Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tillich and Berkouwer

Charles Cameron has written some critical posts on Tillich, with some comparison with G C Berkouwer. As you may guess, I'm not convinced... ;)

Here are the two first posts (there seems to be more coming):

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Archbishop of Canterbury criticizes British Mideast policy

From the Independent:

The British government yesterday bit back at the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who had warned that "short-sighted" and ignorant " policy in Iraq had endangered Middle East Christians.

The Foreign Office said that extremists rather than British policies were to blame for Christians suffering and that it "disagreed" with Dr Williams' views. The Archbishop spoke at the end of a three-day visit here with three other British church leaders, including the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

The two senior churchmen also drew attention to the plight of the Christian and wider Palestinian community in the Holy Land. Both urged greater international efforts to secure a peace process for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Before he flew back to London, Dr Williams was asked on Radio 4's Today programme whether he still stood by the joint statement he issued with the Cardinal the month before the 2003 invasion, declaring that "doubts still persist about the moral legitimacy" of the war. He replied: "It's all too easy to use hindsight and say 'I told you so', but I think I can generally say I haven't yet seen cause to revise my views on that point."

What is so ironic with the fate of the Iraqi Christians is that they are back in the same situation as in the time of the Persian empire during the Sassanid era, when the Christians in Persia were considered (and prosecuted) as spies for the Byzantine empire.

The question is only if there will be any Christians left in Iraq to remember the martyrs of our time.

Iraqi blogs.

I have been reading a lot of Iraqi blogs of late. It is not an encouraging experience to read them in any way. There is an aspect of reality shock in it all, but it is amazing to find out that most of them agree on the fundamental questions of how the crisis should be handled. One wonder why those in power cannot decide.

The violence in Iraq is very complex at the moment. Here is an Attempt at Categorization that is very clarifying.

R- External-agenda Forces
This group includes the American administration and the US army, coalition forces, forces with international anti-American agenda (such as Al-Qaeda), countries that wish the US campaign to fail and the US to be bogged in the Iraqi quagmire, Countries of the region serving their own interests
G- Iraqi-agenda Forces
Forces of National Resistance, Baathists, "nationalistic" religious forces and Sectarian forces. This group must also include the two main Kurdish parties and a wide assortment of Iraqi political parties.
B- Criminal gangs
Pure criminal gangs out for money and the power associated with it, taking advantage of the absence of Law and Order to loot, rob banks, kidnap and murder; Criminal gangs in the service of any of the above forces willing to pay for their services to bomb, kidnap, sabotage and create chaos.

This blog out of Baghdad tells of the absence of freedom in media:

Iraq saw demonstrations against and for the verdict. The pro-Saddam
demonstrators were attacked by the Iraqi army. This is how free our
media is today: the channels that were showing the pro-Saddam
demonstrations have been shut down. Iraqi security forces promptly
raided them.Welcome to the new Iraq.

But the most touching are the personal ones. This is the blog of an 18 year old female colleage student. She writes of her daily life, her first day at collage, about playing with her sisters child, and then stuff like this:

I left home late today since the neighborhood was surrounded. We were having breakfast when an explosion happened and broke several windows in the house, including the dining room, but none of us was hurt. A bullet broke one of the windows yesterday too. We'll need new glass for the windows and some new curtains too. You can never anticipate what's going to happen next.

Her sister also has a blog and has pictures of the same event.

You can find a very comprehensive list of blogs in Iraq here.

May God have mercy on us all.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Paul Tillich's Theology of Indie Rock II

In the last post in this series, I explained what Tillich means with Gehalt and how he relates it to Form in a piece of Art. Tillich also classifies art on another scale, which is less complicated. He distinguishes between art with a subjective attitude and art with an objective attitude. A subjective artwork is more about the artist that created it and his/her perspective, while in an artwork with an objective attitude the artist is of less importance than the reality the artwork is depicting. What this means will become clearer when I give some examples.

Combining the two scales we thus end up with the following field:

Tillich goes on to classify different style's of art on this chart. In the upper left corner we find Impressionism, which according to Tillich is Form-dominated with Subjective attitude. It is art that is interested in the artists own impression more than the reality it depicts. In the upper right corner we have realism. Here the artist is not in focus but that which is depicted. But it is the form that is important, not a deeper meaning in it. In the left lower corner we find romaticism. Here the artist attempts to go bellow the surface of that which is depicted, but not to find something that everyone is concerned with, but rather the emotion of the artist. Finally, in the lower right corner we have expressionism, the kind of art that Tillich finds to be the most religious, because here the gehalt is the depth dimension of the human situation and it is a depicted in a way so that Gehalt is more important in Form.

Now this classification has been criticized mainly because it is to schematic; the styles involved are not as clearly defined as Tillich believes they are. But I think it is rather clear what he wants to say nonetheless.

Taking this into rock music I can rather easily find examples of bands I like that I would place very differently on this map. For example, a band that I would consider is marked by an subjective attitude that is Gehalt-oriented is the Smiths. There is the striving to reach beyond the surface of things to a more true level of reality, and there is a kind of description of this depth dimension, but it is all very subjective, it is all about the lonely Self encountering a world that does not understand it. You may be moved by the songs emotionally, but that has more to do with a sense of recognition than a spiritual quality. There is nothing religious about a song like "Heaven knows I'm miserable now", even if it has been used to great effect in a religious context. (That clip is from the Manchester Passion, a genious presentation of the last days in the life of Christ using music from Manchester bands like Smiths, James, Oasis and Joy Division. A few minutes into that clip you can hear Judas sing Moz's song of self-pithy.) There is, however, a few Smiths songs that reach over into the objective side, like "There is a light that never goes out", and indeed, these are not without a certain religious quality.

An example of a band that is form oriented with an objective attitude is Muse. Here the focus is not on the artist, but on the world. There are a lot of Muse-songs with apocalyptic language like Apocalypse, please (this live recording isn't the greatest, the poor bass player has some real problems with the harmonies):

declare this an emergency
come on and spread a sense of urgency
and pull us through
and pull us through
and this is the end
this is the end of the world

it's time we saw a miracle
come on it's time for something biblical
to pull us through
and pull us through
and this is the end
this is the end of the world

In spite of the (mildly) religious language, there is nothing religious about the song at all, IMO. It is Form oriented and the contents of the lyrics serve the form. It is still a great tune though, but it does not move you on any deeper level. (Note also that this is a heavy rock tune without guitars...)

In the next part I will give some examples in the remaining categories. I give no points if you guess who I will present as a very good example of a band with a gehalt-orientation and an objective attitude, but you can give it a shot if you like! :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

No Instruction Manual

Well, at least the Bible isn't one, says T.B.Vick.

Nor is it:
- A text book on biology/physics/history/...
- A map determining political borders
- A novel
- An oracle
- A collection of arguments for use in debate
- ...

What other things can you think of that the Bible is not?

Mideast self-deception

Israeli Newspaper Haaretz offers this handy test to see if you are deceiving yourself about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why won't Hamas recognize Israel?

The reason right now that the Palestinians in the Gaza and the West bank are under such pressure is that the West won't recognize the democratically elected Hamas-lead government until Hamas recognizes Israel.

