Background to Dialogue

The following paper by Doris Lax and response by Tom Bandy were part of the presentations to the annual meeting of the North American Paul Tillich Society in November 2000. This society is one of the largest and most diverse academic societies associated with the American Academy of Religion.

Doris Lax is a graduate student in Munich and secretary for the German Paul Tillich Society (Deustsche Paul-Tillich-Gesellschaft). She lives in Bruchmuehlbach, Germany. She is currently on the Board of the North American society, and is a participant in the EBA Advanced Leadership Forum.

EBA Community members may not be aware of Tom Bandy’s academic work. Tom holds an academic doctoral degree jointly granted by the University of Toronto and Victoria University in Philosophical Theology. He has published several articles in the theology of culture and Paul Tillich (references provided after the article). He has been an active member of the American Academy of Religion since 1981, and is a past president of the North American Paul Tillich Society.

Between Thought and Faith, Culture and Religion, Yearning for Spirituality: Paul Tillich’s Early “Church Apologetics” and Thomas Bandy’s “Spiritual Midwifing” By Doris Lax The well-known introduction to Tillich’s autobiography On the Boundary presents us with a brief, condensed analysis of the human predicament. “When I was asked to give an account of the way my ideas have developed from my life, I thought that the concept of the boundary might be a fitting symbol for the whole of my personal and intellectual development. At almost every point, I have had to stand between two alternative possibilities of existence, to be completely at home in neither and to take no definitive stand against either.” [1] Regardless of the fact that this is a personal account, the need to stand, or better move to and fro between alternatives all our lives is A, perhaps even THE, characteristic of the human being.

Yet, a long time before Tillich first used the concept of the boundary as a symbol for the dynamics of life “between alternative possibilities” he fully elaborated an answer to the question of human predicament, an answer which I believe to be one of his deepest insights.

Before examining Tillich’s early analysis of the human being “between thought and faith”, however, I have to insert some clarifications to avoid misunderstanding.

In this paper I exclusively focus on three of Tillich’s earliest German writings, none of which has yet been translated into English. They are: Die christliche Gewiþheit und der historische Jesus (The Christian Certainty and the Historical Jesus), [2] written in 1911; the 1913 memorandum Kirchliche Apologetik (Church Apologetics) [3] in which Tillich reflected his experiences at the so-called Vernunftabende (Reason Nights)[4]; the third text is Tillich’s paper read to the audience at the first Reason Night, entitled Die Grundlage des gegenw”rtigen Denkens (The Basis of Contemporary Thought).[5]

There will be no reference to any of Tillich’s later writings, in particular not to his theology of culture; first, because there would have to be too many to be pointed out, and second, because I hold Tillich’s 1911 analysis of the Christian certainty to be one of the two foundations of all his theology and philosophy, the second writing being his 1913 Systematic Theology – both of which are unmatched in their scope and profundity. Both the memorandum Church Apologetics and the paper The Basis of Contemporary Thought flow from Tillich’s insight in the Christian certainty and are proofs of their applicability as well as examples of Tillich’s efforts in the practical-theological field, apart from his traditional duties as a pastor before and during the First World War.[6]

Tillich’s efforts in reforming practical theology are the link to my comparing Thomas Bandy’s work[7] and insights to Tillich’s. Although Bandy’s work has been influenced by Tillich, especially by his theology of culture, this influence is not the central point. What, however, is central is the fact that Bandy does not know any of the three of Tillich’s early German writings considered, and yet there are strong parallels in both practical issues as well as the underlying theoretical foundation, although the latter is much more Tillich’s concern than it is Bandy’s.

The conclusions to be drawn from the various parallels that, however, do not conceal some profound differences, are that even without knowing Tillich’s early insights in the human predicament Bandy applies them and thus may well serve as a reinforcement of Tillich’s analysis. With respect to both Tillich’s and Bandy’s practical-theological approaches they are two possible answers in affirming and applying the most basic structures of human beings, differing mainly due to the fact that the cultural-religious settings are different.

