Sunday, May 30, 2010

Paul Tillich - Systematic Theology Introduction

A. The Point of View

1. Message and Situation: Two poles, the eternal truth and the temporal situation (3). The confusion of the eternal truth with the temporal expression of this truth = fundamentalism/orthodoxy. Fundamentalism fails to make contact with the present situation and has demonic traits. Theology is neither preaching nor counseling; the popularity of fundamentalism does not imply its goodness. The "situation" to which theology must respond is the totality of man's creative self-interpretation in a special period.

"Kerygmatic" theology is related to fundamentalism and orthodoxy. Luther and Barth made serious attempts to rediscover the eternal message within the Bible and tradition, over against a distorted tradition and a mechanically misused Bible. Barth's criticism of the neo-Protestant bourgeois synthesis achieved by liberal theology, his rediscovery of the Christian paradox, and, at the same time, the freedom of his spiritual exegesis of the Epistle to the Romans and his acceptance of radical historical criticism were a genuine kerygmatic theology. Barth's greatness is that he corrects himself again and again in light of the "situation," unlike many of his followers (5). Kerygmatic theology needs apologetic theology.

2. Apologetic Theology and the Kerygma: Apologetic theology is "answering theology." Apologetics presupposes common ground, which worried someone like Barth, who is concerned with the uniqueness of the message. Worries about "surrender of the kerygma" help effective preaching but don't fulfill the task of theology. Kerygmatic theology must use the tools of its period. Kerygmatic theology must give up its exclusive transcendence and take seriously the attempt of apologetic theology to answer the questions put before it by the contemporary situation (7).

B. The Nature of Systematic Theology

3. The Theological Circle: Every understanding of spiritual things is circular, moving between a mystical a priori and its discovery based on the mystical a priori. The Christian theologian enters into the circle with a concrete commitment (the message). Every theologian is committed and alienated; his is always in faith and in doubt; he is inside and outside the theological circle.

4. Two Formal Criteria of Every Theology: The religious is ultimate; it excludes all other concerns from ultimate significance; it makes them preliminary. The object of theology is what concerns us ultimately. Only those propositions are theological which deal with their object in so far as it can become a matter of ultimate concern for us (12).

There are three possible relations of preliminary concerns to ultimate concerns: 1) mutual indifference, which contradicts the universal character of religious concern, 2) elevation of the finite to the infinite, which is idolatrous, 3) preliminary concern is a vehicle for the ultimate, which is good (13).

Our ultimate concern is that which determines our being or non-being. Only those statements are theological which deal with their object in so far as it can become a matter of being or not-being for us. Man is infinitely concerned about the infinity to which he belongs.

5. Theology and Christianity: Man would not be spiritual without thought and words. It was a mistake of Schleiermacher's definition of religion when his successors located religion in the realm of feeling as one psychological function among others. Christian theology is subject to the revelation of Logos become flesh. Christian theology is the theology in so far as it is based on the tension between the absolutely concrete and the absolutely universal (16). It seems paradoxical if one says that only that which is absolutely concrete can also be absolutely universal and vice versa, but it describes the situation adequately (16). Half-God Jesus of Arianism (Nicea) deprives Jesus of both absolute universality and absolute concreteness (17).

6. Theology and Philosophy: A Question: Philosophy is that cognitive approach to reality in which reality as such is the object (18). Philosophy asks the question of reality as a whole; it asks the question of the structure of being. Theology necessarily asks the same question, for that which concerns us ultimately must belong to reality (21). The systematic theologian must be a philosopher in critical understanding even if not in creative power.

7. Theology and Philosophy: An Answer: Philosophy deals with the structure of being in itself; theology deals with the meaning of being for us (22). Points of divergence: 1) cognitive attitude toward object, 2) difference in sources (logos v. Logos become flesh), 3) content (being v. new being). The theologian speaks of self-estrangement of the subject, about the spiritual center of personal life, and about the community as a possible embodiment of the "New Being." Every creative philosopher is a theologian in the degree to which his existential situation and his ultimate concern shape his philosophical vision (25). Neither is a conflict between theology and philosophy necessary, nor is a synthesis between them possible. It is a disgrace for the theologian and intolerable for the philosopher if in a philosophical discussion the theologian suddenly claims an authority other than pure reason (26). But no philosophy which is obedient to the universal logos can contradict the concrete logos, the Logos "who became flesh."

C. The Organization of Theology

Theology is the methodical explanation of the contents of the Christian faith (28). The criterion of every theological discipline is whether or not it deals with the Christian message as a matter of ultimate concern. Theology has historical and constructive disciplines.

Problems of systematic theology: 1) Usually divided into "natural theology" and "philosophy of religion." The present system accepts the philosophical and theological criticism of natural theology in its traditional sense. It also accepts the neo-orthodox criticism of a general philosophy of religion as the basis of systematic theology. It takes a third way: the method of correlation. 2) Apologetics, answering theology. Systematic theology embraces apologetics, dogmatics and ethics. It is also a practical theology in dealing with the institutions through which the nature of the church is actualized and its functions are performed (32). The practical theologian must be a bridge between the Christian message and the human situation, generally and specially (33).