So why is this so impossible for Hamas to do? Usually religion or fanaticism is said to be the reason. According to this article, for Hamas to recognize Israels right to exist would be the end to any possibility for peace in the region. And no mention of religion is made, nor anything about erasing Israel from the Map.

In demanding recognition of its right to exist, Israel is ensuring that the Palestinians agree to Israel's character being set in stone as an exclusivist Jewish state, one that privileges the rights of Jews over all other ethnic, religious and national groups inside the same territory. The question of what such a state entails is largely glossed over both by Israel and the West.
I'm not completely sure that the writer is right in his conclusion that by recognising Israel Hamas would walk into a trap that is "designed to ensure that any peaceful solution to the conflict is impossible", but the article is important for explaining the rationale behind Hamas actions without referring any other reasons that clearly political ones that would be recognized by any democratic government.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nick Cave Interview and Lecture

Here's a cool interview with Nick Cave (I, II, III, IV). It is an un-edited interview, with lots of bad English with strong Swedish accent from the interviewer. But it makes for more interesting viewing, since there is no editor manipulating you (like there is in all tv...)

Anyway, Cave talks a bit about this lecture he held in 1999 at the University in Vienna about the "Love Song". The lecture is here. In it he talks about how God lives in language and of his love for the Old Testament.

To write allowed me direct access to my imagination, to inspiration and ultimately to God. I found through the use of language, that I wrote god into existence. Language became the blanket that I threw over the invisible man, that gave him shape and form. Actualising of God through the medium of the love song remains my prime motivation as an artist. The love song is perhaps the truest and most distinctive human gift for recognising God and a gift that God himself needs. God gave us this gift in order that we speak and sing Him alive because God lives within communication. If the world was to suddenly fall silent God would deconstruct and die. Jesus Christ himself said, in one of His most beautiful quotes, "Where ever two or more are gathered together, I am in your midst." He said this because where ever two or more are gathered together there is language. I found that language became a poultice to the wounds incurred by the death of my father. Language became a salve to longing.
Do check it out, he has a lot of wise things to say.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Paul Tillich's Theology of Indie Rock I

I think this will have to become a mini-series (not the 36-part kind), because the more I think about it the more interesting it becomes.

As I wrote in this post, Tillich developed quite a Theology of Art, unique in many ways. Now, modern art is not my forte, but while reading about Tillich's theology of art (in Russel Re Manning's study Theology at the End of Culture, Peeters 2005.), I've been constantly relating what I read to some of my favourite bands (You can find the whole list of what I listen to here).

Tillich asked what makes some art religious. No actually, what he was really asking was "Where can we find religion today", but I'll leave that question to the side for the moment. I'm rephrasing this question: "Of the various bands I listen to a lot, why are there some that I would say have a religious quality to them (you might prefer the word spiritual), and others that I would never dream to claim they have that quality?

As I wrote in my post on religious art, Tillich distinguishes between Inhalt and Gehalt. No in rock music, Inhalt would be the actual narrative of the lyrics. Old music reviews often mention this. I remember an early review of "Lucy in the Sky wit Diamonds" that effectively said that "this is a song about a girl named Lucy"! Ok, maybe that example is too extreme... Take this Smiths song.
A dreaded sunny day
so I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
while Wilde is on mine

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
all those people all those lives
where are they now ?
with loves, and hates
and passions just like mine
they were born
and then they lived and then they died

which seems so unfair
and I want to cry
There is a (rather low-quality) recording of the song here.

Now, the Inhalt of this song is about walking in a graveyard looking at the gravestones (and about plagiarism). The Gehalt, however talks about something much deeper, about alienation, mortality, but also about friendship of those that do not feel accepted by society.

Any work of art has Gehalt to a lesser or higher degree. But what, according to Tillich, sets religious art apart from non-religious art is that in religious art the Gehalt is somehow in focus.

For Tillich the Inhalt is really of little concern, what is important is the relation between the Gehalt and the Form of the piece of art. For a work of art to be considered religious, form and Gehalt must be related and in harmony. If the Form becomes the focus, then the Gehalt is easily destroyed,

It is important to be aware that the religious is not the only quality a piece of art can have. Tillich doesn't say that the religious is a more true criteria for analysing art than for example beauty. It's just one aspect.

Tillich goes on to categorize various styles of art according to this criteria, and this is what I will do in my next post.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The most intoxicated society in the history of the world?

The drug is entertainment, of course. Chris Baker has some very good thoughts on the subject.

That we are asleep become apparent when we try to critically engage our
own behavior. Why do we act the way that we do? Do our actions
demonstrate that we understand our own interests and the behaviors
which are most likely to bring about those interest, or do our actions
serve as reminders of our almost exclusively reflexive rather than
reflective nature? Generally, I suspect, it is the later rather than
the former.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bush bragging about killed Iraqis.

This is from President Bush's statement at the Pentagon earlier this week:
Offensive operations by Iraqi and coalition forces against terrorists and insurgents and death squad leaders have yielded positive results. In the months of October, November, and the first week of December, we have killed or captured nearly 5,900 of the enemy.
5,900 enemies, huh? 5,900 killed (or captured) Iraqi's is now a "positive result". But since these dead people were "terrorists and insurgents and death squad leaders", there is no need to compare that number with the dead on 9/11. Besides, they were probably mostly Arabs anyway.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ben's Theology for Beginners

Ben Myers has finished his Theology for Beginners series. The whole series is found here and the last post, on Glorification, is here.

We might speak, therefore, of a narrative deification of all created reality. The stories of all creatures are made to participate in God’s story – each particular fragmented and finite narrative is woven into the perfect and infinitely detailed fabric of God’s own identity. All that we are is gathered up into the vibrant and differentiated interplay of the life of God.

Congratulations to Ben on finishing this project!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Religious Art

Which of these two paintings (Komm, Herr Jesus, sei unser Gast by Fritz von Uhde or Still Life with Fruit Basket by Paul Cézanne) is more religious? Well, according to Paul Tillich, who's example this is, it is the Cézanne Still life.

Tillich was not only one of the most creative theologians of the 20th century, he was also one of the very few (von Balthasar is another but very different example) major theologians that have dealt in depth with art.

So what does Tillich have against Uhde's painting of Jesus? Well, he says it lacks a "quality of sacredness". Tillich has this very interesting distinction between the content of a piece of culture (Inhalt) and it's true sense (Gehalt). The Uhde painting has a religious content, but, according to Tillich it is not religious because its form does not correspond with its Gehalt. In other words, it might be a religious image on the surface, but it is not religious in the proper sense because it is not painted in a way that communicates something about the Gound of Being.

The Cézanne painting on the other hand does not have a religious Inhalt, its only fruit, but, Tillich claims, there is something about the way the fruit is painted that opens up something in the observer, and this is a genuinely religious experience.

I know very little about art, but I still find this distinction very helpful, and I will at some point try to apply this and some other of Tillich's ideas about art to an art form more familiar to me: rock music.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

President Carter on Israel and Palestine

Since reading the Fisk book I have spent some time trying to make sense of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, something that is not easily done. One good source for one perspective is the Maan News Agency, which posts news from a balanced Palestinian perspective. They also offer very good commentary a opinion pieces, often republished stuff. Like this one, by former US President Carter.

