Hey, I need your help understanding Paul Tillich on "faith and historical skepticism". Some of the things he says are just really confusing. When talking about what faith can guarantee he says it "can only guarantee its own foundation, namely, the appearance of that reality which has created the faith. This reality is the New Being, who conquers existential estrangement and thereby makes faith possible." Wha? I think he's trying to say that the fact that faith in Jesus exists is proof Jesus existed. (Circular)


He also goes on to say "No historical criticism can question the immediate awareness of those who find theselves transformed into the state of faith. One is reminded of the Augustinian-Cartesian refutation of radical skepticism." Augustinian-Cartesian refutation?


And " Without the concreteness of the New Being, its newness would be empty. Only if existence is conquered concretely and in it manifold aspects, is it actually conquered. The power which has created and preserved the community of the New Being is not an abstract statement about its appearance; it is the picture of him in whom it has appeared. No special trait of this picture can be verified with certainty. But it can be definitely asserted that through this picture the New Being has power to transform those who are transformed by it."


Lastly he continues about Jesus being this picture. " The concrete biblical material is not guaranteed by faith in respect to empirical factuality, but it is guaranteed as an adequate expression of the transforming power of the New Being in Jesus as the Christ. Only in this sense does faith guarantee the biblical picture of Jesus.....the picture has this creative power because the power of the New Being is expressed in and through it."


I've read this handout five times and I still don't understand half of what he's trying to say. I'd greatly appreciate any help.

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Well, when you experience light from the sun, you can use it as evidence that there is, in fact, a sun. Tillich is trying to claim that the religious experience is similarly validating. If you experience something, that means it exists. Of course, there are all sorts of problems with this reasoning, but I think that is what he is trying to say.

The point is that religion is an experienced condition that is self-validating and transformative to the believer. Pointing out that the mentally ill feel the same way about their beliefs is, well, obvious, but missed.
Thank you! That helps a lot. I was really confused as to what he was trying to get across.
Paul Tillich was a Christian Existentialist. Existential philosophy focuses on human experience rather than on objective truth. It, more or less, centers on the fact that we are stuck inside our own skins and are, therefore, isolated or alienated from the world and other humans. Any meaning in life is found through our own experience. Because there are few, if any, formalisms in existentialism there are major doctrinal differences between them and there are no doubt existentialists who will disagree with everything I would say. In any case, Tillich was an existentialist with a christian point of view. There are many other existentialist with an atheist point of view.

The Phenomenalogical Existentialists present the case in a way that seems more intelligible. Essentially they say that reality is a human construct. The constructed reality can include god or not depending on the individual's own experience. If the constructed reality includes god, then that god is real to that person. Any evidence to the contrary is ignored or filtered out of the person's perception of the world. The same thing can be said about one with a scientific point of view. His constructed reality allows no perception mysterious or supernatural events. All we can know about the actual world is that it provides objects which can be perceived in different ways by different people in terms of their own realities.

An individual's constructed reality is a driving (and controlling) power in his life. In pragmatic terms, people act upon there beliefs, including beliefs for which there is no object in the actual world with which it corresponds. Belief in god, or Jesus, is powerful in the lives of those who hold the belief; it effects their actions in life; it is a fundamental element in their realities. Tillich is telling us that the Bible is a true expression of that power irrespective any objects in the actual world. (at least as I understand it).

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