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.


Anonymous said...

One of the poets has said the world will end "not with a bang but a whimper." I worry about the world in general, but I worry more about Europe than other places. So many Europeans seem so disspirited.

Anonymous said...

I'd tend to be in agreement with Tillich here, and I don't think it's disspirited. Our world has a lack of creativity and originality (especially in the US) and these go hand in hand with spirit and freedom. History has ended--but there still is hope.

Anonymous said...

I've heard "History has ended" enough times to stay a little skeptical. It's like Harry Potter said various times he was supposed to have died: you'd think he would have stopped walking around by now, and maybe he would be an extra-concentrated ghost if he had died so many deaths.

A Tolkien or a Dickens -- or a Mother Theresa -- simply by following Christ play a part in reviving the world. Those who celebrate the resurrection revive more people by bringing them to God's kingdom than those who sing funeral dirges. Not to pick too much on Tillich, I know he has other things to say besides this.

Patrik said...

Note that it is I that say that we may have reached this point, Tillich only says what the end of history will look like.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, Patrik.

But doesn't saying we've reached the end of history mean that you're saying nobody (yourself or the people on your blogroll or your theology blogs list, etc.) is participating in the kingdom of God, asking the right questions, living sacrificially? Or if you and friends actually are doing any of the things qualified as history, then it's not over yet.

If that perspective on history is correct, then one thing is plain: It falls to us as part of our task in life to make our cultures alive.

Patrik said...

That is what I tried to say at the end of my post, there is still resistance against the decline. I'm still inclined to believe that as a culture though, there is less interest in ultimate questions today compared to when Tillich was writing for example.