It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians. Very few would ever deign to visit the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza City, or even Bethlehem, and talk to the beleaguered residents. What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint, quite contrary to private assessments expressed quite forcefully by their correspondents in the Holy Land.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Patristics Carnival

The first instalment of the Patristics Carnival is on-line over at uperekperisou. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Robert Fisk lecture


Here is a four-part lecture by Robert Fisk based on his book. It's shorter than the 1300 pages, but still informative.

New Blog of the Month at Theology Blogs

This time, the honour goes to Dan.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fisk's World

I recently finished reading Robert Fisk's monumental The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East. I cannot recommend it enough. It's 1300 pages of modern history of the most troubled part of our world, written by possibly the only person to have witnessed almost every key moment in the last 30 years in the region first-hand, from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the current civil war in Iraq. Fisk shows how all these events are connected and in what ways the western powers are involved. But most importantly, he is always reporting from the viewpoint of the - mostly innocent - victims in all these conflicts.

The feeling one gets from reading this book is one the one hand a great sensation of learning - I can't remember the last time I learned so much new and important things about our world. On the other hand one feels a lot of outrage, not least directed towards the foreign policy of western powers that have done so much to make the situation worse, how much racism, violence, and, well, evil there is to found in the actions of various intelligence and military organisations.

Of course, Fisk does not fall into the trap of claiming that the leaders of the muslim world are innocent victims. Quite to the contrary, every gruesome crime committed by shahs, presidents and kings is treated in detail. But when it comes to the bigger picture - the roots of all the problems, it is hard to avoid the notion that most of the problems in the Middle East originate in the two European "World Wars" and their aftermaths. In a sense, Fisk shows that the WWI never really ended, it just moved to the east, where it is still being fought.

Fisk's job has been to write about war, and this is where his focus is. There is some irony in this. Even if Fisk has a lot to say about the role of bad journalism in these conflicts - in fact he shows that the Western media is a huge part of the problem - he seems to fail to recognize that the kind of journalism he himself represents also is part of the problem. Preferable as it is to have it done well as Fisk does, the kind of journalism that focuses on violent conflict has a huge part in the way we in the west always look at the Middle East.

Of course, one would wish that no one would make to many remarks about the middle east without having read this. But if anyone who reads this knows any major world leader, please, get him or her a copy of it for Christmas.

You can check out some of Fisk's writings at his paper the Independent, this unofficial homepage or at Wikipedia.


Andrew is to blame...

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Wraps them.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White! I'm European!

4. Do you hang mistletoe on house? Nope. See number 3.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Depends... Things with lights in them (tasteful, European), go up in the beginning of December, more stuff comes later.

6. What is your favorite holiday meal (excluding dessert)? Not that big on Christmas food, actually. Mom's meatballs are good.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? When I was a kid, dad used to play this record with this amazing Austrian boy's choir to wake us up on Christmas morning. I think that is the reason that all Christmas music sounds corny in my ears.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I was never lied to.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, all of them, that's the Finnish tradition. Christmas day you go to Church and visit relatives.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Tastfully. Se number 3.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it in reasonable amounts.

12. Can you ice skate? If someone puts a gun to my head.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Not really.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Since my dad died Chrismas is sort of spoiled for me, but I always look forward to going to Church on Christmas morning to sing the wonderful hymn "Dagen är kommen" Quick translation: "The day has arrived: Love triumphs!" I seldom feel so thoroughly Christian.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Rice a' la Malta

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Church

17. What tops your tree? A star

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Giving.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? See 14

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or yummy? ????

21. Favorite Christmas Movie? Oh dear... I don't think I have one.

22. What would you most like to find under your tree this year? The ability to speak Arabic.

23. Favorite Holiday memory as an adult? No, apart from the Church bit Christmas is not my favourite time of the year.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Change is Coming

I have decided to cut down on the time spent on this blog substantively. From now on I will only post if I feel I have something that I want to post here, I will not try to come up with a semi-daily post in order to... well, why do we do that?

That's the point, and this is my first reason, I recognized that a big motivation for me to post as much as I have has been to accumulate traffic, maybe in order to compare myself to other theology-bloggers and so on. Since I feel this tendency in our society, to measure and compare - to compete - is a very major part of what is wrong in the world, I feel I need to for myself abstain for activities that feeds this tendency in my life.

A second reason is that I started this blog for the specific purpose of working out what I have called "Ideas for a Theology of Decline". I have finished that and now I don't really have a motivation to keep it up beyond what I mentioned above.

A third reason is that I am thinking about a starting work on a project that I may want to publish at some point, in Swedish, and I want to use the time I have recently used on this blog on that. I might post some translations at some point if I like feedback on something, but the majority of it will take place of the Internet.

I will not completely discontinue God in a Shrinking Universe, though, so don't cancel those bookmarks yet. I have a post on Tillich's theology of art and Rock music brewing, and some (well a lot actually) of thoughts that have been sparked by reading Robert Fisk's majestic book on the Middle-East. And some other stuff. But this will in the future appear like once a week instead of once a day.

So now you know.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Reading Tillich Series

Well, my reading Tillich series is finished. It has been a few years since I last read through the system, and my appreciation of Tillich's theology has not changed. The system is not perfect - the last part is not very interesting IMO - but there is a lot of stuff in here that is still very much relevant, and there is still need for Tillich's kind of theology, maybe now more than ever. Tillich tries to embrace life in its entirety and bring it to theology, not by placing it under theology, but by allowing it to inform it.

What I have realized when reading the system this time is that it is quite possible to read Tillich as a kind of spiritual guide. All this philosophy, weird new language, it all serves the purpose of making it possible to communicate spiritual experience in a post-Christian world.

My comments in this series have been very uneven, some almost pointless. Tillich's quotes are usually far better, something that should come as a surprise to few. Anyway. I'm happy with a few of them: 3, 4, 16, 18, 21, 22, 23, 30, 34.

Here's the whole list:

Reading Tillich 1
Reading Tillich 2: New Theonomy
Reading Tillich 3: Mystery
Reading Tillich 4: Sainthood
Reading Tillich 5: Symbolical Language
Reading Tillich 6:Religious nationalism
Reading Tillich 7: Destiny and Freedom
Reading Tillich 8: Destiny and Meaning
Reading Tillich 9: God and Existence
Reading Tillich 10: Being Created
Reading Tillich 11: Human Creativity
Reading Tillich 12: Prayer
Reading Tillich 13: Participating Theology
Reading Tillich 14: Angels and Demons
Reading Tillich 15: Sin
Reading Tillich 16: Collective Guilt
Reading Tillich 17: Christ
Reading Tillich 18: The Law
Reading Tillich 19: Christology
Reading Tillich 20: Deliteralisation
Reading Tillich 21: Acceptance
Reading Tillich 22: Morality
Reading Tillich 23: Art
Reading Tillich 24: The Unity of Morality, Culture and Religion
Reading Tillich 25: Ecstasy
Reading Tillich 26: The Latent Church
Reading Tillich 27: Belonging
Reading Tillich 28: Contemplation
Reading Tillich 29: Equality
Reading Tillich 30: Self-transcendence
Reading Tillich 31: Faith and Mysticism
Reading Tillich 32: Trinitarian Thought
Reading Tillich 33: The End of History
Reading Tillich 34: The End of History II
Reading Tillich 35: The Kingdom of God
Reading Tillich 36: Divine Life

What I think is extremely cool is that some people have said they have started to read Tillich, in part because of my writings! I think this means that I have made the world a little bit better with these posts! (Check out Andrew's thoughts on holiness!)