D. The Method and Structure of Systematic Theology

8. The Sources of Systematic Theology: The word of God is not limited to the words of a book (35). Systematic theology needs a biblical theology which is historical-critical without any restrictions and, at the same time, devotional-interpretative, taking account of the fact that it deals with matters of ultimate concern (36). Systematic theology cannot jump out of church history. Protestant theology protests in the name of the Protestant principle against the identification of our ultimate concern with any creation of the church (37). A broader source of systematic theology than all those mentioned so far is the material presented by the history of religion and culture (38). Theology of the history of religion and a theology of culture, the attempt to analyze the theology behind all cultural expressions (39).

9. Experience and Systematic Theology: Experience is the medium through which the sources "speak" to us, through which we can receive them (40). Augustinian prnciple: esse ipsum = verum ipsum. Interpreted properly, Schleiermacher's definition of religion as feeling means the immediate awareness of something unconditional in the sense of the Augustinian-Franciscan tradition. Schleiermacher's "feeling of absolute dependence" was rather near to what is called in the present system "ultimate concern about the ground and meaning of being" (42). On the other hand, criticism must be made of Schleiermacher's attempt in the Christian Faith to derive all contents of the Christian Faith from what can be called the "religious consciousness" of the Christian (42).

Three definitions of experience: 1) ontological, reality = experience, James, Dewey. If this is the case, nothing can appear in the theological system which transcends the whole of experience. 2) experience = the positively given, science. The object of theology is not an object of science and cannot be tested by scientific methods of verification. 3) mystical experience by participation. Experience as the inspiring presence of the Spirit is the ultimate source of theology. "Open experience" is the source of systematic theology. Neo-orthodoxy denies that experience can become a source of systematic theology. But Tillich holds that Christian theology is based on the unique event Jesus the Christ, and in spite of the infinite meaning of this event it remains this event and, as such, the criterion of every religious experience. This event is give to experience and not derived from it. Therefore, experience receives and does not produce (contra Schleiermacher) (46).

10. The Norm of Systematic Theology: The question of the norm again becomes crucial in Protestantism as soon as the ecclesiastical authorities lost their standing (47). The norm grows; it is not produced intentionally. The norm must be positive and constructive; it must be concrete.

It is not an exaggeration to say that today man experiences his present situation in terms of disruption, conflict, self-destruction, meaninglessness, and despair in all realms of life. It is a question of a reality in which the self-estrangement of our existence is overcome, a reality of reconciliation and reunion, of creativity, meaning and hope. We shall call such a reality the "New Being." This New Being is manifest in Jesus the Christ. The material norm of systematic theology is the "New Being in Jesus as the Christ" (50). If the Bible itself is called the norm of systematic theology, nothing concrete is said, for the Bible is a collection of religious literature written, collected, and edited throughout the centuries. The Bible as such never has been the norm of systematic theology. A way must be found which lies between the Roman Catholic practice of making ecclesiastical decisions not only a source but also the actual norm of systematic theology and the radical Protestant practice of depriving church history not only of its normative character but also of its function as a source (51). The attempts of biblicism and orthodoxy to create an "unconditioned" theology contradict the correct and indispensable first principle of the neo-orthodox movement that "God is in heaven and man is on earth" - even if man is a systematic theologian. The attempt of neo-orthodox theologians to escape this mark of finitude is a symptom of that religious arrogance against which these very same theologians are fighting (52).

11. The Rational Character of Systematic Theology: We shall call the organ with which we receive the contents of faith "self-transcending," or ecstatic reason, and we shall call the organ of the theological scholar "technical" or formal reason. Ecstatic reason is grasped by an ultimate concern. Reason is overpowered, invaded, shaken by ultimate concern (53). Principles of the rational character of theology: 1) semantic rationality = clarity of meaning. 2) logical rationality = both formal and dialectical logic. Does accept the paradox through. Paradox points to the fact that in God's acting finite reason is superseded but not annihilated (57). There is, in the last analysis, only one genuine paradox in the Christian message - the appearance of that which conquers existence under the conditions of existence. 3) methodological rationality.

Three attacks on system: 1) Not possible to have a system of deduced assertions as in Spinoza. But a system is a totality of consistent, but not deduced statements (59). 2) Systems are closed. No they are not. 3) System works against emotions. Not they don't. In short, system stands between summa and essay. Today a need for systematic form has arisen in view of the chaos of our spiritual life and the impossibility of creating a summa.

12. The Method Correlation: Correlation in three senses: 1) correspondence (problem of religious knowledge), 2) logical interdependence (problems of correlation between infinite and finite, God and world), 3) real interdependence. The last gets Barth angry, who is afraid that any kind of divine-human correlation makes God partly dependent on man (61). Symbolically speaking, God answer's man's questions, and under the impact of God's answers man asks them. Being human means asking the questions of one's own being and living under the impact of the answers given to this question. And, conversely, being human means receiving answers to the questions of one's being and asking questions under the impact of the answers (62). Systematic theology makes an analysis of the human situation out of which the existential questions arise, and it demonstrates that the symbols used in the Christian message are the answers to these questions (62). The Christian message provides the answers to the questions implied in human existence. God is the answer to the question implied in human finitude. God must be called the infinite power of being which resists the threat of non-being.

