||43 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
Tillich, Barth, and
the Criteria of Theology
By Edward A. Dowey, Jr.
CONVERSATION between theology and science presupposes some consensus on the nature of each. The last one hundred and fifty years of Protestant thought, as well as the current variegated array of systems, show that this cannot be taken for granted on the part of theology. The following pages were first prepared and read aloud as part of a conversation in which theology was asked to define itself, and state the criteria by which it proceeds over against the enterprise of the exact sciences. This form of the paper has been retained, including the opening generalizations (Section I) in which, to avoid offense, the term theology is first used broadly and non-technically as the equivalent of "religious thought." If this begs a question to the disadvantage of Barth in the latter part of the discussion, it nonetheless seems unavoidable at least in a prologue to conversation.
Theology and science share in common the feature that they attempt to give a rational articulation of human experience. In both instances there is such penetration beyond day to day experience that many of the resulting principles and doctrines contradict naive apprehension and common sense. Both science and theology involve value judgments in that the illumination of common experience in both instances is implicitly regarded as better than the prior darkness. This produces a point of reference from which improvement may be undertaken, which might be said to introduce a mutual soteriological element; for example, the sharing of techniques for apprehension in both pure science and mystical religion, or the technical results of applied science and the ethical and emotional products or even final salvation derived in one way or another from religious faith.
||44 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
There are, however, important differences between the theological and the scientific type of enterprise which, like the above, are banalities of discussion about them and yet which are difficult to state. "Pure" science has for its milieu the intelligible-problematic cosmos of the natural world which the investigator views, or tries to view, with as little personal-cultural bias as he can achieve. The scientific goal is complete and corroborated description. Comprehensive intelligibility is the heuristic principle, but a suspension of judgment and a provisional pluralism make the investigator, qua scientist, uncommitted to specific results. Experimental techniques, a posteriori conclusions, continual re-evaluation of axioms, laws, and all past achievements characterize the endeavor. Quantitative categories are normative (or have been so far), and refined mathematical abstraction is the language of discourse in which are formulated statistical laws that do not admit of exception. When "pure" science is "applied" it returns to technical problems of science or common life to supply instruments that do useful work. Both the proffered instruments of applied science and a popular brand of pure science have so altered the life of the scientific layman as to offer him a comprehensive cosmos of intelligibility that becomes practically his Weltanschauung, or at least destroys his pre-scientific world view even if it does not supply a new one. This latter development, increasingly characteristic of our time, issues in a naive or refined philosophy of nature which is the aspect most similar to religious thought.
Theology is distinguished from science as the rational articulation of a special (quality of?) human experience, man's religiousness, which generally is related to God or gods. The scientific cosmos thus may stand within a context of supramundane Power or powers capable of spontaneous activity, or in some instances it may be declared a meaningless maya unworthy of investigation. A theological thinker usually views the world from within a given religious tradition which has mediated to him an experience of enlightenment and salvation that connects him with some good conceived as ultimate. Thus he tends to affirm (possibly critically) as normative and redemptive the special perspective on reality of the culture or the religious community to which he belongs. While this may be carried out along lines that are a posteriori and experiential, the scientific tentativity toward specific results is generally replaced by an
||45 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
affirmation of the validity and power of the cult, dogma, and ethics of his tradition. The attitude of theology is that of existential commitment, the object of which is not scientific intelligibility, but a mysterious truth in and "beyond" the world man can describe, There are potentially as many kinds of theology as there are kinds of faith and kinds of redemption from and to myriad circumstances, temporal and eternal. Religious commitment together with an exclusive concept of revelation often causes a theology to claim universality and thus negate the claims of other traditions. A tendency within Christian thought toward the "perennial philosophy" is either carefully categorized away from theology proper (Maritain) or, if taken in, is regarded as evidence of having given up Christian revelation for mysticism. At any rate, an inclusive synthesis of various religions is not likely to be undertaken as the main task for the theology of the Christian Church.
