Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jan Rohls on Tillich and Dialectic Theology


Tillich in WW1 was shocked by the social gaps between the officers and the soldiers. He thus became a socialist in the political sense afterwards; he referenced his Christentum und Socialismus talk. He did not equate socialism with the existing parties, but was looking for the best current expression. Capitalism and Nationalism need to be overcome.

1919 in Berlin he was working on a theology of culture, which he presented at the Kant Society. How do the religions functions relate to cultural functions. The cultural functions have a religious sub-element, which caused fractures of the form. From this religious socialism position, Tillich could only reject the Tambacher talk of Karl Barth ("the Swiss guys")---the concept of God being the biggest problem. Tillich gave a counter-talk in Berlin later, which argued that Christianity and Socialists need to be shown to be coupled in a conceptual way. The Swiss approach was for Tillich to Calvinistic as powerful might and world-destroying appearance of God. This was too much like Cromwell for Tillich. Either, the Predestination or the Justification needs to be the contact for the Unbedingte. The justification as a yes-and-no supercedes for Tillich the majesty-approach of the Swiss cavinists.

Tillich visited Hirsch and Barth and Göttingen. Barth was not consistent but religious, Tillich consistent but pagan. 1923 discussion with Barth and Gogarten, were Tillich wants the position of negation to be seen. Tillich agrees with the dialectical approach. Theology of crisis a la Barth, but misses an element of crisis, because the line of revolutions is itself not revolutionized. The dialectic has found a positive spot to reconstruct the dialectical process--which is a trick. The critical paradox points back to a dialectical paradox. The dialectical position is itself subsumable of the "no", thus requires a "yes-and-no" for his position, which puts him into the requirement of Justification. Grace without judgement is impossible, other than Barth has it. Neither nature nor the spirit can be seen as completely negative (which is against Hirsch' ethical position). Neither can autonomy per se be problematic, as the dialectic requires for its explication the autonomy of the theologian.

The dialectic attack on the objective absolute is completely acceptable and to be supported; but there still remains a position that has to be taken to launch that attack. Similar is true for history; because the dialectical "revelation of the krisis" is historical as well. Thus only Jesus of Nazareth is one historical position that is permitted; which gives a positive paradox. The empirical fact is thus only a reference. The dialetical theology is thus a moment, a necessary moment, but not as the final statement of theology.

Barth sees Christ as the positive paradox; for Tillich, says Barth, this is not so.

1924 Tillich goes to Marburg, where he encounters the "New Orthodoxy" as he later called it. In Marburg was it Bultmann and Heidegger, who represented it. Tillich and Bultmann discussed Tillich's talks Zweifel und Rechtfertigung. The dialetical theology is still praised by Tillich, esp. the Commentary of Romans. Tillich ties Barth back to the Blumhardts and Ragaz and Swiss Socialism. But Barth and Gogarten put all movements of the judgement, the permanent "No" of God to all human doing.  Barth preserves the majesty of God which cannot be filled; only the separation of the Sin is available to the creature. Autonomy is always objectionable, whether with Goethe, Idealism or Romanticism---the krisis eats them all. History is all human. The revelation replaces the religion with Barth, because it is unexpected, and God breaks into the world across the separation. Even faith is impossible for the human and comes from the revelation.

Tillich rejects the solo-No, because the truth of that "no" is "yes" to that truth. Single-sided negation is impossible, thus each dialectical position requires some small acceptance. The revelation does not be isolated, otherwise it is temporally contingent. This would eventually play into the hands of orthodoxy.

1929 Tillich replaced Max Scheler. 1933 Barth and Tillich discussed the SDP in letters. Tillich supported the Bekennende Kirche, but still rejected Barth's and the dialectical theology. Tillich had a hard time to show that he was neither orthodox nor dialectic to the Americans. In order to be dialectic, Barth would have to be yes and no; the paradox is good, but the supranatural is weakening it and unhelpful. The independence of God in Barth's theology prevents a dialectic. The mystic is wrong, because it postulates a commonality of the divine spirit; the liberal theology,  a commonality of _______. Barth rejects all other forms of theology as well and all religious philosophy. Humanity means the separation, not a possibility of seeing God; Barth plays down the historical importance of New Testament research work.

Tillich sees that the safe-keeping of the majesty God as supra-natural torpedoes the dialectical effort. The safe-keeping itself should be dialectic, then. This explains to Tillich why the old friends of Barth---Gogarten, Brunner, Bultmann---all went elsewhere with their efforts. Barth must be nominalist, and he must focus on the contingency of the double-predestination. Bultmann and Brunner go for anthropological constants, with Brunner either dogmatically (with Gogarten), or Bultmann with Heidegger. Tillich goes farther and attributes the asking for God as a base-revelation of God.

Tillich focuses on Barth in his analysis of the dialectical theology, which he eventually called pseudo-dialectical. Tillich saw a turn in 1940, when Austria was annexed and the fight against the NS had become necessary. Barth was now fighting against the NS directly, not against the Gleichschaltung der Deutschen Kirche. This revokes the rejection of religious socialism.

By 1948, the victory of the neo-orthodoxy was obvious to Paul Tillich, when Tillich was visiting with Germany.


  • Bultmann and Brunner go for anthropological constants, with Brunner either dogmatically (with Gogarten), or Bultmann with Heidegger. Tillich goes farther and attributes the asking for God as a base-revelation of God.
  • The Barth of 1920 would have never agreed to a democratic state from a theological point of view; by 1940 that becomes obvious.



Jan Rohls, Paul Tillich und die dialektische Theologie.

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