The method of correlation replaces three inadequate methods: 1) the supranaturalistic, which takes the Christian method to be the sum of revealed truths which have fallen into the human situation like strange bodies from a strange world (64). 2) The naturalistic or humanist method, which derives the Christian message from man's natural state -> liberal theology. 3) Dualistic method, builds supranatural structure on a natural substructure (65).

13. The Theological System: The method of correlation requires that every part of the system should include one section in which the question is developed by an analysis of human existence and existence generally (66). 5 sections: 1) Being and God, 2) Existence and Christ, 3) Life and the Spirit, 4) History and the Kingdom of God, 5) Reason and Revelation.

Tillich - Two Types of Philosophy of Religion

1. Religion as a Dimension of Man's Spiritual Life

The theologian's claim: religion is not a creation of the human spirit but a gift of the divine Spirit (4). The scientist's claim: religion is characteristic for a special stage of human development, but it has no place today. Both define religion as man's relation to divine beings, but this bit of common ground makes any understanding of religion impossible. Religion is an aspect of the human spirit (5). Religion is not a special function of man's spiritual life, but it is the dimension of depth in all of its functions. Some say that religion has a moral function, a cognitive function, an aesthetic function, that it is a feeling, but it is none of these: "religion suddenly realizes that it does not need such a place, that it does not need to seek for a home. It is at home everywhere, namely, in the depth of all functions of man's spiritual life" (7). Religious aspect points to that which is ultimate. Religion opens up the depth of man's spiritual life which is usually covered by the dust of our daily life and the noise of our secular work.

2. Two Types of Philosophy of Religion

Two ways of approaching God: the way of overcoming estrangement and the way of meeting a stranger. These correspond to the ontological and cosmological proofs. Tillich's three claims: 1) the ontological method is basic for every philosophy of religion, 2) the cosmological method without the ontological as its basis leads to a destructive cleavage between philosophy and religion, 3) on the basis of the ontological approach and with a dependent use of the cosmological way, philosophy of religion contributes to the reconciliation between religion and secular culture (11).

a. The World Historical Problem: Task of philosophy of religion to protect the absolutes of both, Deus and esse.

b. The Augustinian Solution: Deus and esse coincide in the nature of truth. Veritas is presupposed in every philosophical argument; and veritas is God (12). Cannot deny truth because you could only do so in the name of truth. God is the presupposition of the question of God: this is the ontological solution f the problem of the philosophy of religion. God can never be reached if he is the object of a question, and not its basis (13). Psychologically, doubt is possible; but logically, the Absolute is affirmed by the very act of doubt, because it is implied in every statement about the relation between subject and predicate (13). These principles are not created functions of our mind, but the presence of truth itself (and therefore of God) in our mind. The Thomistic method of knowledge through sense perception and abstraction may be useful for scientific purposes, but it never can reach the Absolute. It builds the way of scientia but not sapientia (wisdom) (14). The ontological argument is the rational description of the relation of our mind to Being as such (15). The fact that people turn away from this thought is based on individual defects but not on the essential structure of the mind. Anselm, unfortunately, on the basis of his epistemological realism, transformed the primum esse into an ens realissimum, the principle into a universal being. Gaunilo, Thomas and Kant were right in denying the logical transition from the necessity of Being itself to a highest being.

c. The Thomistic Dissolution: Thomas says the rational way to God is not immediate but mediated (16). He says there are two ways in which something is known: by itself and by us. In these words, Aquinas cuts the nerve of the ontological approach. Man is excluded from the primum esse and the prima veritas (17). This leads to an emphasis on authority, and to viewing the Bible as a collection of true propositions, instead of being a guide book to contemplation as in Bonaventura (17). Faith here does not imply an immediate contact with its object. "The human intellect cannot reach by natural virtue the divine substance, because, according to the way of the present life the cognition of our intellect starts with the senses" (18). God's existence is thus brought down to the level of that of a stone. Occam's God, a res singularissima, which cannot be approached at all except through an unnoticeable habit of grace in the unconscious which is supposed to move the will towards subjection to authority, is the final outcome of the Thomistic dissolution of the Augustinian solution (19).

d. Conflicts and Mixtures of the Two Types in the Modern Philosophy of Religion: when we go from Augustine to Descartes, we get the removal of the mystical element of Augustine's idea of ultimate evidence by Descartes' concept of rationality (20). German idealism = ontological. Empirical/Experimental philosophy of religion = cosmological (21).

e. The Ontological Awareness of the Unconditional: The Deus est esse is the basis of all philosophy of religion (22). Man is immediately aware of something unconditional which is the prius of the separation and interaction of subject and object, theoretically as well as practically. Thomas injured the understanding of religion when he dissolved the substantial unity of the psychological functions and attributed to the will in isolation what the intellect alone is not able to perform (23). Schleiermacher similarly injured religion in combatting the cosmological approach when he cut "feeling" (as the religious function) off from will and intellect, thus excluding religion from the totality of personal existence and delivering it to emotional subjectivity (24). The unconditional makes an unconditional demand upon those who are aware of something unconditional, and which cannot be interpreted as the principle of a rational deduction (24). The unconditional, as opposed to the Unconditioned (God), is an awareness of God. But the unconditional and the Unconditioned must be in relation to prevent the Unconditioned from disappearing. The ontological approach transcends the discussion between nominalism and realism, if it rejects the concept of the ens realissimum, as it must do.

