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.


Anonymous said...

Also Tillich perceived that this latent church is present in any religions. He distinguish the presence of Christ from outside the church to his presence in the Church. Christ working outside the church he calls it "latent church" and the manifest church is where Christ's works are evidently recognized.

Tyler Simons said...

How about a little exigesis of the phrase "New Being." Have you defined this elsewhere on the blog? I did a quick search and found only a few passing mentions. I've only been through vol. 1, and if it's there, it didn't jump out at me enough to stick.

There are parallels between the latent/manifest church and Luther's Hidden/visible church, no? I guess this hinges on what, exactly, new being is, and I could guess as to a few big differences, but I'd be interested in a fleshing out of your parenthetical when you get around to it.

Patrik said...

The New Being is Tillich's word for what Christ brings (you need to look in volume two for more detail). The New being reconciles essence with existence, it is life reunited with the ground of Being, God.

There are parallels with the hidden/visible church, but also differences, most importantly that Tillich considers the latent church to be mostly outside the visible church, while I understand that Luther considers the hidden church to be mostly a part of the visible church.

Anonymous said...


Tillich also published a collection of sermons on the subject, titled, of course, The New Being. It is worth a read if you get the time.


Thanks for having such an interesting blog. I'll be back.