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Paul Tillich, The History of Christian Thought

Paul Tillich, The History of Christian Thought

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Published by feng david
this book clearly described the history of christian thoughts.
this book clearly described the history of christian thoughts.

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Published by: feng david on Mar 04, 2009
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07/01/2013

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T
HE
H
ISTORY OF
C
HRISTIAN
T
HOUGHT
by 
Paul Tillich
Lecture 1: Introduction
 When Professor McNeill began his lectures last semester, I was in his first class for few minutes and spoke about the relationship between Church history and thehistory of Christian thought. I said there that they cannot be separated from eachother, and that in the history of Christian thought the history of the Church mustalways be presupposed; and vice versa, that in the history of the Church the history of Christian thought is implied. This separation, therefore, into two semestersfollowing each other is artificial. Fortunately this is the last time that we have thisprocedure and that I give these lectures, and from now on there will be a moreintegrated form of teaching Church history, in one year and a half. You are now stillanticipating this period of glory in the Church History Department, and we muststill make the best of it! But don't forget that Christian thought is the expression osomething which is more universal and more real than thought, namely theChristian life itself. Because of this, Christian thought has very often been neglectedand even despised But this is equally wrong, and I want therefore to make a fewremarks in the beginning about the necessary function of thought in every humanendeavor, and especially in the religious life. All human experience implies the element of thought, simply because man'sintellectual or spiritual life is embodied in his language, and language is thoughtexpressed in spoken and heard words. Therefore there is no human existencewithout thought, and the kind of emotionalism so rampant in religion is not
 
something more than thinking, but is less than it, and brings religion down to thelevel of a pre-human experience of reality.In the tension between the philosopher Hegel and the theologian Schleiermacher, you know that Schleiermacher emphasized the function of "feeling," or emotion, inreligion; and Hegel, who emphasized the function of thought, said: "Even dogshave feeling, but man has thought." Now this was based on an unintentionalmisunderstanding of what Schleiermacher meant with "feeling," misunderstanding which we find very often even today. But it expresses some truth.Man cannot be man without thought. He must think even if he is the mostprimitive devotional Christian, with no theological education or understanding.Even in religion we give names to special objects. We distinguish acts of the Divine.We relate symbols to each other. We explain their meaning. There is language inevery religion, and the existence of language means that there are universals, and of universals that there are concepts, and of concepts that one must think, even on themost primitive level. It is interesting that this fight between Hegel andSchleiermacher was anticipated by a man like Clement of Alexandria, in the 3
rd
 century, who said that the religion of animals, if they had a religion, would bemute, without words. And he must have derived from this that every man who livesreligiously, must participate in religious thought. Now I repeat :
REALITY PRECEDES THOUGHT
. But I repeat also :
THOUGHT SHAPESREALITY 
. These two are interdependent. You cannot abstract the one from
 
the other.Therefore when you shall fall into despair – which you certainly will, when we cometo the sections on trinity and Christology, where much thinking is needed becausethe Church Fathers for hundreds of years did much thinking about these problems– don't forget that the decisions which were made on the basis of this thinking aredecisions which have influenced the life of the most primitive Christian, ever since,not because they understood the discussions going on between the philosophicaltheologians, who were in classical Greek philosophy, but in the way the devotionallife itself developed. The decisions of the Church councils are omnipresent, andthey are omnipresent even in the least theological congregations today in thiscountry. So don't underestimate them, as I certainly wouldn't ask you tooverestimate them.Beyond this thinking, which is always present, there is the development of methodological thought, thought which goes on according to logical rules andmethods of dealing with experiences. This methodological thought, if expressed in
 
speaking or writing and communicated to other people, produces theologicaldoctrines. This is, of course, more than the thought element which is implied inevery life. This is a development beyond the more primitive use of thought. Andideally such development leads to a theological system, not because systems areespecially nice to dwell in – everybody who dwells within a system feels after a certain time that it is a prison, and even if you produce a systematic theology, as Idid, you always try to go beyond it and not to be imprisoned by it. Nevertheless thesystem is necessary because the system is the form of consistency. And I repeat herewhat I repeated in my answer to my critics in the book on my theology *, that thoseof my Union Theological Seminary students who have the greatest misgivingsabout the production were most impatient with me when they discovered that twoof my statements disagreed with each other; that means, they were unhappy infinding one point in which the hidden system had a gap. But when this system wasdeveloped, then they felt it was a mean attempt on my side to imprison them! Thisis a very interesting double reaction, but understandable because if the prison istaken as a final answer, then it is of course even worse than a prison. If it isunderstood as an attempt to bring theological concepts into consistent expression,where none contradicts the other, then you cannot escape a system. And even if youthink in fragments--as some philosophers and theologians (and some great ones)have done--then every fragment contains implicitly a system. When you read Nietzsche's fragments – 1 think he is the greatest fragmentist in philosophy – then you can find in each of his fragments a whole system of life and world implied. So you cannot escape a system except if you want to make verbal statements which arenonsense and completely contradict each other. And that is, of course, sometimesdone.But, of course, a system has a danger of becoming a prison, and also the danger,when it is built, of moving within itself, of separating itself from reality, of becoming something which is, so to speak, above the reality which it is supposed todescribe. Therefore I am not so much interested in the systems as such – with a fewexceptions, for instance with relationship to Origen – but I am interested in thepower of these systems to express the reality of the Church and its life.The Church doctrines have been called dogmas, and in former less noble periods of Christian instruction – -for instance when I myself was young – the whole thingwas called "the history of dogma." This cannot be done any more. One calls it"history of Christian thought." But this is only a change in name, because nobody would dare to present a history of Christian thought in the sense of what every 

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