The encounter between science and Christian theology in our culture has often been on a level which took little note even of these general differences and thus violated the special character of both enterprises. This is true of Descartes, Newton, and Locke, of both the Deists and much of Protestant orthodoxy on down to the evolution controversies and some contemporary writers on science and religion. It has run a gamut, as Gilson puts it, from John Toland's Christianity Not Mysterious ("Now if Christianity is not mysterious, what is?") to James Jeans' This Mysterious Universe ("Now, if the universe of science is mysterious, what is not?"). Gilson continues, "The universe of science qua science exactly consists of that part of the total universe from which, owing to human reason, mysteries have been removed." 1
Hume and Kant perceived the limits of mathematical and causal analysis as did, innocently, Bishop Butler. But it was chiefly Pascal who perceived that faith, belonging to the "order of charity," might be a different kind of thing from science and any possible scientific Weltanschauung. This is put negatively and succinctly in his dismissal of Descartes: "I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to make him give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this he has no further need of God." But for Pascal himself,
1 God and Philosophy, p.122.
||46 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves. 2
Today the lesson is learned by many. A wide gallery of Christian thinkers, from Maritain to Barth, can laud the freedom of science to pursue and answer its own kind of questions in its own way and affirm simultaneously the autonomy of theology. Voices from within science and within critical philosophy would quiet the Jeanses and Eddingtons, the du Nouys and Sinnotts, who philosophize and theologize where there are gaps in science. On the other hand, the religious and philosophical inadequacy of a positivism based on experimental techniques is obvious enough that we need not indulge a critique here.
It is not with a reductionistic positivism in science that we have to do directly in theology today. Rather it is with: (1) the methodological positivism that consciously avoids metaphysical implications, 3 and with (2) the highly sophisticated philosophy of nature in which physical and biological insights into process and organism are contributing to metaphysics an impressive coherence with the world which science is discovering. 4 It is not with God as a Newtonian world mechanic, nor with the denial of such a God that we have to do, but with the It of Whitehead, and with the consistent reserve of the physicist who as physicist will neither affirm nor deny even It. With what, in either case, can Protestant theology converse, and who is carrying on the conversation? Many names come to mind readily: Charles Hartshorne, Karl Heim, Charles Raven, Rudolph Bultmann, Emil Brunner. Two others, however, are chosen in this discussion because their methodologies are readily available in introductions to their major works, because they exhibit a common starting point by which both are liberated from the older "science and religion" confusion, and because they stand back to back on the common starting point and proceed in exactly opposite directions.
Both Paul Tillich and Karl Barth refuse Whitehead's invitation to step out of the "great standard experiences" of their Christian tradition and "to amplify, recast, generalize, and adapt, so as to absorb
3 Pascual Jordan, "Der Positivismus in der Naturwissenschaft," Glaube und Forschung (Guetersloh: Bertelsmann,1950).
4 A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality.
||47 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
into one system all sources of experience." 5 Both follow Paul, Augustine, the Reformers, and Pascal in holding the Christian revelation final for the knowledge of God. And both do much better than Pascal with his prophecies and miracles as the entering door to the realm of grace. But the two radically different ways in which Tillich and Barth reject the invitation to become philosophers of man's religiousness and the two conceptions of the criteria of specifically Christian theological work on which the rejection is based are very instructive in theological self-definition.
A fundamental and critical concern with theological method may be said to be important only to "modern" theology, modern in any period. That is, a theology whose traditional universe of discourse is no longer self-evident and which can no longer take for granted a standard exegetical method, creedal statement, or series of theological commonplaces and their philosophical context or correlates. A theology is modern when the contemporary Weltanschauung becomes powerful, positively or negatively, in determining its form and content so as seriously to modify its traditional structure. In this sense, Aquinas was a modern in his use of Aristotle, as were, in varying ways, Irenaeus, Augustine, and the Reformers. 6 Recent Protestant theology in so far as it followed Schleiermacher, that is, in so far as it was centrally concerned with "addresses" from within the Church to the "cultured dispisers of religion," is modern. Such a theology is carried out in full consciousness of and thus in methodological accommodation to the involvement of theological language in the contemporary "situation".
Barth comments that Schleiermacher "grasps the problem of theology where it must be grasped, if it is to be understood at all: withfull attention to what may, can, and must be taught in relation to the Biblical norm on the one hand, to the past of the Church on the other hand, and both in the Church's actual present." 7 In these terms Tillich and Barth are both modern and both relevant to the discussion. In methodological introductions to their respective systems they perceive this same basic problem in almost the same language, and, quite conscious of Schleiermacher and of one another,
5 A. N. Whitehead,
Religion in the Making, P.149.
