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York University
HUMA 1860
Jason Robinson

J.C. Robinson Lecture Notes W EEKSEVENTEEN Paul Tillich & the Existential Approach Outline Our reading for this week, “Two Types of Philosophy of Religion,” is divided into eight parts: Part I Introduction [251-2] Part II The World Historical Problem [252] Part III The Augustinian Solution [252-4] Part IV The Thomistic Dissolution [255-7] Part V Conflicts and Mixtures of the Two Types in the Modern Philosophy of Religion [257-8] Part VI The Ontological Awareness of the Unconditional [259-61] Part VII The Cosmological Recognition of the Unconditioned [261-2] Part VIII Ontological Certainty and the Risk of Faith [262-3] Readings: Hick 251-263 Introduction to Paul Tillich’s Existentialism Introduction In this unit you will be introduced to important elements of Tillich’s existentialism, his “two types of philosophy of religion,” and reasons as to why they are important. You will also be introduced to Tillich’s notion of “participation,” according to which God is not an object or thing to be known or not known, but the “Ground of Being” in which we participate. Learning Objectives Upon successful completion of this unit you will be able to:  identify some of the main themes of Tillich’s existentialism  identify what Tillich means by “two types of philosophy of religion” and why they are important You will have begun:  to analyze or re-analyze (a) the concept of God, (b) the nature of religious experience (& revelation), (c) the difference between faith and belief, and (d) the problem of religious language and knowledge.  to appreciate Tillich’s notion of “participation” in which God is not an object or thing to be known or not known, but the “Ground of Being” in which we participate 1 J.C. Robinson Lecture Notes Thought Probes (questions to ponder ... because you can) 1. Do you find Tillich’s notion of participation persuasive? 2. Do you think his way overcomes the problems he believes it to, or does he only create further difficulties? 3. Tillich believes that everyone has a need for religion or faith of some kind. Do you believe that it is a basic need? 4. What is meant by “Ground of Being” and what is its significance for Tillich? (spend some additional time researching online to figure this out). Does this imply that everyone has a need for religion or faith? Why do you think so (yes/no)? Part I Introduction We shall now move on to discuss a short work of Paul Tillich, one of the most important and influential theologians of the twentieth century. *251+ “One can distinguish two ways of approaching God: the way of overcoming estrangement and the way of meeting a stranger. In the first way man discovers himself when he discovers God.... In the second way man meets a stranger when he meets God.” *251+ “The two ways symbolize the two possible types of philosophy of religion: the ontological type and the cosmological type.” So: (1) in overcoming estrangement (2) in meeting a stranger you discover yourself you meet a stranger ontological cosmological Tillich is going to be arguing that the first, “ontological,” type of philosophy of religion is basic to the second, “cosmological,” type, and that to pursue the second without recognizing that it has its foundation in the first is to misunderstand the nature both of the philosophy of religion and, ultimately, of religion itself. According to Tillich, the cosmological approach to religion entails making of God an entity separate and independent from the human being which the latter (us) then proceeds to pursue as an “object” of study, an “object” the existence of which has to be “proved.”  Tillich will argue that this is little less than a perversion of the authentic religious consciousness. Authentic religious consciousness understands that God is not a separately existing “object” but the ground of all Being. Note that there is a very distinct kind of “participation” Tillich is getting at.  It is not about a subject (you or me) coming in contact with an object (a thing out there), but a participation in which the subject-object bifurcation is dissolved (or perhaps more accurately, fully united). 2 J.C. Robinson Lecture Notes  This is a difficult notion for many today to appreciate, for most of our culture is obsessed with this dichotomy or dualism of subject-object. Genuine faith, for Tillich, is a “whole-person” experience, and not merely a rational or cognitive process.  Like other existentialists, Tillich denies that the whole person is essentially rational.  We must also consider the nonrational aspects.  Faith itself is ultimately a matter of nonrational participation.  When we commit ourselves or are truly concerned about what is ultimate (God) we have a real faith, but if we ultimately commit ourselves to something that is itself not ultimate (money, fame, being a professor … the first two necessarily excluding the third), then we have a “demonic faith” for Tillich. How, then, do we begin to commit ourselves to the ultimate, to have “ultimate concern” that embraces the nonrational (or supra-rational) aspects of our being, while avoiding idolatrous tendencies?  We may begin by considering the two types of philosophy of religion and how they inform our understanding of participation. There is, for Tillich, something evident in our daily lives that requires of us all to make an ultimate commitment.  