living through death

"The only way that you can accept life is if you can accept death.” –Leo Buscaglia

Reason and Revelation with Help From Paul Tillich

with 2 comments

This is a project I’ve been toying with for awhile now. I recently took the opportunity to try and flesh it out as an independent study for my PhD work. It remains very much a work in progress, but I thought I may as well let it see the light of day since it’s recently found its way out into the world by other means. Do let me know what you think!

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Written by Alex

January 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Theology

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. Very nice work, Alex!

    Please don’t take this as criticism…just musings.

    Wittgenstein was concerned, post Tractatus, with the problem of being misled by grammar. For him much theology would be just that…being misled by grammar. Here’s the thing: I’m not sure whether your Tillichian point of view here is trying to do the same thing as Wittgenstein (trying to keep us from being misled by grammar, that is, as a product of finite reason), or whether a Wittgensteinian point of view would criticize the attempt to understand the polar categories (static/dynamic, etc.) as finite expressions of a deeper Reality as themselves being instances of being misled by grammar. Perhaps the religious “language game’ can be played well (correctly?), thereby resolving the human need for greater depth of connection. But how would that sense of connection be “true”? I suppose by instantiating an identity of thought and reality (that which is thought to be true and the reality which does coincide) but it seems that a finite thought big enough to encompass “God” is out of the question, and absurdly so. In that sense, our thoughts about God cannot be true? Isn’t it just a grammatical game played out at a further level of abstraction? Or have I misunderstood? Is the goal to show up the game for what it is? In that case a person hasn’t got it till she sees there’s no point to the game: one rests in faith, or not.

    Perhaps God is that in which we rest, the inexpressible Reality beyond our finite expressions. The infinite Truth along side of which our words are cups and jars. In that case it all resolves into mysticism. Though I don’t think that’s a criticism–despite a somewhat disparaging use of “mysticism” in your treatment (and justly so when appealed to as a premature response to false subject/object conundrums)–I do think that ultimately you’re stuck with it. As we all are.

    Don Cupitt has argued forcefully that in mysticism that theism and atheism are identical. Analytically, I think he’s right. (Christ and the Hiddenness of God) But psychologically I think he’s wrong: that which engulfs us infinitely is a numinous Other, which we experience religiously. (Even the atheist, who’s fallback would be, Yea, but it’s just psychology” would recognize the religious nature of a numinous experience. W. James makes the point in his Preface to “The Meaning of Truth” that human nature can be treated as prophetic too–the religious person’s comeback to the atheist here…)

    Is revelation a painting of a human face on the numinous Other? Why or why not? And which answer should we hope for? It’s a framing problem, isn’t it? If so, is God “That which no conceptual frame can capture but every conceptual frame has in common”? Being? And if being is not a predicate, (Kant) is that a problem? Perhaps only if one is mistakenly treating it as if it is… So we’ve gone full circle: the question of being misled by grammar.

    Perhaps it’s better said, “We’re misled by being human.” In that case, what we need is salvation. I think Tillich takes that route out of this house of mirrors. What’s your take?

    (Feel free to ignore this question. Or, if you take it to heart, please don’t feel a need to respond.)

    Tracy Witham

    February 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm

  2. Alex,

    Just to let you know, if I didn’t think that you’re on to something special with your presentation, I wouldn’t have given it a double-barreled blast… The format is really cool, and you’re getting at a depth of analysis using it that most persons won’t ever see without it. Impressive!

    Tracy Witham

    February 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm


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