Reading Tillich 36: Divine Life

In this view the the world process means something to God. He is not a separated self-sufficient entity who, driven by whim, creates what he wants and saves whom he wants. Rather, the eternal act of creation is driven by a love which finds fulfilment only through the other one who has the freedom to reject and to accept love. God, so to speak, drives toward the actualization and essentialization of everything that has being. For the eternal dimension of what happens in the universe is the Divine Life itself. It is the content of the divine blessedness.
Systematic Theology III, 422.
Tillich ends with dismissing, in a subordinate clause, the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination. But that is hardly his point. What he means is that we, by living authentically, actually make up God's life. Not that we create God, but rather so that we, when we live in the presence of the Spirit, enter into union with God's creation. This is said in the context of Tillich's eschatology. What he says is essentially that this is what remains of us: God. Eternal life is becoming one with God. And that, as Tillich says, is about all we can say about that.

Like a true theologian, Tillich ends his system by once again noting the limits of what we can say about God. One must not "violate the mystery of the divine abyss".

Monday, November 27, 2006

Reading Tillich 35: The Kingdom of God

One cannot reach the transcendent Kingdom of God without participating in the struggle of the inner-historical Kingdom of God. For the transcendent is actual within the inner-historical. Every individual is thrown into the tragic destiny of historical existence. He cannot escape it, whether he dies as an infant or as a great historical leader. Nobody's destiny is uninfluenced by historical conditions. But the more one's destiny directly determined by one's active participation, the more historical sacrifice is demanded. Where such sacrifice is maturely accepted a victory of the Kingdom of God has occurred.
Systematic Theology III, 392.
Now, this notion of historical sacrifice is an interesting one. What is it? A personal sacrifice that not only achieves a historical aim, but also produces a personal fulfilment of the one that is sacrificed. It is then, the question of what one lives for. Tillich claims that unless you participate in the inner-historical struggle of the Kingdom of God (and let's remember that this is not the same as the Visible Church) you cannot reach the transcendent Kingdom of God, which is his way of saying that you're no good and you life is pointless. The reason is that not being involved in this struggle is based on lying to yourself. One cannot stay neutral in this struggle, one is already involved in it just by being born. However you live your life you will contribute, positively or negatively to this struggle.

This means that "historical sacrifice" is inevitable.

"Wherever historical sacrifice and the certainty of personal fulfilment are united in this way, a victory of Kingdom of God has taken place."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reading Tillich 34: The End of History II

The end of history ... comes at the moment in which mankind ceases to ask the question of its predicament. This can happen by an external extinction of historical mankind through destruction caused cosmically or humanly, or it can happen by biological or psychological transformations which annihilate the dimension of the spirit or by an inner deterioration under the dimension of the spirit which deprives man of his freedom and consequently of the possibility of having a history.
Systematic Theology III, 367.
Note that Tillich uses the word end here differently from in my last post. Here it is not the "aim" of history, but really the end. I find this statement quite scary. As you know I am a pessimistic guy, that's why I feel we need a theology of decline. Still when Tillich states it like this, I start to question if we have already passed the point Tillich envisions to be a possible future, when "mankind ceases to as the question of its predicament". Isn't this a perfect description of where our culture is at right now? We still exist, kind of, but we as a culture, has stopped asking the big questions and settle with consumption. "I'm not living, I'm just passing time" as Thom sings.

However, I don't think this is irreversible, and I don't think Tillich thinks that either. There are still individuals that live in the dimension of the spirit, and thus has enough freedom to create history. The problem is that our culture has developed tools and techniques that makes the huge public completely un-interested in such ideas. TV has effectively killed the spirit in us, and we fill the void with products.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reading Tillich 33: The End of History

Time under the non-historical dimension is neither endless nor ending. The question of its beginning cannot be asked (which should deter theology from identifying an assumed beginning of physical time time with the symbol of creation). Nor can the question of its end be asked (which should deter theology from identifying an assumed physical end with the symbol of consummation). The end of history is the aim of history, as the word "end" indicates. The end is the fulfilled aim, however this aim may be envisioned.
Systematic Theology III, 320.
I have to confess that much of the fifth and last part of Tillich's system fails to excite me. It's more second rate philosophy that theology actually, and here, for large portions, the system takes over and becomes and end to itself. However, this is an interesting thought, and one, I feel that theologians in general do not address. In a time when it has become a kind of shibboleth of evangelicalism to believe in creationism, to completely disconnect the beginning of physical time from creation is just off the scale. But the important part is the idea that the end of history is the aim of history. Now this is not a particular point in time. This means that the end of history is not at all on the same timeline as physical time. The aim of History is the "Kingdom of God", which, after all, is not of this world.

Heaven Can Wait

I do read more than one blog, but in spite of yesterdays post, I have to note that Byron has finished (for now) his series Heaven: not the end of the World. The sixteenth installement (with links to the previous ones) is here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Peak Oil Theology

Byron is starting a series on Peak Oil.

He will offer: "a theological analysis of the problem and its possible 'solutions'."

I'm very much looking forward to that.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Reading Tillich 32: Trinitarian Thought

The questions arising out of man's finitude are answered by the doctrine of God and the symbols used in it. The questions arising out of man's estrangement are answered by the doctrine of Christ and the symbols applied to it. The questions arising out of the ambiguities of life are answered by the doctrine of the Spirit and its symbols.
Systematic theology III, 286
This is a nice summary, not only of Tillich's thoughts on the Trinity, but of his system as a whole. It is good to keep in mind that Tillich feels that he is doing apology, that is, he is trying to make the Christian doctrine meaningful to modern humans. It is not metaphysical speculation. Therefore there is no conflict between this and "my" trinity, but you can probably see where I got the idea from.

(My three existential problems are also based loosely on Tillich, on some ideas found in his The Courage to Be.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reading Tillich 31: Faith and Mysticism

There is no faith (but only belief) without the Spirit's grasping the personal center of him who is in the state of faith, and this is a mystical experience, and experience of presence of the infinite in the finite. As an ecstatic experience, faith is mystical, although it does not produce mysticism as a religious type. But it does include the mystical as a category, that is, the experience of the Spiritual Presence. Every experience of the divine is mystical because it transcends the cleavage between subject and object, and wherever that happens, the mystical as category is given.
Systematic Theology III, 242.
I have become more and more careful in using the word mysticism. We should be aware that the term itself is little over 100 years old. What Tillich is saying here is basically that faith is something you experience. Unless faith is something that grabs you ("grasping your personal center") it is not faith but something else. I think this is not so much something that religious people need to be reminded of, but something that theologians need to take into account. We have all read theology that is completely avoids the mystical category, and speaks of God as if he/she was an object. I think some of the most famous theologians do this, and then accuse people like Tillich of "speaking about man in a really loud voice". I think that is not only fair, but fundamentally wrong.

