Posts Tagged ‘Paul Tillich’

“Innumerable things, all things in a way, have the power of becoming holy in a mediate sense. They can point to something beyond themselves. But, if their holiness comes to be considered inherent, it becomes demonic. This happens continually in the actual life of most religions. The representations of man’s ultimate concern–holy objects–tend to become his ultimate concern. They are transformed into idols. Holiness provokes idolatry.” p. 216 Systematic Theology Volume 1

I can think of quite a few instances of this, can you? The idea that something good, the holy, could produce something demonic, the idol, is interesting. I think it fits the theme of Barth’s view of the Church too, in that the church, being a sign pointing to what is beyond the church, can become too involved in itself instead of God. Now, whether this applies to actual churches like Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox etc, or the actual body of Christ as Church, I’m not sure and I’d have to go back and re-read that part of the text.

Tillich goes on to talk about the original meaning of holiness and how it has been distorted over the centuries. I don’t remember if he actual gives a clear meaning of it as it originally was used however. So that’s something I’d like to find out…what did holiness mean thousands of years ago when written in the Hebrew bible?


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“No individual exists without participation, and no personal being exists without communal being. The person as the fully developed individual self is impossible without the other fully developed selves. If he did not meet the resistance of other selves, every self would try to make himself absolute. But the resistance of the other selves is unconditional. One individual can conquer the entire world of objects, but he cannot conquer another person without destroying him as a person. The individual discovers himself through this resistance. If he does not want to destroy the other person, he must enter into communion with him. In the resistance of the other person the person is born. Therefore, there is no person without an encounter with other persons. Persons can grow only in the communion of personal encounter. Individualization and participation are interdependent on all levels of being.” p. 176-177 Systematic Theology Volume 1.

What does this mean in regards to abortion? I can’t find definitively what Tillich’s stance on abortion was, but I gather from this that he was “pro-choice”. Unless you can describe the interaction between fetus and mother as part of a communion thus establishing a person in the fetus. Or could you go so far as saying that the doctor who is aborting the fetus as “conquering” the fetus and thus destroying his personhood with his own?

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