Tillich.  Our saint’s father, Johannes Tillich, was a minister.  Young Paul studied in Starzeddel (-1900) and Berlin (1900-1904) before studying at the Universities of Berlin, Tübingen, Halle, and Breslau (1904-1911).  Tillich, awarded his Ph.D. from Breslau in 1911, became a Lutheran minister the following year.

Tillich worked in his native Germany until 1933.  He, an army chaplain from 1914 to 1918, married Margarethe Wever in 1914.  She left him for another man in 1919.  Tillich remarried in 1924.  His second wife, until he died in 1965, was Hannah Werner-Gottschow.  Our saint taught at the Universities of Berlin (1919-1924), Marburg (1924-1925), Leipzig (1925-1929), and Frankfurt (1929-1933).  The University of Frankfurt fired Tillich for his vocal opposition to Nazism.

The Tillichs emigrated in 1933.  Our saint accepted a position (via Reinhold Niebuhr) at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.  Our saint was Professor of Philosophical Theology at UTS (1933-1955), University Professor at Harvard University (1955-1962), and Nuveen Professor of Theology at The University of Chicago (1962-1965).

Tillich, aged 79 years, died in Chicago, Illinois, on October 22, 1965.

Tillich’s theology was influential and nuanced.  Others have summarized it better than what follows.  Nevertheless,….

  1. God is not merely a being.  No, God is the ground of being.  God is being-itself.
  2. Christianity is the revelation of a new reality–one renewing the old reality–not a revelation of doctrine.
  3. Natural theology has the Incarnation of Jesus at its core.  Life is sacred because of its relationship to God, in whom the reconciliation of the religious and the secular is possible.
  4. Religion is not just “spiritual.”  No, it is also physical, germane to all of life.
  5. Salvation is more than individual.  It applies to the world, and is applicable to broken relationships.
  6. Kairos is what happens when eternity invades time, transforming humankind and society.  Kairos is central to Tillich’s understanding of history, defined as a series of transformational transitions, such as the Incarnation.
  7. Given the reality of human depravity, therefore of finite human freedom, mere ethics prove inadequate to lead to human reunion with God.  This reunion is possible only via divine action overcoming human despair and estrangement.
  8. Christ incarnate was the first “true man” because he was the first one united with God, the ground of being.
  9. The power of being, as in the Incarnation, is natural, not supernatural.

Tillich’s theology offers much to ponder for lengthy periods of time.  The categories of “natural” and “supernatural,” set in opposition to each other, seem artificial.  If something is part of the created order, is it not, by definition, natural?  The “supernatural” is actually natural, just in ways we do not understand or relate to in the same way as we do to sunsets, trees, rocks, and cats.  So, of course, the power of being is natural, not supernatural.  The incarnation is about as natural as possible, yes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Paul Tillich,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge

of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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One response to “Feast of Paul Tillich (October 22)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (April 12) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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