Theology, if it wants to stay true to the religious experience, true to faith, must always kind of talk around its subject. Because "every experience of the divine is transcends the cleavage between subject and object" it is not something we can really talk about.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reading Tillich 30: Self-transcendence

The self-transcendence which belongs to the principles of sanctification is actual in every act in which the impact of the Spiritual Presence is experienced. This can be prayer or meditation in total privacy, in the exchange of Spiritual experiences with others, in communications on a secular basis, in the experience of creative works of man's spirit, in the midst of labour or rest, in private counseling, in church services. It is like the breathing in of another air, an elevation above average existence. It is the most important thing in the process of Spiritual maturity. Perhaps one can say that with increasing maturity in the process of sanctification the transcendence becomes more definite and its expressions more indefinite. Participation in communal devotion may decrease and the religious symbols connected with it may become less important, while the state of being ultimately concerned may become more manifest and the devotion to the ground and aim of our being more intensive.
Systematic Theology III, 236
Here, then, we have Tillich's spirituality in a nutshell. Self transcendence is only on aspect of the process of life in the Spiritual Presence, but it seems it is the most important one. Tillich stresses how the Spiritual Presence becomes a part of ordinary life, not a specific area of it.

However, and I think this is the first time I have expressed criticism of Tillich in this series - I have obviously choses the quotes I like - I think the notion that the natural development of spiritual life is away from the communal devotion towards a more individualistic spirituality.

I see where he is coming from, and I think it is rather usual that spiritually mature people - in protestant traditions - tend to have a rather detached relation to services and liturgy. But I'm hesitant to make this a part of the system as Tillich does - I would prefer to place this under the heading of ambiguities of religious life. It is the way communal service is acted out under the estranged state of existence that communal service lacks meaning for the spiritually mature. The notion community is part of the essential being, and this too should be reconciled with existence under the influence of the New Being.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Reading Tillich 29: Equality

The churches rarely followed the attitude of Jesus towards the "publicans and the whores". The were and are ashamed of the way in which Jesus acted in acknowledging the equality of all men under sin (which they confess) and therefore he equality of all men under forgiveness (which they confess). The establishment of the principle of inequality between socially condemned sinners and socially accepted righteous ones is one of the most conspicuous and most anti-Christian denials of the principle of equality. In opposition to this attitude of many groups and individuals in the churches, the fact that secular psychology of the unconscious has rediscovered the reality of the demonic in everyone must be interpreted as an impact of the Spiritual Presence. ... If the churches do not feel the call conversion in this development, they will become obsolete, and the divine Spirit will work in and through seemingly atheistic and anti-Christian movements.
Systematic Theology III, 206-207.
The basic criticism Tillich presents here is hardly original, though I think few would claim that the churches has "felt the call to conversion" in this area. I find it interesting that Tillich proposes the anthropology of modern psychology as a possible source for rethinking in this area in the churches. It would be tragic if the new found knowledge of a different discipline would make the churches repent when the churches have confessed the same idea all the time.

I feel I am not unjust to Tillich when I interpret the latter part of the quotation, not so much as a threat or a description of what could happen in the future, as a sensitive description of what is actually happening right now. We see lots of movements with no connection to the churches that is basically succeeding where the churches systematically failing, to see that our loyalty should be with the poor and oppressed.

On se niin väärin!

I guess this is Rev. Sam getting back at me for naming his blog Blog of the Month. You have to see it. Basic skills in Finnish a plus.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Reading Tillich 28: Contemplation

The Divine Spirit's presence in the experience of contemplation contradicts the idea we often find in medieval mysticism that contemplation must be reached by degrees, as in the movement from meditation to contemplation, and that it itself may be a bridge to mystical union. The gradualistic thinking belongs to the ambiguities of religion because it faces God as a besieged fortress to be surrendered to those who climb its walls. According to the protestant principle, God's surrender is the beginning; it is an act of his freedom by which he overcomes the estrangement between Himself and man in the one, unconditional, and complete act of forgiving grace. All the degrees of appropriation of grace are secondary, as growth is secondary to birth. Contemplation in the Protestant realm is not a degree but a quality, that is, a quality of a prayer which is aware that the prayer is directed to Him who creates the right prayer in us.
Systematic Theology III, 192-193.
Before this startling comment, Tillich has defined contemplation as "participation in that which transcends the subject-object scheme and therefore language itself", and criticized the lack of it in protestant churches. But it is still a very bold thing for a protestant theologian to enter the arena of catholic mysticism with this criticism that seems to come from within that arena rather than from without. The usual protestant criticism of catholic (or any) mysticism is that it is about the individual trying to reach God without relying on God's grace. Here Tillich is much more subtle, and shows greater understanding. He acknowledges that the goal of the mystic is sound, but he questions one of the key metaphors for the process of reaching this goal. Even though this may sound like polemics it is not, it is spiritual guidance. The first step is to become aware of the fact that the walls, so to speak is already torn down, because God has surrendered. The wall does not exist between Me and God, it is a wall within myself. To be aware of this in one's prayer is contemplation.

I would love to discuss the question why military language was so prevalent among the medieval mystics with Tillich. He doesn't give any thoughts on this, at least not here. This would probably be a fruitful starting point for an inquiry into the vision of the world and society in the middle ages.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Patristic Carnival

As you may or not know, my day job is in the field of patristics, which is why I am glad to see that Phil S of hyperekperisou is starting a Patristic Carnival for bloggers.

Good luck to him! I'll be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reading Tillich 27: Belonging

There are some who unconsciously or consciously want to belong to the church, to such an extent that they cannot imagine not belonging to it, and who are in a state of such doubt about the basic assertion that Jesus is the Christ and its implications that they are on the verge of separating themselves from the church, at least inwardly. ... They belong to the church but they doubt whether they belong. For them it must be said that the criterion of one's belonging to a church and through it to the Spiritual Community is a serious desire, conscious or unconscious, to participate in the life of a group which is based on the New Being as it has appeared in Jesus as the Christ. Such an interpretation can help people whose consciences are troubled by misgivings about the whole set of symbols to which the subject themselves in thought, devotion and action.
Systematic Theology III, 175.
Its a central feature in Tillich's theological thinking that doubt is something that is accepted. Tillich applies the notion of grace to it, claiming that it is not only the sinner that is accepted by God, but also the doubter. In this text I think Tillich shows a deep understanding of the nature of the doubt many people experience in the Christian faith. It is more seldom the idea of belonging to the church that is the problem, but the way faith is expressed. Tillich says that a desire, even unconscious, to be part of the church is enough to be part of it, even if one has difficulties with expressions of the doctrine and so on. He is able to assert this because he is aware of the transient nature of all formulations of the dogma. The Spiritual Community is not based on a common language game, it is based on a longing for sharing love. That longing is the criterion of membership.

(also see this post for some of my own thoughts on the subject.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

New Blog of the Month at Theology Blogs

Yes, one of my personal faviourites, Elizaphanian, is the new Blog of the Month at Theology Blogs. Have a look!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Christians in Turkey

Compared to the situation in Syria, the situation in Turkey is much more difficult. Compared to a decade ago in Turkey, it is much better today. There does not seem to be any violence at the moment, at least not in the area we visited (south eastern Turkey, mainly the Tur Abdin region). There is even talk of a few Christian families returning, at least to spend the summers in their old country, and some such returning families have even invested in starting up wine-production again (Vineyards were often destroyed in the war with the PKK guerilla). The wine, my wine-drinking friends told me, was (still) terrible, but you have to admire their courage.

