Friday, April 11, 2014

Michael Moxter on Tillich's Kulturtheologie

Modernity is a promise with respect to time, to be at the height of the time, and to put away what is no longer necessary. The problem is that the continuous supercedance of modernity is thus included at the root. Paul Tillich wanted this all in the form of a kairos theology.

Religion loses some things in the modernity, but religion wins that it is understood as something that has a self, has its own space, where it can be the only topic now. The difficulty for religion is that all the services it wishes to offer--consolation, life-sense integration, etc--are also offered by other systems.

Tillich takes up the idea from Schleiermacher concerning autonomy. Autonomy and modernity combine as art for Tillich. Language of art is taking to be a separate something.

This includes being able to ask for the foundations of reasons and everything. Descartes wants to be able to reduce everything to good reasons---once in life only----; thus the Enlightenment operates with ratio, which also means "ground" or "basis".

Rationality is a calculus of consequences. But this leaves man in radical contingency. Recognition is at the level of the type, not at the level of the individual, and the fight for recognition follows.

Pascal felt that there needed to be trust and hope that this will not break apart. Cornelius Castoriadis argues that life is like magma, because it needs to have both ground and chasm.

Modernity has a general crisis of order and sense in the present.

The combination of base and baseless is complemented by the break-through. Only the broken form has contact with reality. The baseless is mirrored in the cracks and distortions on the surface. The break-through is the key of the expressionistic. But the new forms are modernized non-stop.

Religion operates at the boundary of nothingness, but then breaks across the boundary and gives an assent to live. This positive state is not kept for ever, but it is a temporary safe zone. The sense of the whole, which is not experienced, but encountered in concrete sense, gives a temporary base. Sense presupposes that meaningfulness is present ("Sinn ist angewiesen auf Sinnhaftigkeit"). Sense does not take away by its realization; its production make no less.

Paraphrasing Schleiermacher, Tillich's proposal then is that "Religion is a sense for sense." Meaningfulness cannot be turned into a presence of sense. Time drowns out all concrete forms eventually---even more so in a modern world.

The eliminated has to be marginally present anyway. The demonic is where the negativity is no longer permitted.


There is a double movement going on here for which Moxter wanted to sketch the grammar. There is the relationship between the base and the baseless ("Grund und Abgrund"), which is embedded into a stream of time, where the base is continuously dissolved into the baseless, leaving people in despair until they manage to regrow sense by establishing another base. The bases are all temporary, but there is the knowledge of the process, which provides meaningfulness, as it supports the faith that it is always possible to find another base for meaning.


Michael Moxter (University of Hamburg), Grund und Abgrund. Zur Modernität von Tillichs Kulturtheologie

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