Let me conclude the preliminaries with a remark regarding my own standing or moving between these two alternatives. The point of view I take in my interpretation is in fact characterized by an “in between”, neither “being completely at home” in either, nor taking a “stand against either”. It is not Tillich’s 19th to 20th century German understanding nor Bandy’s 20th to 21st century North American point of view, but a contemporary German-European ground on which I stand and move. My comparison of Tillich and Bandy is supposed

to be and invite dialogue and tries to bridge the centurie s and continents, hoping to show that despite different settings and circumstances in the dynamics of life, the fundamental structures of our being human remain the same and can be positively applied. The underlying basis of all considerations, however, is Tillich’s analysis of the human predicament to which we will now turn.

Tillich: The Human Being Between Thought and Faith

Although all interpretations of the 1911 piece concentrate exclusively on the historical debate and Tillich’s seemingly radical position, I hold that the historical Jesus is not Tillich’s concern here, but merely serves as the impetus to investigate in the problem of the certainty of believers – as the title The Christian Certainty and the Historical Jesus already states. In other words: Tillich’s focus is the question of how one can believe in Christ and God and at the same time use the full scale of one’s rational abilities, most of all in view of the threat to faith through radical doubt in God, Christ, and religion in general.

Doubt for Tillich starts right at the point at which the historical figure of Jesus enters the scene. It is important here to point out and stress that Tillich never promoted the idea that the historical Jesus might not have existed. On the contrary: The historicity of Jesus is the fundamental and inalienable basis for all of Tillich’s theology. But, he argues, apart from the mere fact that we believe that Jesus, who actually lived, is Christ, we may find out many historical facts, and yet none of the details will ever be certain. Historical research can only reach probability. And even the highest probability cannot provide the certainty we need to overcome or counterbalance doubt. Certainty is possible only IN and THROUGH faith alone. But how do we reach certainty? Tillich’s answer does not start from the side of believing, but

from the rational structure of human beings. In fact, rationality is not just one of the two basic aspects of the human predicament, but it is the most obvious structure of the world w e live in.

It is the human being who can and does discover this, which simply signifies the fact that human beings are thinking beings. Rationality is but another expression for the subject-object structure of the world and for the fact that everything existing is determined by time and space. Human beings are compelled to realize, that is, to logically grasp this all-embracing structure. Within this logical process the most profound thought that can and has to be reached is the realization that thought itself is limited and finite.

As soon as thought starts thinking about its own structure (and here I use Tillich’s own wording of “thought thinking” about itself), it is caught in a dynamic process of ever more deeply thinking about the question of why there are subjects and objects. This is the process of trying to think “backwards”, of thought reaching beyond itself to its own origin, or perhaps better: to its own offspring or source. In trying to reach back to this origin, thought experiences its absolute limits: Rationality comes to a point at which it realizes that with

rational, logical means it is impossible to grasp the off-spring of thought, simply because there is an “infinite qualitative leap” from rationality “back” to the origin. This origin is absolutely irrational to rationality, because the offspring precedes rationality, that is it precedes time and space and the subject-object split.

The results are: (1) Within its own deepest dimension thought discovers that along with and at the bottom of its depth rationality is characterized by a paradox. And the paradox is “that … all rationality is irrational, that is, it carries the contradiction within itself, and all irrationality is rational, that is, it is immanent in thought.”[8]

(2) Thought discovers that in order to reach its own origin it does not have to negate its rational structures but open itself up to the irrational, and transcend rationality “into” its irrational ground.

(3) This is the point at which thought remains rational but at the same time is immediately aware of its origin or counterbalance that infinitely transcends rationality. And this counterbalancing side is summarized in the notion of faith.