6 The term here does not mean modernism or modernist in the sense used by Popes Pius IX and X, or as an opposite to Protestant fundamentalism, implying the emptying of Christian content.
7 See the entire context in Die protestantische Theologie im neunzehnten Jahrhundert, p. 384.
||48 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
proceed to quite opposite solutions. That Barth aims to silence all philosophical, not to mention scientific, questions in advance by defining theology Out of their reach, is a product of his understanding the involvement of theology in the cultural "situation," not neglect of it. He may be judged wrong in the course he takes. But to interpret his way of thinking as naivete, antipathy to culture, or avoiding issues is to underestimate both his sophistication and seriousness as a thinker. The undeniably modern character of both these theologies, by men who are aware of and informed in the history of science and philosophy down to our day, makes them candidates for the present discussion.
The incorporation of the whole range of human experience, indeed "open experience," into the matter of Christian theology is a hall-mark of Paul Tillich's thought.8 The catholicity of it must reflect his basic apprehension of life. This universality, however, is provided for in his systematic theology from within Biblical religion by the concept of ultimate concern and the Logos doctrine. The term ultimate concern, says Tillich, is an "abstract translation" of "The Lord, our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mk.12:29).9 And the Logos doctrine affirms the identity of the absolutely concrete with the absolutely universal. Thus, "pictures, poems, and music . . . physical or historical or psychological insights can become objects of theology," through their power of expressing what concerns us ultimately through their aesthetic or cognitive form; and the whole history of religion and culture provides sources for systematic theology by direct or indirect relation to the event of the Logos become flesh in Jesus the Christ. 10 The basis is thus laid for understanding everything in its religious dimension from within Christian theology.
The religions and cultures of mankind are seen to be asking implicitly or explicitly the question to which the New Being in Jesus as the Christ is the answer. Science as a cultural phenomenon is allowed a completely free role in that its procedures and discoveries, as such, can be "neither productive nor disastrous" for theol-
Theology, vol. i, p.45.
9 Ibid., p.11.
10 Ibid., p.13.
||49 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
ogy. 11 Tillich says of his view of man that, "while dealing with ontological structures, I nowhere refer in my system to results of empirical research."12 But on its philosophical side, that is, in so far as it asks the question of reality as a whole, science becomes relevant to theology and this occurs on the philosophical side of theology.
To return to the "first criterion" of theology (the negative, formal principle of ultimate concern) and the "norm" of theology (the positive, material manifestation of the New Being in Jesus as the Christ), it strikes me that in the "abstract translation" something may have occurred in the nature of an illicit process.13 The illicit process is not to be criticized logically, but measured against another apprehension of that which was translated. The great commandment is drawn from the law aspect of the Biblical tradition, i.e., that aspect in which man stands in separation from God and feels upon himself the demand to do precisely what he cannot do, namely, love God. Love in the form of a demand is self-contradictory and finally self-defeating. Love can occur only in response to the divine agape, not the divine command. The divine agape seems to be implicit in Mark12:.29 if the whole passage is used, beginning, "Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is one . . ." namely, the God of the patriarchs and of the covenant who gave the law. But this is not the thing on which Tillich fastens for his formal criterion. What Tillich "abstracts" is the ultimacy and the concern of the relationship Which then is universally applicable to man's religiousness.
One must agree that high religion has often, if not always, arisen where this ultimate concern or demand was felt and where techniques, ritual, ethical, or mystical, were developed through which to express it. But high religion enters the New Testament as Phariseeism, i.e., in the role of having denied the freedom of God to act toward Israel in a new way, rather than as he had formerly acted according to the Phairasaic apprehension of the Old Testament. The Pharisees as they appear in the New Testament could not accept God's action unless it conformed to the canons of ultimate concern expressed in the Pharisaic understanding of the law. They
12 The Theology of Paul Tillich, edited by C. W. Kegley and R. W. Bretall, p.342. Cf. Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik, vol. iii, part 2, p.27.
13 Tillich warns critics thus: "I cannot accept criticism as valuable which merely insinuates that I have surrendered the substance of the Christian message because I have used a terminology which consciously deviates from the Biblical or ecclesiastical language. Without such deviation, I would not have deemed it worthwhile to develop a theological system for our period." Systematic Theology, vol. ii, p. viii.
||50 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
had "abstracted," and had in effect a formal criterion of theology that made it impossible for them to be confronted by a new act of Israel's God in their day. The formal criterion of Protestant orthodoxy, the Biblical canon conceived as inerrant, played the same role; and this Karl Barth calls "natural theology."