f. The Cosmological Awareness of the Unconditioned: The Unconditioned of which we have an immediate awareness, without inference, can be recognized in the cultural and natural universe (26). In concepts like contingency, insecurity, transitoriness, and their psychological correlates anxiety, care, meaninglessness, a new cosmological approach has developed, a new negative way of recognizing the unconditional element in man and his world (27) -> theology of culture. The presupposition of this many-sided attempt is that in every cultural creation - a picture, a system, a law, a political movement (however secular it may appear) - an ultimate concern is expressed, and that it is possible to recognize the unconscious theological character of it (27).

g. Ontological Certainty and the Risk of Faith: The Unconditioned has not the character of faith but of self-evidence (27). The risk of faith is based on the fact that the unconditional element can become a matter of ultimate concern only if it appears in a concrete embodiment (28). The risk of faith is an existential risk, a risk in which the meaning and fulfillment of our lives is at stake, and not a theoretical judgment which may be refuted sooner or later. But it is based on a foundation which is not a risk: the awareness of the unconditional element in ourselves and our world. The ontological approach is able to overcome as far as it is possible by mere thought the fateful gap between religion and culture, thus reconciling concerns which are not strange to each other but have been estranged from each other (29).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Paul Tillich - The Protestant Era


1. One can take an outside view and an inside view of Protestantism, but there is no "objective" view. Unconcerned detachment in matters of religion implies an a priori rejection of the religious demand to be ultimately concerned. It denies the object which it is supposed to approach "objectively" (xi). The Protestant principle is the ultimate criterion of all religious and all spiritual experiences; it lies at their base, whether they are aware of it or not (xii). Protestantism as a principle is eternal and a permanent criterion of everything temporal. The Protestant era might come to an end. But if it came to an end, the Protestant principle would not be refuted.

2. The task of theology is mediation between eternal criterion of truth and the changing experiences of individuals and groups (xiii). Theos (mystery) + logos implies mediation. Protestant principle = justification by faith, which refers not only to the religious ethical but also to the religious intellectual life. Not only he who is in sin but also he who is in doubt is justified through faith. The situation of doubt, even of doubt about God, need not separate us from God (xiv). Thus, he who seriously denies God affirms him. In the status of doubt you are in the status of truth. There is thus a paradoxical presence of "meaning in meaninglessness" (xv).

Religion gives an inexhaustible depth to life. No realm of life can exist without relation to something unconditional, to an ultimate concern. Three ages: 1) the heteronomy of the late Middle ages, 2) the theonomy of classical Protestantism, 3) the autonomy of the modern. Theonomy = a culture in which the ultimate meaning of existence shines through all finite forms of thought and action (xvi).

3. Tillich's interpretation of history -> religion is the substance of culture, culture is the expression of religion (xvii). Religious socialism = a problem not of wages but of a new theonomy in which the question of wages, of social security, is treated in unity with the question of truth, or spiritual security. Break with philosophical idealism and theological transcendentalism -> opened eyes to religious significance of political Calvinism and social sectarianism, over against the predominantly sacramental character of my own Lutheran tradition.

Three elements of a Protestant interpretation of history = theonomy, kairos and the demonic (xix). Kairos = the fulness of time, the moment in which the eternal breaks into the temporal, and the temporal is prepared to receive it. The Protestant principle demands a method of interpreting history in which the critical transcendence of the divine over against conservatism and utopianism is strongly expressed and in which, at the same time, the creative omnipresence of the divine in the course of history is concretely indicated (xx). The demonic = positive evil. The "Storm of our times" -> recognition of the destructive mechanisms determining the unconscious trends of individuals and groups (xx). If evil has demonic or structural character of limiting individual freedom, its conquest can come only by the opposite, the divine structure, that is, by what we have called a structure or "Gestalt" of grace. The Protestant principle cannot admit any identification of grace with a visible reality.

4. How can critical and formative power be united in the reality of Protestantism? The answer is: In the power of the New Being that is manifest in Jesus as the Christ (xxii). Unfortunately in Protestantism, Christ is interpreted as a religious personality and not as the basic sacramental reality, the "New Being" (xxiii). Jung: the separation of our consciousness from the universally human "archetypes" that are present in the subconscious of everybody. Protestants have replaced the great wealth of symbols appearing in the Christian tradition by rational concepts, moral laws, and subjective emotions (xxiii).

An ethics out of the kairos is an ethics of love, for love unites the ultimate criterion with the adaptation to the concrete situation (xxv). Love is basically not an emotional but an ontological power, that it is the essence of life itself, namely, the dynamic reunion of that which is separated (xxv).

Theology = theonomous metaphysics -> method of correlation (xxvi). This method tries to overcome the conflict between the naturalistic and supernaturalistic methods. There is an interdependence between the ultimate questions to which philosophy is driven and the answers given in the Christian message (xxvi). It is opposed to the supernaturalism of the later Barthianism as well as to any other type of orthodoxy or fundamentalism.