(4) In believing, that is in transcending mere rationality toward its off-spring, toward irrationality or toward the not-rationally-graspable origin of all that is, the human being reaches beyond mere probability which rationality in fact grants; and this “beyond” presents us with certainty because the rational structure of the world and of thought is not denied or annihilated, and at the same time the irrational origin and source of everything existing is embraced and affirmed.

Here a number of explanations are necessary. First of all and most important, “irrational” is not at all understood the way we usually misuse the word. Irrationality in the Tillichian sense does by no means negate rationality. Irrationality both transcends rationality – without destroying and/or annihilating rational, logical structures – and it precedes rationality. That is:

Irrationality is so to speak the cradle of rationality.

Hence the tying together of irrationality and rationality does not say that faith is a-rational or ir-rational in our misunderstood sense. Faith (or certainty) lives in the heart of rationality and is the core of thought. It constantly nourishes our thinking, and consequently our doing, because it resonates with and is rooted in that which absolutely precedes and infinitely transcends our ability even to distinguish between rational and irrational.

Tillich’s reflections on Christian certainty are, as I think, his most profound elaborations on the human predicament with respect to his analysis of the fact that human beings cannot but think AND believe, and of how rationality and irrationality, thought and faith, are intertwined.

In their deepest dimensions human beings are characterized by both rational and irrational aspects which express themselves in thought and faith. Believing and thinking are interdependent, and in a dynamic exchange. Thus we human beings are involved in an everlasting process the aim of which, on the one hand, is constantly trying to know more about our rational structure by ever more opening up to the irrational ground of our being. On the other hand the aim of our thought process is to transcend our limited rationality as well as our limited awareness of irrationality towards a receptiveness of the “infinite qualitative leap” of reconciling irrationality and rationality, faith and thought.

But the latter can at best be anticipated, since we are finite beings and cannot overcome the structures of time and space. And yet our being between faith and thought has to find expressions within this world – and the most complex of our expressions are religion and culture.

Given Tillich’s understanding of irrationality and rationality, it should be obvious that neither religious nor cultural expressions are either completely rational or solely irrational. Both culture and religion are rational, simply because we are rationally structured and our finite expressions are, too. And both have an irrational center, because our origin is irrational. The difference between religion and culture according to Tillich is that culture is more directed toward the world around us, and consequently is more determined by rational structures, and religion is more directed toward the origin and telos in us, thus focusing on more irrational aspects.

One of the most important aspects of all these considerations is the insight that culture and religion are as interdependent and intertwined as are thought and faith. Whenever in the dynamics of life culture and religion tend to negate their interdependencies and drift apart, mediators are needed to bring them together again. These mediators, and Tillich regards himself to be one of them, are supposed to go out into society and point out and explain to people the paradox of thought and faith and uncover culture’s and religion’s transparency for and aiming at ultimate Truth. Truth for Tillich has nothing in common with ideological or dogmatic correctness and approval, but is a summarizing concept for both the origin and telos of the world and the human beings. In one word: Truth is another name for God. In our finite world ultimate Truth is both origin and telos, is the paradoxical unity and union of thought and faith, culture and religion; but this union can never be fully achieved but only anticipated fragmentarily. Just as thought and faith are interdependent and religion and culture intertwined, so Truth influences and is present in history. It is in and through history that

Truth can be anticipated. Pointing out and explaining all this, with the help of historical examples and at the same time in re-orienting and re-focusing people on their present and future, is what Tillich’s mediators do. They mediate the depths of being human which unfold in thought and faith, culture and religion, in history as belief in Truth or God, love of Truth or

God, and hope for Truth or God.