Tillich does not so much have in mind something like a Jamesian mystical experience, which we will see soon, (although there are definitely elements of that in Tillich), but something that requires our ultimate concern because it is ultimate, and because it somehow emerges in human experience, for everyone.  God, as the “Ground of Being,” is what we will find at the base of all human experience, and to which we must commit ourselves if we wish to have a truly ultimate concern and faith.  We are drawn into the infinite (God), not to possess it but to be a part of it.  As we saw with Kierkegaard, traditional proofs and philosophical rationality, and the usual ways of approaching God as a separate being (Being), are woefully inadequate for Tillich. The Non-Literal and Religious Language  How to speak of a non-object, non-thing God?  Tilllich relies on “symbolism” and non-literal language to think and speak about God. Symbol, Analogy, and Myth (a little dry but insightful) 9 minutes long. 3 J.C. Robinson Lecture Notes Part II The World Historical Problem [252] “In two developments Western humanity has overcome its age-old bondage under the ‘powers’: those half religious-half magical, half divine-half demonic, half super human-half subhuman, half abstract-half concrete beings who are the genuine material of the mythos. These ‘powers’ were conquered religiously by their subjection to one of them, the god of the prophets of Israel; His quality as the god of justice enabled Him to become the universal God. The “powers” were conquered philosophically by their subjection to a principle more real than all of them; its quality as embracing all qualities enabled it to become the universal principle.” So: Tillich has in mind here the “primitive” mentality of an earlier historical era during which we humans found ourselves immersed in a dangerous, not entirely friendly world, the workings of which we could not understand and for that reason feared and stood before in awe. This is a world filled with powers, i.e. those “things” that both threaten our existence while at the same time making it possible. In order to attain some kind of security in the face of this inexplicable, threatening existence, we subsumed the vast majority of these powers under one all-powerful power--in religion (specifically, the religion of the early Hebrews), this highest power took the form of the universal God, Deus; in philosophy (specifically, early Greek philosophy [esp. Aristotle]), it took the form of the universal principle of Being, esse. But the subjugation of the powers in these two different ways gave us what Tillich calls “The World Historical Problem,” i.e. “the problem of the two Absolutes”: [252] “The problem created by the subjection of the ‘powers’ to the absolute God and to the absolute principle is the problem of the two Absolutes. How are they related to each other? The religious and the philosophical Absolutes, Deus and esse cannot be unconnected! What is their connection from the point of view of being as well as of knowing? In the simple statement ‘God is,’ the connection is achieved; but the character of this connection is the problem in all problems of the philosophy of religion. The different answers given to this question are milestones on the road of Western religious consciousness; and this road is a road towards ever-increasing loss of religious consciousness. Philosophy of religion, although not primarily responsible for this development, must ask itself whether according to its principles this was an unavoidable development and whether a reversal is possible.” So: We wind up with two ways of subjecting powers, i.e. two ways of coming to grips with our existence and attempting to make sense of the world:  The religious way, according to which the highest power, i.e. the universal absolute, is God;  and the philosophical way, according to which the highest power, i.e. the universal absolute, is the principle of Being. 4 J.C. Robinson Lecture Notes The problem is this: How can both of these powers be highest, universal, and absolute?  That is, as Tillich puts it, “How are they related to each other?” Either one is highest and the other stands below it, or both are highest, in which case they must be identical.  The first alternative won’t do at all, for (on the one hand) God, if He is to be God, has to possess Being, and (on the other hand) Being, if it is to “stand above” the religious- magical, divine-demonic powers, must itself possess such god-like characteristics.  And so we’re left with the second alternative: the two must be somehow identical; that is, as Tillich writes, “Deus and esse cannot be unconnected!” But precisely how are we supposed to establish this identity of God and Being?  This is the problem of the philosophy of religion, the history of which--as the history of Western religious consciousness--is the history of an “ever-increasing loss of religious consciousness.”  What Tillich means by this is that the philosophical endeavour of attempting to establish the relation (of identity) between God and Being has, after the earliest period in the history of Christianity, taken the form of proving the existence of some sort of entity existing over and apart from us, i.e. alienated or estranged from, the existing human being.  In the earliest period of Western religious consciousness, however, the problem of establishing the relation between God and Being had a solution. This is “the Augustinian solution.”
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