That said, in the land were Christianity once had its centre, there is very few Christians left. The genocides on the Armenians and Syrians in the beginning of the 20th century broke the back of the Christian presence in the country, and the few that survived had mostly emigrated, to Syria or western countries. Today Christian life is centred on the few monasteries that are still functioning (we visited two - Dayr al-Zaferan and Mor Gabriel).

At the moment, the most pressing problem seems to be the acute lack of priests. This is caused by Turkey's strict "secular" policy towards education. The problem is delicate: no private schooling of any kind is allowed, and people educated abroad are not allowed to function as religious leaders. While this policy in actuality functions as a way to keep the rather large Islamic fundamentalist population in order (there are no Quran-school's allowed either), it is the Christians that are suffering the most. While the are Muslim theological faculties run by the state, where Muslim leaders are educated (in a fashion that is acceptable to military, who de facto is running turkey), there is no way to educate Christian leaders at all. This means that at the moment one old priest has to look after several parishes. If one has to find anything positive in this situation it has lead to some rather daring ecumenical steps being taken. In Mardin, for example, there are a few families of several Christian denominations present. The single Syrian-Orthodox priest tends to them all, and he will celebrate a liturgy in one of the churches each Sunday. The liturgy is the same, but the building may be Greek-catholic, Armenian or even Presbyterian. As one priest noted: "this is a different kind of ecumenism: this is called survival." When you're the last family in your church, niceties about Christology suddenly seems less relevant.

For the same reason in mentioned in my post on Syria, money does not seem to be a huge problem, at least judging from the amount of brand new buildings we could see in the old monasteries. These monasteries do not function as we are used to in the west - we actually saw very few monks in them. But they are sights of pilgrimage and places were the Syrians can go to learn more about their tradition. It seems there is a lot of visitors coming, and the newer buildings reflect this - a huge bookshop and a nice cafeteria. But of course those that come are more interested in the fourth century churches still in daily use, or the resting places of famous saints (12.000 in Mor Gabriel only, according to the young man who showed us around.)

Is there hope for Christianity in Turkey? Most look to the European Union for such signs. It is plain to see to anyone visiting Turkey how desperate the country is to be allowed to enter the Union. Obviously religious freedom is central to the "values" of the European Union. But in the negotiations that are currently proposed the question has received low priority. The reason is the same as I already mentioned. Religions freedom in Turkey is not only freedom for the fraction of the population that is Christian, but also for the far greater portion that is made out of conservative Muslims. This is not something EU wants to mess with.

But still one can hope for the best.

Solidarity with the Powerful

Dan has come up with a very good post again. Another example on how the way we chose to live can bring new things into our theology.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reading Tillich 26: The Latent Church

The concrete occasion for the distinction between the latent and the manifest church comes with the encounter of groups outside the organized churches who show the power of the New Being in an impressive way. There are youth alliances, friendship groups, educational, artistic, and political movements, and, even more obviously, individuals without any visible relation to each other in whom the Spiritual Presence's impact is felt, although they are indifferent or hostile to all overt expressions of religion.
Systematic Theology III, 153.
By distinguishing between the latent and manifest church (and this is not to be confused with the visible and invisible church), Tillich makes it possible to acknowledge the infinite width of human efforts for the good. In groups where the New Being is present - any group - the church is present, even if only in a latent way. It is latent because such a group is not consciously aware of expressing the love and faith of Jesus as the Christ. It is expressing that love, but it is not yet aware that such love is rooted in Christ.

Of course this notion also becomes the ground for a re-evaluation of all religions. As far as they express the presence of the New Being they are part of the Church.

This also does mean that although the Spiritual Presence is manifest in the the Christian churches, if a Church community does not express the New being, it is not in the proper sense of the word church, even latently.

Imagining Non-violence

Rev. Sam continues to wrestle with the question of non-violence. We all should.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Christians in Syria

Christ was born in Palestine, but Christianity was born in Syria.
Bashir al-Assad, President of Syrian Arab Republic
This quote is not significant for its theological or historical value, but because of its context and who said it. The Syrian President Bashir al-Assad said this during the visit of pope John Paul II in Damascus, and it is a line often repeated by Syrian Christians as a symbol of the good relations the Christians enjoy with the Syrian government (and a great deal of pride at their long Christian tradition, of course).

There are about two million Christians in Syria, they make up a significant part of the population. Since they are divided into so many denominations (Greek-orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Armenian-Orthodox, Greek-Catholic, Syrian-Catholic, Latin Catholic, Armenian-Catholic, Caldeans and Maronites, and some scattered protestants), you are about as likely to find a church as a mosque while walking in the major cities.

The first thing any Christian leader will tell you is how good the relations are between the various churches (the Greek-orthodox and the Syrian-orthodox share communion), as well as between Christians and Muslims. Mor Matta Roham, the Bishop in Hassake, told us during our trip which took place during the end of Ramadan, that the clergy of the city would, for the festival, go around to the leaders of the Muslim tribes and offer their congratulations. At Christmas and Easter (national holidays in Syria) the Muslim leaders would in turn visit the Bishops. In Aleppo we were told that during the celebrations of Aleppo as the capital of Islamic Culture in 2006, a public seminar would be held where one of the priests in the Syrian-Orthodox community had been invited to lecture of the role of Christians in the formation of Islamic Culture.

In other words, as things are now, Syria is probably the place in the Middle East were the Christian minority is best off. Of course, you could hear it in the way that the Bishops and Patriarchs we met emphasized their good relations, that they are fully aware (and want us to be aware too), that this will change the day the first American bomb falls over Damascus.

The Syrian Christians see themselves as having a crucial role in the relationship between east and west. "As long as we are here it will not be possible for the muslims to equate American and European foreign policy with Christianity. As long as we are here the muslims can see that they are not the same thing, that it is not Christianity that motivates the hostile acts of the west", Patriarch Gregory III Laham (Greek Catholic) told us.

I must confess that some of the Christian communities I visited in Syria seemed more dynamic and alive than anything I've seen in the West. In Hassake, the Syrian-Orthodox have recently finished building a huge school-building, and are already working on the next. They have well over a thousand students (about 20% are Muslim children). The positive side to the exodus of Christians from the Middle East is that those who stay receive financial support from those that leave for the west. But they certainly seem to put the money to good use, building up not only the community of their own but fostering good relations with other communities as well.

The overwhelming feeling I got when travelling around Syria was that if the west would only leave this part of the world alone, they would be fully competent to sort of their problems themselves.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I'm Back

Yes, back from a extremely interesting two week trip to the Middle-East. I will post some of my impressions soon. I have no photos since I did not bring a camera, (I never do), but many of my co travellers did, so I may point to some of those.

It was great trip, but it is good to be home.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Off-line time

I'll be doing some travelling the next two weeks, in the Middle-East, so I do not know if I will be able to post anything at all. And I won't take my Tillich with me (I bet this comes as a surprise to some off you), so the Reading Tilllich series will have to wait.

I'll be attending a PhD Course about Early Syrian Asceticism and be travelling to very interesting places. The Course is lead by professors Samuel Rubenson, Risto Uro and Susan Ashbrook Harvey.