Only if people realize these depths and the irrational-rational paradox of being human can the falling apart of thought and faith, religion and culture be prevented or overcome and a new creative cultural-religious, faithful and thoughtful synthesis as a fragmentary manifestation of truth in history emerge. The mediators in reorienting the people towards the powerful presence of Truth or God in history and in creating syntheses of religion and culture is what

Tillich’s church apologists are. The call for church apologists arises out of Tillich’s contemporary cultural and religious situation, which, as he puts it, is characterized by a constantly growing cleavage between an increasingly individualistic, skeptical, highly cultured and educated “higher” society still embedded in a more or less unconscious but prevailing “Christianized culture,” on the one hand, and, on the other hand, an institutionalized church without any or much interest in cultural and scientific developments, findings and changes, a church only trying to preserve tradition in the conviction that it, the church, held the one and only truth absolutely, once and forever, and people would just not want to realize, listen, and adapt to the traditional way of proclaiming this truth.

Tillich argues that with the church’s position and its unwillingness or inability to catch up with and adapt to the changed and changing situations in society and culture, it has placed itself at the utter fringes of society. Thus it has lost almost all of its significance. What is more important, it has given up its central task of proclaiming God’s justifying love manifest in Jesus as the Christ who is the most comprehensive symbol of the divine Spirit and Truth breaking through into and dwelling within human spiritual life (Geistesleben) and who is the answer to the spiritual quest and yearnings of people, especially of cultured and educated people full of doubt.

As a result of the cleavage between an ever more irrelevant church and an increasingly disappointed and doubtful culture and society, which have become un-churched and seemingly anti-religious, Tillich realizes (as early as 1913!) the “threat of a complete breakdown of spiritculture.”

And yet, he also observes that “a tremendous struggle for a new spiritual import has begun…”[9]

Tillich demands that the church enter the struggle for a new spiritual impact, for only in the irrational depths of faith there is real spiritual import, both old and new; it merely needs to be given room to break through. The complete breakdown of spirit-culture, that is, of culture and religion alike, can only be prevented by the church’s realization that it must not remain within its safe and calm retreats and pretend the world were not changing, or God’s word and the divine Spirit could be victorious in the end without ever having entered the struggle of history.

Pastors and theologians must not stay within the walls of churches and universities, but have to tear down the walls and go out into the world. They have to go out into culture and society to make people aware of the paradox of thought and faith, and thus help them become transparent for and receptive of a new breakthrough of the Spirit, of a fragmentary manifestation of ultimate truth in and through history.

It is obvious from this that Tillich does not want the church to open up in order to bring the unchurched and anti-religious individuals and skeptics back into the lap of mother church. But what he urges the church to do is to send mediating “church apologists” into the world, into society and culture, to become full members of this spiritually yearning culture and provide answers that only faith can give – in a form and language people will really understand.

Church apologists for Tillich are not, at least not primarily, defenders of the Christian truth, but are fighters who “lead offensive attacks” – with truth as their “sword”[10] – on the fields of anti-religious culture and a skeptical, yet searching, society in order to help people realize breakthroughs of ultimate meaning and truth as well as rediscover and embrace their own faithful spiritual depths. Only if, this is Tillich’s conviction, the church and its epresentatives open themselves up to and actively participate in society and culture, and live the dynamics of life, thus helping to recover the irrational depth at the heart of cultural creations – only then can a breakdown be avoided and will new spiritual import break through.

Tillich’s attempts at urging the church to do practical apologetics were not successful in the end, as we know for a number of reasons. His own efforts as a church apologist were but a brief interlude on his way into the more academic theoretical fields of theology and philosophy; and yet he never gave up his plea for a close, dynamic dialogue and interchange of religion and culture. But even in his early practical apologetics he put more weight on the theoretical aspects. Nonetheless, Tillich’s church apologetics are one possible alternative of answering and applying the human predicament. Another possibility in which more emphasis is put on practical aspects is what we will consider now.

Bandy: The Human Being Between Culture and Religion

As much as Tillich’s complex philosophical language reflects his theoretical interest, Bandy’s practical emphasis is mirrored in the metaphorical language he uses in his books. One of the central metaphors in Bandy’s work is the term “spiritual midwife”,[11] taken from everyday language. Just as midwives help women to give birth to new life, spiritual midwives help, encourage and motivate people to give birth to their spirituality that lies growing within them and needs to be born into the world when the time for delivery has come. Spiritual midwives constantly scan and synthesize cultural developments to read the signs of new spiritual import preparing to be born. Thus they are visionaries because, in realizing that culture and society are pregnant with spirituality yearning to break free, they envision what the future may look like.