Phariseeism had to put Christ to death, and Paul's Phariseeism had to die by confronting a risen Christ, before he knew grace. This strikes me as a peculiar way of answering questions implicit and explicit in Phariseeism and the history of religions. Is not the serious theological significance found in the radical break, the death and the resurrection? There is probably enough ambiguity in the New Testament about the law, whether in Jesus' teaching or in Paul's struggle about "what advantage has the Jew?"-to make this decisive question insoluble by technical exegesis alone. But my grasp of Biblical teaching causes me to suspect that Tillich's "abstract translation" leaves out the decisive element of the great commandment, the only element that makes it worth quoting at all as a criterion of Christian theology. It thus may be said to be based upon the law aspect of New Testament religion, but even this was taken out of its covenant context and generalized into something quite different. The word "history" may be as hard to define and easy to misuse as "being" but there may be some significance in saying that the redemptive history has dropped out in this formalizing and generalizing of the commandment and that therewith its special character was lost. Law, whether the statistical descriptions of physical science, or moral prescriptions, or Whitehead's "amplify, recast, generalize, and adapt," is general or universal and cannot be made particular where freedom and grace are involved. By attaching himself thus to a de-covenanted legal side of Biblical religion (unless the present analysis has vaporized the concept of law beyond any definiteness) and generalizing it, Tillich has achieved a common understanding with philosophy and the history of religions, but it may be at a loss of the kerygma of grace which he is not only anxious to retain, but which he regards as constitutive of the correlation which makes up his systematic thought.
Tillich does not say what the "second formal criterion" of any theology (i.e., "our ultimate concern is that which determines our being or not-being") is an abstract translation of. 14 But if in it the
14 Systematic Theology, vol. i, p.14.
||51 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
God of the covenant has become non-symbolically "translated" into being-itself, then it is tautological to say that this "determines our being or non-being." Can an apologetic theology thus "translate" and remain in conversation with its own tradition?
We now turn to Tillich's "material norm" of a specifically Christian theology, "the New Being in Jesus as the Christ as our ultimate concern." This is "based on" (abstract translation of?) what Paul calls "the new creature," and represents the "ancient Christian baptismal confession" put in a form "most adequate to the present apologetic situation." 15 The new being is a theonomous relationship in which ultimate concern is appropriately expressed in Jesus as the Christ. The question now to be put is whether we may not have here again a translation that is a transformation. "New Being," with its "metaphysical, logical, mystical implications" in terms of "creativity, regeneration, and eschatology," 16 is certainly connotatively richer in relation to cultural history than Paul's scandalous "new creature." But may it not be that the radical ex nihilo is lost in the translation from "creature" to "being" and "creativity," etc., so that Paul's "message" thus subjected to abstraction disappears? Religious renewal is certainly not confined to Christianity, but the New Testament kerygma fails to be impressed by it when it stands apart from Christ. The synoptics, the Johannine literature, and Paul's writings are at one in affirming the special significance of the person of Jesus in the flesh to a radical renewal in the life of the believer. The formalizing of this as the "Appearance of the New Being," tends to weaken both its historic center in Jesus and the concreteness of the faith which is thus related. This is shown where Tillich comments that the periphery of the theological circle is extendable, and the center is changeable. The theologian is "not bound to a circle the center of which is the event of Jesus as the Christ." 17
The question we ask of Tillich is not that of the legitimacy of apologetic procedure, but whether or not his particular conception of it, namely, the method of correlation, has been successful in stating and holding to the criteria and the norm of Christian theology. His "translation" does provide material for conversation with the philosophical side of science. But a radical question persists. Does
16 Ibid., P.55.
17 Systematic Theology, vol. i, p.45.
||52 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
Tillich, in spite of the kerygmatic pole of his thought (and the kerygma in his sermons), actually accept the invitation to generalize in such a way as to lose the kerygma?
While Tillich wants to paraphrase Biblical-traditional language and place it in conversation with the "situation," Barth is interested in penetrating Biblical language toward what lie regards as the untranslatable and unparaphrasable Word, which it is the necessary but ultimately unachievable task of "dogmatic" theology to try to determine. The centrality, importance, and difficulty of this task absorbs the theologian completely, says Barth, so that as theologian, he can do no more.
