Sunday, April 13, 2014

Erdmann Sturm Tillich and Politics


Politics as Science within the system of sciences, which for Tillich was a complex science. This means that it has a social-technical and a normative science. Social-technical are bureaucracy, diplomacy and sciences of war (all sciences of being); but the normative element is missing, and that's the input of politics and gets there from the human spirit. Politics is practical sense-founding; art is theoretical sense-founding. Social relationships are the foundation, and Tillich cites Law and Community. Community is closer to irrational and content-driven. Both are forms of the conditioned (Bedingte). The transcendending is toward the ethos, the unconditional form (Unbedingte); a Law lacking this link would oscillate between formalism and Willkür. Ethics is the science of the ethos. There is no theonomic Law or Community; but there is the possibility of a theonomic ethos. Law and Community can thus be founded in the theonomic ethos, if that possibility arises. This is squarely within the cultural theology and the sense theory (the conditional sense, here). All of this remains abstract, there are no concrete decisions.

Between 1919 and 1932 Tillich wrote on religious socialism, where he made concrete statements about the politics. Der Sozialismus als Kirchenfrage (1919) argues that Christian love rejects a society that is based on economic and political egoism; he wants a community-based society, and he glosses that as Socialism. Tillich hopes for a new world of unity; Christianity can achieve a new synthesis here by supporting this development. The Kairos circle around Tillich discussed the problem of the Utopia, since the Kingdom of God cannot be realized in this world. The Kairos is supposed to replace the Utopia, which means that a demand and an expectation appears in historical time of the Kingdom of God. The demonic is both good and bad, sense-fulfilled and sense-destroying. Within history the demonic cannot be destroyed, only identified and named and politically to be placed in check. Theonomy means that an autonomous form of sense is carried through the Unbedingte; but the autonomy term is here difficult to interpret. The socialism was no new economic system, but the Kairos explication of theonomy, the demanded and expected appearance. Tillich kept fighting against the bourgeois sentiment. Die Sozialistische Entscheidung ist the last statement, where Tillich tries to get the socialism to have a sensible notion of state and power. Democracy is a hiding place for the bourgeois; democratically it cannot be decided, who should rule. The democratic principle is not constitutive for Tillich, neither power nor social state aspects require it, but a corrective principle. Tillich thus rejected the Weimarer democratic republic. 

Reich Gottes und Geschichte is a study by Tillich presented in Oxford, where he as a Lutheran analyzes the political notion of the Kingdom of God of the Calvinistic Anglican tradition (see also Eschatologie und Geschichte of Dresden, and rejects thereby his Frankfurter socialism). The Kingdom of God is a symbol of the final sense of existence, including the final victory over the demonic powers of the Past and the Present. Christus is for Christianity the mid-point of history; he is the single kairos. There might be other kairoi, which actualize that one kairos. Tillich identifies three demons: capitalism, nationalism, totalitarianism. Totalinarism is tyranny and is judged by the union of Love and Power, which is symbolized by the Kingdom of God. Tillich attacks the religious worship for the dictator, the creation of martyrs in the strict sense; Christianity should defend liberty, autonomy, because every child is potentially a child of God. All three demons pursue the Western world into self-destruction; the kairos is the positive principle that makes sense of this development. The Church has to distinguish itself from these demons and prepare for a new existence; for the Hidden Church this means that she needs to realize the Kingdom of God---Autonomy against Capitalism, Unity against Nationalism, God-likeness against the Dictatorship. The new aspect here is it the criticism of the power, and the identification of justice as worth of humans.

"Man is finite freedom." and thus rejects all utopia. Man's freedom is connected to tragedy---a line that runs from the Greek writers to Augustine and Luther. Mensch und Gesellschaft im religiösen Sozialismus (1943) discusses whether personal creative freedom is also political freedom. Tillich wanders through literature and continents to find out that personal freedom does not coincide with political freedom. Tillich again argues against representative democracy, because there are other forms of political self-decision. These other forms, such as communes, Sowjets, societies and clans, provide potentially stronger venues for creative freedom, than democracy does. Justice demands through natural law via the essential structure of humanity that no accidental differentiator has a stronger weight than the essential nature of mankind. Tillich focuses on this justice even more ontologically in his later writing.

In his systematic writing, Tillich looks at Justice one more time, the correlation of live and divine spirit. The creative work includes the creation of society, and justice is its top-most principle. But justice has ambivalences, and these arise when justice is implemented: The Presence of the Divine Spirit and the Ambivalences of Everyday Life. The ambivalences are those of : membership, equality, leadership, and law. The injustice of ambivalence is tackled by the inclusiveness of the realization of the divine spirit in the Christian churches; no one is excluded. The exclusivity of family is overcome through friendship, and friendship through larger communities. The divine spirit fights against exclusion and against identity destruction of the community. Inequalities come into being continuously---family, school, political power struggle, discussions---but under the divine spirit all are equal. In the Divine Spirit community the equality and the inequality are united; but inequality is judged, because it cannot be used to permanently damage or obscure equality. Leadership and power are necessary to lead groups; true leadership respects the individual, but the leadership is a member of other social systems as well, and represents their interests in the present time. Within the Divine Spirit, leaders can overcome by making themselves an object of their own leadership. However, Tillich sees here only the democratic idea, not a special form of the democratic system. The civil and penal laws are also oriented toward justice, but often end in injustice; externally this is because of the authorities that create, interpret and apply the laws and express the socio-economic classes involved; the interior ambivalence is its abstractness of formulation, which makes its mapping to a concrete situation problematic. The Divine Spirit can help because it can bring theonomic quality to the justice process. Every judgement expresses the spirit of the judge. The abstractness can be overcome by the theonomic inspiration of the wisdom of the judge.

The ethos must be the basis of Law, which is a Neo-Kantian move. Theonomic law making is the working of the Divine Spirit who utilizes the prophetic self-criticism of those that are responsible for the Law. The Divine Spirit uses the Human Spirit and its power of Self-Criticism.


  • Even Bonhoeffer was unhappy with US democracy in 1939.
  • Tillich's focus on the wisdom of the judge would be replaced nowadays by the process.
  • Tillich was chief editor of a newspaper paid for the by SPD, had to be forced to be a member, and left as soon as he could.
  • The classical excuse for the intellectuals was that they would be above and outside of all parties and politics; there are studies for this for the German bourgeois by historians. Here Tillich was possibly a socio-economic reflex of Tillich's heritage.
  • Mass-democratic is an anti-hierarchical society. 


  • Erdmann Sturm, Tillichs Philosophie des Politischen
  • Prof Sturm's publication work has fronted the German and early Tillich by making all of the German Nachlass available, e.g. the lectures from Frankfurt, etc.

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