Similar to Tillich’s observation that church apologists were needed to fight the threatening breakdown of spirit-culture, Tom Bandy’s spiritual midwifery is rooted in and arises out of the thorough observation and profound analysis of as well as permanent dialogue with culture and religion in North America. Bandy affirms Tillich’s insight that cultural as well as religious expressions once born in a specific situation become encrusted after a while, turn into more or less meaningless and empty traditions, suffocating the spirit and meaning pulsating w ithin and underneath all culture and religion; and that then the infinite source and spirit itself breaks free again within and through all cultural and religious forms, at the same time using these forms and traditions as vehicles AND shattering them.

On this basis, Bandy’s analysis of contemporary North American society can be summarized as a kind of unhealthily being stuck between religion and culture, yearning for spiritual impact.

What makes the situation unhealthy is the fact that the strong, powerful and manifold cultural expressions tend to negate or at best not realize any spiritual-religious import and impact, thus cutting themselves off their life-giving source. Religion in general, and the churches in particular, stick to petrified forms, dogmas and traditions, no matter how old or new they may be, and thus suffocate the spirit. The result is that culture, despite its negating tendencies, has become more likely than traditional institutional churches to open itself up to integrating the pulsating spirit. Insitutionalized religion refuses to see that with the changing cultural expectations and expressions, people’s religious expectations, expressions and yearnings are changing, too.

Realizing that people are torn between the needs and desires to e xpress themselves in all kinds of cultural creations on the one hand, and yet on the other hand, their yearnings to become transparent and open to infinite meaning and give birth to spiritual-religious expressions and creations to nurture and fill their culture with truth and meaning – all this demands spiritual midwifery. Like Tillich’s church apologists, Bandy’s spiritual midwives are not supposed to change people and make them adapt to the outdated and meaningless system of institutional churches, but to help create a religious environment that enables the spiritual import to break free, live, survive and thrive. Changing the church therefore involves, as Bandy puts it, a profound “systemic change.”[12]

A changed church will be an integral aspect, though not necessarily a discernable part in terms of an institution, of the cultural-religious forest or jungle that shoots off in all different directions. Rediscovering and putting to life the dynamics of the human predicament in both culture and religion is the systemic change which Bandy calls “growing spiritual Redwoods”.

This vision, of course, entails some challenges and risks, but life itself is a constant risk we have to take. Trying to keep up the abyss of ever more petrifying structures of the church and religion over against an aimless, indirectly developing culture entails a much greater danger, a danger affecting the very core of our being human because we cut ourselves off our very source of being and suffocate the infinite spirit in us that nourishes our daily lives. In Bandy’s view the time has come for us to re-open ourselves for and actively participate in the constantly flowing spirit and give way to a new dynamic synthesis of religion and culture.

“Growing spiritual Redwoods” is a metaphor of the systemic change in creating this organic synthesis. The Redwoods as well as all other religious-cultural plants of the jungle are aware of and constantly draw from the perpetually flowing nourishment of “the life giving sap that permeates and surrounds every cellular unit of the jungle.”[13]

In less metaphorical language: The human predicament is the paradox of having to live between religion and culture, between our search for cultural expressions to model the world around us, and our yearnings for religious spirituality; and nowadays more important, also our having to reach beyond this “in between” in seeking to create meaningful and spirit-contained ways of living. This striving beyond the cleavage between religion and culture, beyond all finite expressions, forms and traditions is possible because above, underneath, and within all, there is God’s all-embracing love in Christ Jesus; and this love can be and is experienced anew every day. Whenever a human being experiences this love, which as the touch of the Holy is a mysterium tremendum et fascinosum, this experience breaks free from us into the world.