To appreciate Barth's enterprise at all we must allow for the possibility that the distinctive quality of the Christian faith may be such that its formal classification among or even as superior to other faiths is irrelevant. In other words, we must be willing to allow for the freedom of God to act or to have acted in a quite unique way, so that any formal criterion at all is beside the point. For instance, if someone discovered the fountain of eternal youth, the designations "drinking," "bathing," or whatever one would do to or in such a fountain to get the benefit, would become inconsequential in describing the special character in which this fountain differed from others. As "formal criteria" they might have a negative value over against photographing or venerating the fountain, but as designations of what happens in this special attainment of life, they are useless. The uniqueness of the impartation of youth makes the general categories applicable to other fountains irrelevant; and used as analogies and symbols, they may be positively misleading, so far as the central event is concerned. Barth's theology expresses his determination to concentrate upon the uniqueness of revelation in Jesus Christ.
A striking Barthian parallel and contrast to Tillich's statement of the many sources of theology is that God may speak to man through "Russian communism or a flute concerto, a blossoming shrub or a dead dog," but these do not constitute the object of Christian theology in any sense. 18 If one's faith is aroused by and given in the self-communication of the God and Father of Jesus Christ in a way that, when all is considered, is without final analogy to one's response
18 Church Dogmatics, vol. i, part1(Eng. tr.), p.60.
||53 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
to the Eroica symphony, the spirituality of the Bhagavad Gita, or the mysteriousness of the universe-then the characterization of all these by the same title may be abstractly and formally possible, but materially irrelevant. If you mean "man is man and not a tortoise," snapped Barth in another connection, then that is quite true, but what has it to do with the special character of the faith to which the Christian is committed? Does a man saved from drowning shout, "I am a man and not a lump of lead"? 19 Rather, he tells of his rescue. Barth sets out with great seriousness to understand a rescue, viz., redemption through Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who is the essence of the Church. The dogmatic task is "the self-test to which the Christian Church puts herself in respect of the content of her peculiar language about God. . . . Dogmatics presupposes that as God in Jesus Christ is the essence of the Church. . . . He is the truth . . . and precisely the truth for us." 20
That Barth starts with the same modern awareness as Tillich may be shown by the following words, which to some will have a quite "Tillichian" sound:
When God speaks to man, this happening is never so marked off from the rest of what happens that it might not promptly be also interpreted as apart of this other happening. The Church in fact is also a sociological entity with definite historical and structural features. Preaching in fact is also an address. Sacrament in fact is also a symbol in compromising proximity to all other possible symbols. The Bible in fact is also the document for the history of the religion of a tribe in Nearer Asia and of its Hellenistic offshoot. Jesus Christ in fact is also the Rabbi of Nazareth, historically so difficult to get information about, and when it is got, one whose activity is so easily a little commonplace alongside more than one other founder of a religion and even alongside many later representatives of His own "religion." And let us not forget that theology in fact, so surely as it avails itself of human speech, is also a philosophy or a conglomerate of all sorts of philosophy. . . . In other words, we always have it [the Word] in a form which as such is not the Word of God and as such, moreover, does not betray that it is the form precisely of the Word of God. . . . Its form is not a suitable but an unsuitable means for the self-presentation of God. It does not correspond to the matter, but it contradicts it. 21
Theology (Edited by P. Fraenkel), including Barth's "No!" p.79.
20 Church Dogmatics, op. cit., P.12.
21 Op. cit, p.188, italics added. Cf. pp. 321 f., and 325 ff.
||54 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
Barth, thus, knows well that to use any words at all (including Biblical words) is to involve ourselves in human language and logic, philosophy and culture at large. This is precisely the central problem of his whole endeavor. And aware of it as any theologian has ever been, he sets out to approach the saying of that which cannot finally be said in a multi-volume dogmatic." 22
Formal criteria locating theology with reference to other disciplines are rejected. Theology "cannot justify itself before the other sciences on the score of setting up for discussion on its own side a concept of science which does not exclude but includes a good theology."