Two trends in theology: 1) dialectical/neo-orthodox, 2) liberal/humanist. Tillich's theology = an attempt to overcome the conflict between these two. Protestant principle is liberal/humanist in encouraging critical methods of historical research, in encouraging Christianity to be considered along with cultural, psychological and sociological development, in destroying the dualism between nature and grace. But the Protestant principle is dialectical/neo-orthodox in looking at Scripture as Holy Scripture, in showing history as a history of permanent demonic distortions and idolatry, in acknowledging that man is estranged from God (xxviii). Making a path between cynical realism and utopian hope.

III. Kairos

1. Kairos = a summons to a consciousness of history (32). Chronos (formal time) v. kairos: time is an empty form only for abstract, objective reflection, a form that can receive any kind of content; but to him who is conscious of an ongoing creative life, it is laden with tensions, with possibilities and impossibilities, it is qualitative and full of significance (33). A spiritual outlook that is unaware of history may be rooted in a) an awareness of the eternal (transcendence) or b) bondage to this world (immanence). In the Occident, the present opponent of historical thinking is the naturalistic attitude, which turns to worship a philosophy that excludes meaningful history and accepts a meaningless natural process (34).

2. Absolute philosophy of history: an early expression of man's historical consciousness (35). a) The revolutionary-absolute type: No to the past, Yes to the future! b) The conservative type: the event has already happened. Problem here is that a special historical reality is set up as absolute. Kairos must rather be conceived in universal terms. Especially the revolutionary-absolute type can lead to blindness about the past. Both forms of absolute philosophy of history are judged by the absolute itself. The unconditional cannot be identified with any given reality, whether past or future. To do so is idolatry -> the message of the so-called "theology of crisis" represented by Barth's Epistles. A third type of absolute philosophy of history appears in this doctrine of permanent "crisis," the indifference type = divine humor, God's strange acting.

3. Relative philosophy of history: Loss of absolute tension. a) The classical type: in every epoch, in every nation, an eternal idea of God is realized (39). Leibniz, Goethe, Ranke. b) The progressive-relative type: emphasizes restricting elements in the idea of progress. Lessing. c) The dialectical type: Hegel, Marx. A positive valuation of all periods. Dialectical thinking subjects every moment of time to its "Yes and No." It does not negate the past unconditionally, and it does not affirm the future unconditionally.

4. Two demands: from the absolute types, demand for absolute tension in the historical consciousness; from the relative types, demand for universal historical consciousness. Tension + universalism -> paradox. What happens in the kairos should be absolute, and yet not absolute, but under judgment of the absolute. This demand is fulfilled when the conditioned surrenders itself to become a vehicle for the unconditional (42). Where there is an acceptance of the eternal manifesting itself in a special moment of history, in a kairos, there is openness to the unconditional (43). An age turned toward the unconditional is one in which the consciousness of the presence of the unconditional permeates and guides all cultural functions and forms. The divine, for such a state of mind, is not a problem but a presupposition (43). Religion is the life-blood, the inner power, the ultimate meaning of all life. We shall call such a situation theonomous. What makes theonomy disappear? Autonomy (obedience to reason, replaces mystical nature with rational nature) (44). Autonomy is the dynamic principle of history. Theonomy, on the other hand, is the substance and meaning of history (45). The difference between autonomy and theonomy is that in an autonomous culture the cultural forms appear only in their finite relationship, while in a theonomous culture they appear in their relation to the unconditional (45). Heteronomy = alien law. If religion acts heteronomously, it ceases to be the life-blood of a culture. Theonomy does not stand against autonomy as heteronomy does. Theonomy is the answer to the question implied in autonomy. Autonomy turns to theonomy in impotent longing.

Unique kairos = Jesus. General kairos = turning-point. Special kairos = coming of a new theonomy (47). How can the absolute categories which characterize a genuine kairos be united with the relativity of the universal process of history? History comes form and moves toward periods of theonomy. Theonomy unites the absolute and relative element in the interpretation of history, that demand that everything become the vehicle of the absolute and the insight that nothing relative can ever become absolute itself (47). Against conservative-absolute, it is wrong to identify the absolute with the historical church. Against the revolutionary-absolute, no kairos bring the fulfillment in time. Against the absolute method in general, everything can be a vessel of the unconditional, but nothing can be unconditioned itself. Against the classical-relative, have to accept absolute categories. Against the progressive-relative, no law of universal progress. Against dialectical-relative, no final stages, both vertical and horizontal processes, and no logical, physical or economic necessity.

5. In present day socialism are brought together the revolutionary-absolute and the dialectical-relative, but a balancing of the two has not been achieved. In denying religion, socialism did not see how it itself shared the basic presuppositions of bourgeois science, the purely objectifying relationship to the world, to spirit and to history (49). It was thereby adopting the basic attitude of its enemies. It strengthened the attitude towards economics and life in general characteristic of materialistic capitalism. Religious socialism wishes to carry the criticism deeper. It wishes to make socialism conscious of the present kairos.