However, our experiences and encounters with the Holy, or with God, or Christ, are not logically predictable and rationally graspable, nor can they be limited to one or the other sphere of rationality, culture and religion. Experience of the Holy can be positive and encouraging but it can also be frustrating and frightening; and it can happen anywhere at any time, because ultimate meaning and the life giving spirit cannot be restricted to any rational form or sphere – for as the source and origin of life it is irrational and encompasses everything finite.

Here it is obvious that Bandy’s views easily connect with Tillich’s insights that one aspect of the human predicament is our irrational origin and the other is our having to think rationally as well as act and express ourselves culturally and religiously. But with our finite expressions cut off and devoid of any or much spiritual meaning, of not having much or any “nourishment,” guidance, and channeling in our giving birth to cultural and religious creations, we deprive ourselves of our basis and roots.

In the long run, however, the human being cannot negate the religious and “irrational” aspects or merely counterbalance them culturally. This impossibility to negate religion shows itself in a growing tendency among people in North America as well as in Western Europe to turn to Eastern spiritual-religious traditions. Although we may or may not affirm or welcome the assimilation and integration of Eastern spirituality, I suspect we all know how difficult it is to really integrate non-Christian spirituality into Christian cultures, for all our western cultures are deeply intertwined with Christianity. But much more important than any difficulties arising out of a confrontation and possible assimilation or integration of Eastern spirituality and western Christianized cultures, there is the fact that we all have good reasons, other than merely preserving heritage and old traditions or creating new ones, to LIVE our Christian faith, regardless of the diverse and different, sometimes contradictory expressions of this faith.

Diversity of faith expressions in religion and culture is important and necessary, for diversity mirrors the very core and paradox of our being human. As long as diversity itself is not turned into an “ideology” and our cultural-religious expressions remain aware and trasparent of the irrational grounds of being, the divine spirit helps us create ways of living in channeling today’s spiritual yearnings and assist and guide people, as well as society and culture in general, to realize anew that faith does not depend on knowing and affirming dogmas and doctrines, but that believing is a dynamic, creative way of living. This re-opening and returning to the living source of life is not just a matter of individuals, but it spreads its energy and power into society and culture.

Recovering and reintroducing the irrational is a major aspect in all these considerations. It is important here to point out that Bandy – without knowing Tillich’s early analysis of the human predicament – takes up, applies, and even widens this most central aspect of Tillich’s insights.

On a more theoretical scale, Bandy’s demand, just as almost a century earlier Tillich’s request, to reintroduce and reintegrate the irrational to theological considerations pays tribute to the human predicament and origin as well as telos in a way that has been denied and forgotten for centuries. And it takes seriously the fact that, no matter how much we human beings know and apply our rational abilities, we cannot turn God or the Holy into a knowable, explainable, rationally limitable “something”, and we cannot pretend Truth, which we are yearning for, to be a matter of correct, logically mediated information.

Embracing the irrational in and as the ground of being changes our (theological) reflections as much as does the rediscovery and reintroduction of the notion of Eros. Eros as the powerful, world-affirming and self-affirming aspect of human love helps affirm both cultural and religious expressions, however limited and distorted they may be. And more, with the affirmation of

Eros as the divine power to create and as the divine love for the creation, our religious and cultural expressions can be opened for our relationship with the divine power. The notion of Eros that Bandy seeks to re -integrate is the point at which he widens Tillich’s early analysis of the human predicament, for Tillich himself (prior to the First World War) does not stress or even give expression to Eros. And yet, Eros is there as the underlying “melody”, so to say, of all of Tillich’s elaborations and practical efforts; it is the melody that sings about our origin and source, our telos and our yearnings.

Human Yearning: Irrationality and Rationality, Eros and Agape, Religion and Culture Our telos is given with and lives in the heart of the human predicament as Tillich unfolds it.