To put itself on a systematic relationship with the other sciences, theology would have to regard its own special existence as fundamentally necessary. That is exactly what it cannot do. It absolutely cannot regard itself as a member of an ordered cosmos, but only as a stop-gap in an unordered one. How could there possibly be a concept of science common to the stop-gap and to the unordered cosmos? 23
These words are the crux of the difference between the theological enterprise as conceived by Barth and that of Tillich. The object of Barth's thought is so radically soteriological-eschatological that the world by contrast is a disordered cosmos. Any formal criteria that classify the Word of God as a word beside other words are for Barth to be rejected.
Barth, so far as his professed purpose is concerned, carries the evaluation of "situation" even farther than Tillich. He does not set up the Bible's words as normative or Biblical cosmology and history as the special situation through which the Gospel can be expressed, but regards these, too, as in effect "modern." 24 The book called Bible is by no means of itself even a medium for the Word of God according to Barth. Rather it is the "written," "preached," and "revealed" word-a mysterious interrelation as unfathomable as the Trinity-which comes to us in a concrete event of revelation.25 Barth's enterprise is not mere defense but the critique of Biblical ("the Church's") language about God: penetrating beyond words to Word. That he thereby spends more time with
23 Op, cit., p.9, italics added; cf. pp. 315 ff.
24 Kirchliche Dogmatik, vol. iii, part 2, pp. 1160, Passim.
25 Church Dogmatics, vol. i, part 1 (Eng. tr.), pp. 98 ff.
||55 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
Isaiah than with Plato or Whitehead is not systematically derivable from any general premises-a special vocabulary, a canon, a theory of inspiration, or the Holy Spirit-but reflects the sheer event that the Christian believer is confronted with the Word in the event of Isaiah-Church-Revelation.26 He is not even interested in the rejection of Plato until Church thinkers introduce Plato in such a way as to contradict the event itself. Plato's "being" may be closer to or farther from the Word of God than the Syrian Baals (a legitimate problem for certain interesting types of study and research), but Barth as Church theologian is reflecting solely upon the one message preached to devotees of all false gods. The radical and consistent way he carries out this project (also its reductio ad absurdum?) is shown where Barth finally must account for his Protestant apprehension of the Gospel against Roman Catholic and Modernist formulations of the doctrine of the Word:
Once for all the fact is that we oppose the doctrine. Were we further pressed and asked whether therefore it is an accident that Ave entered this opposition, we shall bite off our tongue rather than put the responsibility on the Holy Spirit, on our faith, our conscience, or the like, so as in that way to give ourselves the necessary authority with the people, but we shall reply that accident springs from 'accidents. Therefore it may have simply happened to us to raise and present this opposition. 27
How then can Barth say anything theological to one who does not share his standpoint? He cannot and does not intend to, outside the Church's confession 28. On what grounds then can he write a two volume doctrine of "creation"-a subject generally thought relevant to the subject matter of natural science. Not in any sense that is important to the techniques of science for describing the cosmos, or to metaphysics except in certain unpredictable concrete situations. "Creation is the positing (Erstellung) of space for the history of the covenant." 29 Neither scientist nor metaphysician, however he may penetrate into the cosmos or the depth of being, will discover the concrete reality of the covenant of Grace as the bond between
27 Church Dogmatics, vol. i, part 1(Eng. tr., slightly revised), p.303, Note entire context, pp. 303 ff.
28 K. Barth, Humanismus, p.12(Theologische Studien, Heft .98). Barth points out that "repent and believe" is the first thing the theologian has to say to those who do not share his faith.
29 Kirchliche Dogmatik, vol. iii, part1, p.45.
||56 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
Heaven (God's place) and earth (man's). 30 The covenant is, so to speak, Barth's "theological circle," but he would reject the abstract translation, because it is not a circle but an existing community of which Christ is the essence. The ground of creation, thus, is grace; and grace is prior to law and the giving of the Law. To generalize about the Law or about "ultimate concern" in abstraction from the covenant is meaningless for theology, whose task is to study the language of grace.