Is it possible that the message of the kairos is an error? The message is always an error; for it sees something immediately imminent which, considered in its ideal aspect, will never become a reality and which, considered in its real aspect, will be fulfilled only in long periods of time (51).

VI. Philosophy and Theology

What is philosophical theology? Some would say high treason against theology. Some would say an impure mixture. There are two types of theology: 1) philosophical, 2) kerygmatic (a theology that tries to reproduce the content of the Christian message in an ordered and systematic way, without referring to philosophy) (84). This duality is natural: theos = kerygma, logy = philosophy. The most radical attempt at a merely kerygmatic theology in our period is Barth's (84).

Philosophy asks the ultimate question that can be asked, namely, the question as to what being, simply being, means. This is first philosophy, dealing with the meaning of being. This concept of philosophy can be attached from the standpoint of metaphysics, from that of epistemology, from that of empiricism. But you can't refute the question of the meaning of being.

The task of theology is to ask for being as far as it gives us ultimate concern. It deals with it not as far as it is but as far as it is for us. Theology must deal with its subject always as far as it concerns us in the very depth of our being. Theology is existential, in Kierkegaard's sense. Existential is what characterizes our real existence in all its concreteness, in all its accidental elements, in its freedom and responsibility, in its failure, and in its separation from its true and essential being (88).

A theological element gives the impulse to philosophy. A philosophical element is implied in theology - the question of the meaning and structure of being and its manifestation in the different realms of being. But philosophy is able to neglect its existential basis and to deal with being and beings as if they did not concern us at all. And this is the reason that theology is able to neglect its theoretical form and to become mere kerygma. Philosophy w/o theology -> logical positivism, mere epistemology, history of philosophy. Theology w/o philosophy -> existence of God reduced to existence of chemical element, or else it separates nature from man.

We have found a convergence and a divergence between theology and philosophy with respect to the question asked by both of them. There is another convergence and divergence with respect to the way the question is answered by both of them (90). Truth, aletheia - in man, the meaning of being can become manifest because man has the word revealing the hiddenness of being. Philosophers have long tried to figure out for whom truth is manifest. For Christians, only in one man has logos appeared completely, full of grace and truth. An exclusively kerygmatic theology, like that of Barth, denies this appearance of logos.

Philosophy, in spite of its existential and concrete basis, turns directly to the meaning of being. Quite differently, the theologian is bound to the concrete and existential situation in which he finds himself and which is not only the basis but also the subject of his work (92). The philosophical theologian, as a Christian, tries to show in his work that the existential situation of the Christian church is, at the same time, the place where the meaning of being has appeared as our ultimate concern. In other words, he tries to show that Jesus as the Christ is the logos. Revelation = the existential problem implied in reason. God = the existential problem implied in being. Christ = the existential problem implied in existence. Spirit = the existential problem implied in life. The Kingdom of God = the existential problem implied in history.

XI. The Protestant Principle and the Proletarian Situation

1. In so far as socialism is the expression of the proletarian situation, it poses for Protestantism the question concerning the meaning and the validity of its own unconditional and universal claim (162). The Protestant principle = the divine and human protest against any absolute claim made for a relative reality, even if this claim is made by a Protestant church (163). It is the theological expression of the true relation between the unconditional and the conditioned, or, religiously speaking, between God and man. The quality of pointing beyond themselves and their finite existence to the infinite, inexhaustible and unapproachable dpeth of their being and meaning. The inadequacy of Protestantism in the face of the proletarian situation is the result of the contradiction between the Protestant principle and Protestantism as it actually is (164). The proletarian situation is the typical situation of a certain group in capitalistic society.

2. The Protestant principle implies a judgment about the human situation, namely, that is is basically distorted (165). Both the fateful character and the guilt of human existence are due to the self-assertiveness of the finite being in its pride. In its negative judgment about man's actual existence, the socialistic evaluation of the proletarian situation and the Protestant understanding of the universal human situation agree. The basic distortion of the human situation involves all men (168). Mankind universally is in the bondage of self-estrangement. The Reformation struggled against two ideologies, the Catholic and the humanist (heteronomy and autonomy). Theology that remains aloof from the concrete proletarian struggle is ideology. The proletarian situation provides a fundamental vindication of the Protestant principle and the most serious judgment of historical Protestantism. Justification by faith -> man the unholy is holy, namely, in the judgment of God, which is not based on any human achievements but only on the divine, self-surrendering grace (171). The paradox inherent in Protestantism indicates the character of the relation of the infinite and the finite in the light of the Protestant principle and the idea of justification: possessing and not possessing at the same time. The anticipation of the proletariat expresses both the non-possession of what is anticipated, the living in the proletarian situation, and the anticipatory possession of what is hoped for, the creative tension in which the present is potentially overcome (172). The Protestant principle provides the possibility for understanding the paradoxical character of anticipation as it is found in the proletariat, and besides this, it has to power to guard against a distortion that threatens all anticipation (utopianism) (172). Since man is in the bondage of existential self-contradiction, he is, according to Christian and Protestant teaching, unable to overcome this situation by himself. The bondage to "demonic structures" can be released only by a bondage to "divine structures" (173). The "calling" of the proletariat to overcome the class society is something that the proletariat is always in danger of losing. Similarly, Protestantism might miss its calling and be rejected by the judgment of its own principle.