Although life usually is not a matter of both/and but has to be lived as constantly deciding between alternative possibilities of existence, the very word “between” is not an either/or solution – either religion or culture, either Eros or agape, either irrationality or rationality, either faith or thought. But the human predicament of living “in between” entails the telos of yearning for, hoping for and fragmentarily achieving the telos of affirming, embracing and remaining true to the anticipated unity of both aspects of the predicament, thus hoping to take the “infinite qualitative leap” of reconciling faith and thought, irrationality and rationality, Eros and agape, religion and culture.

This is a shared, though not fully elaborated, aspect of both Tillich’s and Bandy’s work, despite the fact that Bandy is more on the practical side, and Tillich more on the theoretical. One part of the theory is Tillich’s insight that ultimate spiritual import breaks free whenever the finite forms we create tend to suffocate the Spirit living within them. And this is the reason why theoretical thought for Tillich always includes a strong trend toward the practical-apologetic side. Tillich called himself an apologetic theologian – apologetics in the sense of “leading offensive attacks” on the fields of society, culture and religion.

Perhaps it was his affinity for theoretical issues which led him to emphasize the continuous “flow” of ups and downs of the waves that characterize history on a large scale, thus maybe sometimes paying too little attention to the pressing urgencies of certain moments in history.

Even in 1913 when he definitely felt and was driven by the awareness of the “threat of a complete breakdown of spirit-culture” his practical efforts were accompanied by a strong theoretical, abstract-reflective overtone that, I suspect, made it difficult for Tillich himself to really re-act to the urgency of the situation.

Here, Bandy and his practical interests may serve as a corrective with respect to acknowledging that there are in fact moments in history which require action and set abstract theoretical reflections to the background without, of course, negating them. Although Bandy’s religious-cultural setting and situation seem so different from Tillich’s, their practical efforts in “apologetic midwifery” – to put the two approaches together – flow from a similar, if not the same, source. Bandy is aware of the moment in history in which change is urgently needed and possible; Tillich was more aware of the flow of history on a much larger scale, and perhaps would say that the contemporary situation is but the consequence of his own time.

Regardless of an historical evaluation, Tillich’s church apologetics and Bandy’s spiritual midwifery are possible alternatives answering the requirements of the flow of history and the yearnings of human beings. Their emphases both with respect to approach and practical outcome are different, and yet they expose two aspects of the one theme, namely of the question of how to fruitfully and positively apply the human predicament – the human predicament as the young Tillich unfolded it, which remained a source and basis all his life, and which, I believe, we can still use as a broad common basis for discussion and communication as the waves of history carry us into the 21st century.


[1] Paul TILLICH, On the Boundary. An Autobiographical Sketch. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2nd ed. 1966, p.13.

[2] Paul TILLICH, Die christliche Gewißheit und der historische Jesus, in: Main Works / Hauptwerke (=MW/HW), vol. 6 (ed. by Gert HUMMEL). Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1992, pp. 21-37. A slightly different version of the 128 theses on The Christian Certainty and the Historical Jesus is printed in Ergänzungs- und Nachlaßbände zu den gesammelten Werken (EGW) vol. VI. Stuttgart: Ev. Verlagswerk, 1983, pp. 31-46. My interpretation is also

based on the further material on this topic in EGW VI, pp. 50-74: a paper Tillich presented at a conference at Kassel, Germany, in which he explained parts of the theses; a letter to Tillich by his friend Friedrich Büchsel and

Tillich’s reply to Büchsel, both dealing with the paper and the theses on the Christian Certainty and the Historical Jesus.

[3] Paul TILLICH, Kirchliche Apologetik, in: MW/HW 6, pp. 39-61, which is a reprint of Gesammelte Werke (=GW) XIII, pp. 34-58.

[4] For more information on the Vernunftabende cf. MW/HW 6, p. 39, and GW XIII, pp. 33-34.

