Archive for February, 2010

Peter Martyr Vermigli on the Word of God

February 27, 2010

No man was created by God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but through the Word of God; and therefore we must not look for man, now fallen and overthrown, to be restored by any other means than the same Word.

Joseph C. McLelland, The Visible Words of God: An Exposition on the Sacramental Theology of Peter Martyr Vermigli (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957), 71.

Tillich on Kierkegaard & Organized Religion

February 11, 2010

The church which he attacked so radically, with its tradition within culture, was the basis of his statement that in the years AD 1-30 God came to man. Without the tradition of the church which produced both the Bible and the church nothing would have come to Kierkegaard, and his whole relationship with God would not have been possible. That is an idea that you should remember when someone attacks “organized religion” – a bad term – and says, I am very religious, but I am against organized religion. That is nonsense. It is nonsense because in his personal religiousness – exuse this terrible word – he is dependent on the tradition of the church for every word, every symbol that he might use in prayer, in contemplation, or mystical experience. Without the community of speaking, there is no speaking whatsoever, and without inner speaking, there is no spiritual life whatsoever. In this way it is easy to refute these attacks againt organized religion.

Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, ed. Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), 477-478.

Rationalism is the Child of Mysticism

February 8, 2010

It is entirely wrong to place the rationalism of the Enlightenment in contradiction to pietistic mysticism. It is popular nonsense that reason and mysticism are the two great opposites. Historically, Pietism and the Enlightenment both fought against Orthodoxy. The subjectivity of Pietism , or the doctrine of the “inner light” in Quakerism and other ecstatic movements, has the character of immediacy or autonomy against the authority of the church. To put it more sharply, modern rational autonomy is a child of the mystical autonomy of the doctrine of the inner light. The doctrine of the inner light is very old; we have it in the Franciscan theology of the Middle Ages, in some of the radical sects (especially the later Franciscans), in many sects of the Reformation period, in the transition from spiritualism to rationalism, from the belief in the Spirit as the autonomous guide of every individual to the radical guidance which everybody has by his autonomous reason. From another historical perspective, the third state of Joachim of Floris, the stage of the Holy Spirit, is behind the idea amount the bourgeoisie of the Enlightenment that they have reached the third stage, the age of reason, in which every individual is taught directly. They go back to the prophecy of Joel, in which every mad or servant is taught directly by the Holy Spirit, and no one is dependent on anybody else for the Spirit.

Thus we can say that rationalism is not opposed to mysticism, if by mysticism we mean the presence of the Spirit in the depths of the human soul. Rationalism is the child of mysticism, and both of them are opposed to authoritarian Orthodoxy.

Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, ed. Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), 286-287.

A Wall Against the Pagans

February 4, 2010

Creation is an absolute act out of nothing. This implies God’s almighty power. To say that God is almighty does not mean that God is one who sits on a throune and can do anything he wants to do like an arbitrary tyrant. Rather, almightiness means that God is the sole ground of everything created, and that there is no such thing as matter which resists him. This is the meaning of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” We should read this with great awe, because by this confession Christianity separated itself from the dualistic interpretation of reality in paganism. There are not two eternal principles, an evil principle of matter as eternal as a good principle of form. The first article of the Creed is the great wall which Christianity erected against paganism. Without this wall christology inevitably deteriorates into gnosticism in which Christ is one of the cosmic powers alongside others, although perhaps highest among them. Only in the light of the first article is the second article of the Creed meaningful. Do not reduce God to the second Person of the Trinity.

Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, ed. Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), 20-21.