3. Why the failure of historical Protestantism to address the proletarian situation? a) Hardening into dogma of the Protestant principle, b) ideal of religious personality cut off from the vital basis of its existence, c) historic alliance of Protestantism with emerging middle class, d) Protestantism's surrender to nationalistic ideology.

XIV. The Formative Power of Protestantism

1. Formative power = the power of creating a form; Protestantism is the attitude of protest against form. How can they be united? Protest cannot exist without the "Gestalt" to which it belongs. Union of protest and creation = the Gestalt of grace (207). Problem with Barthians is that they seem only interested in the form of doctrine of Protestantism. It is a real danger to the future of Protestantism that the prophetic spirit of the original theology of crisis will be abused in favor of the re-establishment of an orthodoxy that feels safe against the Protestant protest (208).

2. If Protestantism tries to protect the majesty of the unconditional against every attempt of a finite reality to set itself up as unconditioned, it must somehow participate in the unconditional. Participating in the infinite means living in the reality of grace = Gestalt of grace, the sacred structure of reality. But then we worry that the grace of forgiveness is replaced by a conditioned, immanent structure which might be constructed by human activity. Protestant theology shows an inclination to intellectualize religion. But the words of the Bible and of preaching claim to speak not only about the reality of grace but as an expression of this reality, not detached from their object but grasped by it (211). The emphasis on the reality of grace protects theology against orthodox (and rationalistic) intellectualism. In every theology there is the danger that the reality of grace will be interpreted in terms of an "objective" reality. But the Gestalt of grace is not a Gestalt besides others. The divine appears through the humanity of the Christ, through the historical weakness of the church, through the finite material of the sacrament. Forms of grace are finite forms, pointing beyond themselves. The Protestant protest prohibits the appearance of grace through finite forms from becoming an identification of grace with finite forms. Such an identification is demonic hybris.

3. The Protestant protest against itself must become concrete, and it has, in fact, become concrete in its history: it is concrete in the very existence of the secular world (213). Protestantism, but its very nature, demands a secular reality. Four principles of Protestantism form-creation:

a) In every Protestant form the religious element must be related to, and questioned by, a secular element.
b) In every Protestant form the eternal element must be expressed in relation to a "present situation." It cannot, of course, mean bondage to the moment. Not the appearance but the depth of the present is decisive (214).
c) In every Protestant form the given reality of grace must be expressed with daring and risk (215).
d) In every Protestant form the atittude of a belief-ful realism must be expressed (216). Self-transcending or belief-ful realism cuts through to the ultimate level. In this way, belief-ful realism liberates from cynical realism as well as from utopian realism (215). The really real is what limits me.

4. Religious knowledge is knowledge of things and events in their religious significance, in their relationship to their transcendent ground. Religious knowledge is the knowledge of the really real (217). The profoundest demand of all is that we learn to speak of God in such a way that he appears not as an object above all other objects, nor a a mere symbol, but as the really real in everything that claims reality. Protestant formative power is at work wherever reality is interpreted with respect to its ground and ultimate meaning (218).

5. Religious action in contrast to ethical action is "cultus." Cultus becomes the term for the perceivable expression of the Gestalt of grace. According to the Protestant principle, these forms through their beauty and sacred tradition are temptations to identify grace with some special expressions of grace. Protestant formative power is at work wherever reality is transformed into an active expression of a Gestalt of grace.

6. The more Protestantism is able and willing to accept secular criticism of itself, the more it acquires the right and the power to criticize secularism (219). For this "dialectical" relation between the secular world and the Gestalt of grace I like to use the word "theonomy." Protestant formative power is needed in a secular world; and it is at work wherever the autonomous forms become bearers of ultimate meaning (221).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Sickness Unto Death

Anti-Climacus, 1848*

Christian heroism is to become wholly oneself. Christian knowledge ought to always be engaged, concerned knowledge. In this, it is higher than detached philosophical knowledge. The Christian should always be oriented toward the world - something here like Heideggerian Sorge. Despair is the sickness unto death; dying to the world is the cure.

Humanly speaking, death is the end. Christianly speaking, death and human suffering matters less than the real suffering: the sickness unto death. Thus, the Christian has a tremendous amount of courage compared to the pagan because, just as an adult considers childish fears nothing, so too does the Christian consider earthly suffering to pale next to the suffering of despair.

A - Despair is the sickness unto death
“The self is a relation which relates itself to itself.” The human is the synthesis of the infinite and the finite, the temporal and the eternal, the free and the necessary. The synthesis is the relation between these binaries. However, the human is not a self. The self is an activity, not the relation, but the relation’s relating itself to itself. The self is always given, it’s always founded on the other (God). The only way to have a self is to establish a relation with the thing which made the synthesis/relation possible - God. Despair is the misrelation “in a relation that relates itself to itself and has been established by another” (14).

A - the possibility and actuality of despair
Despair is both an excellence and a defect. It separates us from animals, by relating us, however convolutedly, to the eternal, but it is also a suffering worse than death. Not to be in despair is not something passive, in the way being healthy means the absence of illness; rather, not to be in despair requires actively destroying despair at every moment.