[5] Paul TILLICH, Die Grundlage des gegenwärtigen Denkens, in: EGW X.1 (=Religion, Kultur, Gesellschaft; part 1, Erdmann STURM). Berlin, New York: Waler de Gruyter, 1999, pp. 75-84.

[6] For more information on Tillich’s life in pre -WW I Germany cf. for example: Renate ALBRECHT, Werner SCHÜßLER (eds.), Paul Tillich. Sein Werk. Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1986, esp. pp. 9-27; R. ALBRECHT, W. SCHÜßLER. Paul Tillich. Sein Leben. Frankfurt/Main et. al.: Peter Lang, 1993, pp. 15-36. Cf. also Erdmann

STURM, Zwischen Apologetik und Seelsorge. Paul Tillich frühe Predigten (1908-1918), in: ThLZ 124 (1999= 3, Sp. 251-268; translation: Erdmann STURM, Between Apologetics and Pastoral Care. Paul Tillich’s Early Sermons

(1908-1918), in: NAPTS Newsletter vol. XXXI, no. 1 (winter 2000), pp. 2-20.

[7] My interpretation is mainly based on: Thomas G. BANDY, Kicking Habits. Welcome Relief For Addicted Churches. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997; and Thomas G. BANDY, William M. EASUM, Growing Spiritual Redwoods. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997. Some considerations are taken from: Thomas G. BANDY. Moving Off the Map. A Field Guide to Changing the Congregation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998; and Thomas G. BANDY: Christian Chaos. Revolutionizing the Congregation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999. I am most grateful to Tom for interesting and fruitful e-mail coorespondence we have had and for the chance to participate in an online seminar “Preparing for the Earthquake” Tom led in spring 2000.

[8] “Das Paradox des Denkens besteht darin, ‘daß … aller Rationalismus irrational, d.h. den Widerspruch in sich tragend, und aller Irrationalismus rational, d.h. dem Denken immanent ist’;” (my translation) auoted from:

Erdmann STURM, Mystik und Ethik bei Paul Tillich, in: Mystisches Erbe in Paul Tillich’s philosophischer Theologie / Mystical Heritage in Paul Tillich’s Philosophical Theology. Proceedings of the VIII Internatio nal Paul-Tillich –

Symposium Frankfurt/Main, June 2-4, 2000; ed. by Gert HUMMEL and Doris LAX. Münster: LIT-Verlag (forthcoming 2001), pp. 231-252, quote on p. 249. Sturm himself quotes from Tillich’s (still unpublished) 1920 series of lectures on “Religionsphilosophie” at the university of Berlin (manuscript of lecture no. 27, p.9). The “Religionsphilosophie” will be published shortly in EGW XII, ed. by Erdmann STURM. The reason why this 1920 statement on the paradox of thought is included here, despite the fact that the post-WW I period is not considered, is that this is the most condensed summary of what Tillich fully applies to all realms of life and thought in his 1913 Systematische Theologie (published in: EGW IX, ed. by G. HUMMEL and D. LAX. Berlin, New York, 1998, pp. 273-434) and elaborates on for the first time in Die christliche Gewißheit und der historische Jesus.

[9] Kirchliche Apologetik, MW/HW 6, p. 42.

[10] Tillich’s own wording is: “Die Apologetik is das aggressive Organ der Kirche gegenüber der Bildung; im

Angriff liegt ihre Verteidigung. ‘Apologetik oder Lehre vom Angriff’ könnte man es paradox formulieren.”

Kirchliche Apologetik. MW/HW 6, p. 46.

[11] Cf. esp. Thomas G. BANDY, William M. EASUM, Growing Spiritual Redwoods, the paragraphs on “The Midwife Metaphor”, pp. 183-203.

[12] Cf. esp. Thomas BANDY, Kicking Habits, pp. 16-17.

[13] This quote is taken from an e -mail; on the “life giving sap” cf. particularly “Vista four: The Fluid That Flows,” in: Thomas G. BANDY, William M. EASUM, Growing Spiritual Redwoods, pp. 60-105.