If I'm not back by the beginning of November, call the UN. ;)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Reading Tillich 25: Ecstasy

The church must prevent the confusion of ecstasy with chaos, and it must fight for structure. On the other hand, it must avoid the institutional profanization of the Spirit which took place in the early catholic church as a result of its replacement of charisma with office. Above all, it must avoid the secular profanization of contemporary Protestantism which occurs when it replaces ecstasy with doctrinal or moral structure.
Systematic Theology III, 117.
Tillich's talk of ecstasy was difficult to "get" back in the fifties, it may be even worse now, when most people think of a pill when they hear the word. On the other hand, the concept has found a place in theology since then, Pannenberg uses it a lot (without giving Tillich any credit...)

In honesty, what Tillich says in this particular quote is not that radical or original. I think most people living in the church has a similar opinion, that true faith is neither submitting to religious authority nor to doctrinal or ethical rules. What is special is that Tillich really places this thought in the centre of his theology, and it goes right through the system. He acknowledges that religion is an ambiguous phenomenon and has to be so.

Homosexuality discussion

Things are, as expected, heating up at "Shadows of Divine Things" where T.B. Vick is discussing homosexuality. In his latest instalment, he argues from what is natural (based on Romans 1).'

The problem with arguing for or against anything base on it being "natural" or "unnatural", is that it is essential aspect of being human to transcend the "natural", the given. Not to embrace that which lies outside our given biological nature is to sink beneath what is human, to exist as an animal. It is nothing "natural" with using my fingers to press down buttons that produce text on a screen. Still no one would take this as a reason to judge it unnatural. So basically, when one is criticizing homosexual behaviour because it is against nature one is at the same time criticizing human culture as a whole.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Reading Tillich 24: The Unity of Morality, Culture and Religion

In accordance with their essential nature, morality, culture and religion interpenetrate each other. They constitute the unity of the spirit, wherein the elements are distinguishable but not separable.
Morality, or the constitution of the person as person in the encounter with other persons, is essentially related to culture and religion. Culture provides the contents of morality - the concrete ideals of personality and community and the changing laws of ethical wisdom. Religion gives to morality the unconditional character of the moral imperative, the ultimate moral aim the reunion of the separated in agape, and the motivating power of grace.
Culture, or the creation of a universe of meaning in theoria and praxis, is essentially related to morality and religion. The validity of cultural creativity in all its functions is based on the person-to-person encounter in which the limits to arbitrariness are established. Without the force of
the moral imperative, no demand coming from the logical, aesthetic, personal and communal forms could be felt. The religious element in culture is the inexhaustible depth of a genuine creation. One may call it substance or the ground from which culture lives. ...
Religion, or the self-transcendence of life under the dimension of spirit is essentially related to morality and culture. There is no self-transcendence under the dimension of the spirit without the constitution of the moral self by the unconditional imperative, and this self-transcendence cannot take form except within the universe of meaning created in the cultural act.
Systematic Theology III, 95.
I fell the connection between religion and culture that Tillich describes here is particularly interesting. It is a relation of interdependence. Culture needs religion to have "depth" or "substance". Religion needs Culture to create a universe of meaning in which it can exist. Culture provides religion with a form.

It should be noted that Tillich avoids to create a hierarchy of morals, religion and culture. Essentially they are one. Under the condition of existence they are separated, but they are still connected.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ethics quiz

Quizzes are fun, aren't they? Here's one on ethics. I'm so absurdly bad at ethics that I have no idea if I should be happy with my result or not. Man, I really ought to take some of those undergrad classes again. The descriptions of the various philosophers seem a bit dodgy, though (see for example Nietzsche), so I don't know how accurate the quiz is... Still, good, if a bit nerdy, fun. (HT: Klippt och Skuret)

1. Aquinas (100%) Click here for info
2. St. Augustine (89%) Click here for info
3. Kant (73%) Click here for info
4. Jean-Paul Sartre (73%) Click here for info
5. Spinoza (66%) Click here for info
6. Aristotle (61%) Click here for info
7. Ockham (60%) Click here for info
8. Stoics (60%) Click here for info
9. Ayn Rand (59%) Click here for info
10. John Stuart Mill (59%) Click here for info
11. Jeremy Bentham (51%) Click here for info
12. Nel Noddings (49%) Click here for info
13. Nietzsche (49%) Click here for info
14. Plato (48%) Click here for info
15. Cynics (41%) Click here for info
16. Prescriptivism (38%) Click here for info
17. David Hume (35%) Click here for info
18. Epicureans (31%) Click here for info
19. Thomas Hobbes (12%) Click here for info

Reading Tillich 23: Art

A work of art is a union of self and world within limitations both on the side of the self and on the side of the world. The limitation on the side of the world is that although in the aesthetic function as such, one, otherwise hidden, quality of the universe is reached. Ultimate reality, which transcends all qualities, is not reached. The limitation on the side of the self is that in the aesthetic function the self grasps reality in images and not with the totality of its being. The effect of this double limitation is to give union in the aesthetic function an element of unreality. It is "seeming"; it anticipates something that does not yet exist.
Systematic Theology III, 65.
What Tillich is trying to do here is to give arts a theological role, while at the same time separating it from the religious experience. A work of art can give an experience of unity between the individual and the world - it can overcome the estrangement effected by sin. But it does so only in a way that shows that such an unity is possible. The experience of a great work of art (and I am mostly thinking about music myself) is not a fulfilment of our deepest longing, but a kind of comfort: that fulfilment is possible. I'm not sure if Tillich did notice the parallel between this kind of theology of arts and the eastern theology of Icons. Icons are not properly art, but they have this function of pointing towards that ultimate reality.

What do you think about this suggestion of Tillich's? (I know some of you show great interest in art) It's interesting to read his theology of culture, because since it is not a traditional theme for theology, one does not have very set views coming into it. I for myself have very strong experiences when listening to music (lately this video has completely shaken me). I guess I have always kind of connected this experience with The Holy in some way, although I have not really thought about the nature of this connection. But I suppose this is the way I feel about for example Radiohead. I realize that Thom is not an angel of God, it is not the ultimate reality I experience, but is goes in the right direction. Tillich says that what I experience is just one - otherwise hidden - quality of the universe, and I think that is about right. When listening to "2 +2 = 5" i do feel a deep sense of truth in the way it describes the state of our world right now, and it fills me with an intense sense of Being Here Now. But it is not a complete experience of the world, because there are other perspectives as well, and, according to Tillich the experience happens through images, not directly.

There is obviously a risk involved here; that is, the denial that there is an experience that goes beyond the aesthetic function. This is largely the state of our society today, at least in Europe. Then the arts risk becoming idols instead of icons. But it seems for the most part those involved in creating the art tend to counter this tendency, by stating that the creativity is not coming from themselves but from "somewhere else".

Maybe beauty will still save the world some day.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Reading Tillich 22: Morality

The act in which a man actualizes his essential centeredness is the moral act. Morality is the function of life by which the realm of the spirit comes into being. Morality is the constitutive function of spirit. A moral act, therefore, is not an act in which some divine or human law is obeyed but an act in which life integrates itself in the dimension of spirit, and this means as personality within community. Morality is the function of life in which the centered self constitutes itself as a person; it is the totality of those acts in which a potentially personal life process becomes and actual person.
Systematic Theology III, 38.
This is a definition of morality I can live with. Moral acts are all those things I do that make me into who I am. I act immorally when I do things that goes against who I really am.