At no point along the way has there been anything for Barth to discuss with, say, Whitehead. Nor would there presumably be a rejection of Whitehead except to caution him that while writing metaphysics he is not a Church theologian-which A. N. W. did not intend to be anyway. There has been, however-and it may surprise some-a conversation with science on a different level. At the Evangelical Academy in Hemer, Germany, there took place actual talks between physicists and theologians of Barthian persuasion. 31 Gunter Howe, a theologically informed natural scientist and leader of the group, makes clear that the basis of discussion is that both physics and theology are now purged of attachments to Weltanschauungen, 32 to metaphysics, and to Aristotle. 33 Pascual Jordan reports that metaphysics is no longer a "connecting link" in the discussion between the "fragmentary" knowledge of physics and theology, but an "insulating layer." 34 With each discipline accepting the selfdefinition of the other for its own purposes and avoiding any confusion of criteria, each can communicate to the other about its own methods and findings. This has revealed, according to Howe, remarkable "parallels" in the "astonishing nearness to modern physical formulations, both terminological and material, to which Karl Barth has been led in his dogmatic works, quite independently and without conscious intent." 35 The various participants are cautious about claiming results of a conversation based on "parallels" rather than on a "bridge," but all seem pleased that natural theology did not raise its head, and that in matters of purely formal analysis, the
part 2, P. II.
31 Glaube und Forschung (Erste u. Zweite Folge, 1949-50), contains materials prepared in this connection.
32 Cf. Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik, vol. iii, part 1, pp. 389-394.
33 Glaube und Forschung, erste Folge, pp. 77 ff.
34 Ibid, zweite Folge, pp. 110f.
35 Op. cit, p.83.
||57 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
physicists were able to be of service to theologians. 36 Mutual respect and freedom to pursue separate ends independently is a precondition of conversation, and it would seem from the accounts in Glaube und Forschung, that very concrete advances have been made, involving the contemporary theology that had determined most firmly to stick to its last.
Certainly Protestant theology according to Barth will not disallow any sciences that find work to do and appropriate methods. Such activities, says Barth, are to be taken for granted as are eating and sleeping. But he does label as confusion of purpose any present theological effort to throw apologetic bridges across a gap that is too wide for bridges in this disordered cosmos. The Protestant Christian is not therefore separate from the world. Most men are rightly not Church theologians, and should rather be scientists, philosophers, and artists, and it belongs to Barth's theology for them to pursue such interests in a non-theological manner, bent on human goals in a human world. But when men reflect upon the redemptive word, they should not naively confuse this activity with other endeavors.
Tillich and Barth may be regarded as two opposite poles on the same axis of modern theological understanding. Both have written theologies in full awareness of the passing of Weltanschauungen in which particular theologies are always written; Tillich establishing correlation between the kerygma and what he believes on theological philosophical grounds to be implicit in every world view; and Barth trying to point toward that in the Church proclamation which is always different from any world view. The former has as its danger the threat of being swamped in generalities, and the latter that of babbling in tongues. That is to say, Tillich's formalized criteria run the risk of being made to contain almost anything, but Barth's wholly material, concrete event of Jesus Christ risks being so particularistically understood as to be discontinuous with life and culture and thus irrelevant. Neither man welcomes either risk, but each prefers his own to the fate of theology at the hands of the other!
In the conversation with science, Barth contributes much more
36 G. Howe, "Parallelen zwischen der Theologie Karl Barths undder heutigen Physik," in Antwort, a Barth anniversary volume (Zollikon: Evangelischer Verlag, 1956), p.422.
||58 - Tillich, Barth, and the Criteria of Theology|
strongly than Tillich to establishing and making clear the independence of theology as a function of the Church. This is the sine qua non of such conversation. And he seems, having destroyed the fatal "point of contact," to have inspired-if not "conversations"-at least mutual non-apologetic talks between theologians and scientists. Barth, however, alone in his ultra-sophisticated rejection of every "and" (Christianity and science, and philosophy, etc.) needs healthy reminders from other Church thinkers that the Church lives yet among many "ands."
Tillich establishes contact with a thousand "ands" in a way that is mutually instructive both for the other conversants and for the self-definition of theology (also a "conversation"). However, I would contend that Tillich's method of correlation must not become the central theological method. The only criterion of Christian theology, finally, is Barth's: Jesus the Christ, as event and un"translated." But a task of translation remains and to this Tillich is a great contributor so long as there remains a self-conscious and critical kerygmatic theology to keep the language of any one translation from becoming canonical. just where the most fruitful conversations with science may yet take place is still to be seen. Certainly the modern level of discussion is an improvement over the older cosmological debates, even when the spectrum of possibilities runs all the way from Tillich to Barth.