Some would say that this is an awfully self-centered view of morals. Isn't morals about who we relate to each other? It is, but that is not what morals is, but what good morals is. As Tillich write, when life integrates itself in the dimension of the spirit, this means that it becomes a personality within community. A person cannot be except in connection with others, it is the effect our acts have on our relationships that determine who we are.

This is why ethical discussion on an abstract level so often is pointless, if not evil. Morals is a concept relevant only in that web of relationships, one cannot separate oneself from it and discuss morals objectively. Such discussion - though I realize a community need norms for acceptable behaviour - so easily turns into a kind of manipulation of these relationships in order to override our essential morality. If our "rules of ethics" say something is ok, we do it event if we know it will hurt people.

The Age of Terror?

While we are discussing the theological problem of war, take 20 minutes time to read this report by Robert Fisk - one of the few westerners that really know what goes on in the Muslim world, and you will have a more accurate - but bleaker - picture of our world.

Might have to get that brick of a book he just published, too.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Patrologia Graeca at Google books(?)

Mike Aquilina tells us that Google apparently has scanned Migne's Patrologia Graeca.

It seem to be true, even if I recently heard about someone planning to make the series available commercially. Those people must be pretty angry now. Anyway, I'm not sure how useful this is, since it seems to be impossible to find anything in it. As you know Migne is not the most well-organized work in existence, and it does not seem like Google has made the text searchable in any way. At least I can't get it to work.

Also, I'm not 100% sure they have actually scanned the lot of it. PG fills a fair-sized wall, and scanning that is not done in an afternoon.

The PG has its faults of course, but a lot of patristic texts are available nowhere else.

Yet another meme

This meme thing is getting way out of hand... But here goes. This one was dreamt up by Alex.

  1. The best place in the world is…
My home. We have lived here for little less than a year, but the joy this place is giving me knows no boundaries.

  1. The best book I’ve ever read is…
What kind of question is that? Ok, It's really close between Paul's Romans and Tillich's Systematic theology.

  1. The best joke I know is…
I'm not really a joke person. I make up my own jokes.>

  1. The best person in the world is…
My wife. Enough said.

  1. The best friend I’ve ever had is...
Micki, he is just 100% reliable.

  1. The best way to show you care is…
To listen, I guess.

  1. The best date I’ve been on…
Dating was not really a part of our culture when I was in the right age.

  1. The best way to break up is…
No good way to do that.

  1. The best food I’ve ever eaten is…
I like pizza and hamburgers.

  1. The best website ever is…
This is like "best book" except there is no inspired websites. Radiohead at ease would be a fairly safe choice.

I'm not tagging anyone, by principle, but feel free to join in.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Thom Yorke interview

Well, it's Thom's birthday, and I don't have a theological thought in my head today, so here's part one of the best interview I have ever seen with Thom. I'm sure you'll be able to find parts II and III yourself.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Faith and Theology: Peace and War

Kim Fabricius has posted ten propositions on peace and war at Faith and theology. Good stuff.

I had a few posts on the subject some weeks ago, with a very interesting discussion following. The theme is clearly relevant today.

Also, do consider Dan's Ten propostions on Hell.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Loney, Dear - The City, The Airport

This is a clip with an amazing Swedish band. Remember the name (and where you heard it first)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Theology Blogs' Blog of the Month

Well, who else but Ben Myers's Faith and Theology. It's not like I could have chosen it for the second or third Blog of the Month. Well, check out my presentation of the King of Theology Blogs here.

Reading Tillich 21: Acceptance

Indeed, there is nothing in man which enables God to accept him. But man must accept just this. He must accept that he is accepted; he must accept acceptance. And the question is how this is possible in spite of the guilt that makes him hostile to God. The traditional answer is "Because of Christ!". ... It means that one is drawn into the power of the New Being in Christ, which makes faith possible; that it is the state of unity between God and man, no matter how fragmentarily realized. Accepting that one is accepted is the paradox of salvation without which there would be no salvation but only despair.
Systematic Theology II, 179.
Faith, then, is about a certain way to see oneself. It is to see oneself as one is, faults and all, and realize that one has the right to exist just like that. A person that is able to do this is a person that is "drawn into the power of the New Being in Christ". There is no cause an effect here, the both are one and the same. Unity with God is not something that can be achieved separately from a person's being reconciled with oneself, all this is one and the same.

More Tillich Discussion

If me quoting Tillich in five out of six posts lately, here are a few more recent posts about Tillich's theology.

At Theology in the 3rd Millennium Steve Peterman has an interesting post on what he feels is an ontological mistake in Tillich's theology. I'm not sure about that, and I'll post my reply over there.

WTM has a whole little series of posts on Tillich here, here and here.

Finally, do not miss this excellent post by Joey de la Paz on Tillich and Mission.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Reading Tillich 20: Deliteralisation

In our earlier treatment ..., the basic point was that Christological symbols are the way in which the historical fact, called Jesus of Nazareth, has been received by those who consider him to be the Christ. These symbols must be understood as symbols, as they lose their meaning if taken literally. In dealing with the Christological symbols, we were engaged not is a "demythologization" but in a "deliteralization". We tried to affirm and intercept them as symbols. "Demythologization" can mean two things...: It can mean the fight against a literalistic distortion of symbols and myths. This is a necessary task of Christian theology. It keeps Christianity from falling into a wave of superstitious "objectivations" of the holy. But demythologization can also mean the removal of myth as a vehicle of religious expression and the substitution of science and morals. In this sense demythologization must be strongly rejected. It would deprive religion of its language; it would silence the experience of the holy.
Systematic Theology II, 152
Tillich understood his own theology to be a search for a third way beyond liberal and conservative. We see this here: Tillich rejects the conservative tendency to take biblical and theological text literally, since they distort the message, they do not allow the symbols to speak; but he also rejects the liberal tendency to remove symbols and try to extract ethical teaching from them, because then religion ceases to be religion.

I've been reading St. Ephrem the Syrian lately, and I'm struck by how similar his theological attitude is to Tillich's. Ephrem speaks only in symbols, he makes no attempt to turn them in to legal or dogmatic propositions. He would whole-heartedly agree with Tillich's belief that the only way to speak about the holy is with symbols. As soon as we stop talking in symbols, we either fool ourselves or create idols.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Reading Tillich 19: Christology

Human nature can mean man's essential or created nature; it can mean man's existential or estranged nature; and it can mean man's nature in the ambiguous unity of the two others. ... Under these circumstances it is imperative to dismiss altogether the term "human nature" in relation to the Christ and replace it by a descriptions of the dynamics of life - as we have tried to do.
Systematic Theology II, 147.

Tillich has a similar criticism of the term "divine nature". His point is that these terms, as we normally use them are totally inadequate when it comes to describing Christ today. It is important to stress that Tillich does not reject the Calchedonic  theology, merely it's formula. In fact he defends the divinty of Christ against liberals such as von Harnack. But on the other hand, not to recognize that the traditional formulas are problematic is to retreat from the claim of a gospel relevant for today into a Christian sub-culture.

For more on Tillich's Christology, check out this post by "WTM" at "der evangelische Theologe".