Despair does not lie in the synthesis of infinite/finite, eternal/temporal, freedom/necessity. If the misrelation were in those binaries, then despair would be intrinsic to the human and nothing could be done. The misrelation is in our relation to that relation. Despair is not like an illness we catch; rather, we bring it upon ourselves at every moment. To despair is to be perpetually dying and never dead. Despair wants to consume self, but cannot, which deepens despair.

To despair over something is not yet to truly despair. It is a preface to declared despair, where I despair over myself. Pretty much everything is despair. The lover who seeks self loss in the union of love despairs as much as the disappointed lover. Despair can either be the will to lose oneself or the will to become oneself. either way, it was a mark of eternity, a testimony to the possibility of a self, which makes it an excellence.

B - universality of sickness
Despair is the norm. This is not depressing, but rather elevating. Not being in despair is a form of despair, in the way imaginary health is sickness. Symptoms of despair are dialectical and related to the eternal. So to be unaware of despair is to be unaware of our relation to the eternal and status as spirit. The sickness itself is dialectical; it’s a godsend to get it because it gives a self, which is to say, a sense of self existing before God. Yet it is mortally dangerous to suffer despair if one does not want to be cured of it, because, ultimately, eternity will ask if you lived in despair, and if the answer is yes, then it will bind you to your despair forever.

*I have a suspicion Kierkegaard’s dialects are not Hegel’s, but I’ll confess to not really understanding the difference.

C - forms of sickness
The relating of the self to itself is freedom, which is to say the self is freedom. The task is to become a self, which can only be done through relation to God. The self is always in a state of becoming when it is not in despair (which is to say it is almost never becoming).

a - Infinitude’s despair is to lack finitude
This seems aimed at romanticism. To lose yourself in the fantastic, to feel an intoxicated merging with an abstraction, like humanity, is a form of despair.

b - finitude’s despair is to lack infinitude
This is aimed at secularists, who strip the self of its singularity, defining it, instead, as part of the crowd. The secularists lack imagination, suffering from narrowness of spirit. In essence, Kierkegaard develops here a notion of “the crowd” that Heidegger will later lift and turn into das Man. To be das Man is to be in despair.

Despair defined by possibility/necessity
Need both possibility and necessity to make a self, and to be without either is to be in despair. In order to become itself, a self needs to reflect itself in the medium of the imagination, thereby making infinite possibility manifest. So the self is necessary insofar as it is a self, but possible insofar as it is becoming a self. It’s a form of despair to get lost in infinite possibility, to refuse to submit to limitations. The self becomes unmoored then and never commits to anything.

Despair of lacking possibility
Likewise, it’s a form of despair to lack possibility. There are two forms of this. First, for the person who knows that humanly speaking, collapse is inevitable. If this person does not commit to the fact that for God everything is possible and that God may save, then he is in despair. Likewise, though, the bourgeois who tried to master possibility by dealing only in probabilities is in despair. The possibility of the new is exiled, and the bourgeois, though feeling himself to be a master, lives enclosed in his own, narrow world.

Despair as Defined by Consciousness
The most common form of despair is to be ignorant of it. Pagans are ignorant of despair, because they do not understand existing as a singularity before God. Usually these people are happy in their ignorance and greatly resent being jerked out of despair. This person is furthest from truth.

consciousness of despair as self which does not will to be itself.
Again, there are gradations of this. On one extreme, there is the “immediate man,” who never concerns himself with questions of God and self. Sometimes an external circumstance impinges on his life - or, perhaps I should say her, as this sort of despair is gendered feminine - which makes it seem unbearable to be oneself. This person thinks the self is defined by externalities and thus desires to have another self. This despair is essentially a form of weakness, and though the sufferer may correctly diagnose himself as despairing, he lacks an adequate conception of despair. Anti-Climacus dismisses this as comical.

A slightly more advanced version of despair strikes a person who has some grasp of interiority. this person experiences despair as caused by some internal limitation or necessity, and thus is closer to the truth. He or she is not so naive to believe anything would be solved by being another, but, rather, experiences himself as nailed to himself. He is like the tenant who has suffered damage from a fire and leaves his home, without ever coming to think of another address as home. Usually, this person turns to the world, absorbing himself in society, and thus turning away from the most promising moment in his life. He is mostly immediacy with a dash of reflection.

While there is a tendency to ascribe despair to youth, the truth is everyone is always in despair, as it is common to abandon inwardness for trivialities. The youth despairs most often over the future, and the adult over the past. One cannot repent without despair. These people usually despair over the earthly (the total of the earthly) or a particularity, which is magnified to represent the earthly.

Despair of eternal/oneself
Though often unaware of this, when people despair over the earthly, they despair over themselves. To despair over oneself is a significant advance to despairing over something earthly. It’s the difference between despairing from weakness to despairing over one’s weakness. Yet it’s a form of self-absorption. This person refuses to turn away from his or her despair, instead becoming fixated on the way in which he overestimated the value of the earthly. He feels as if he has lost the eternal, which at least means he has a sense of the eternal. Nonetheless, he passes as normal, because he believes that only the shallow, those living in immediacy, lack discretion. Sometimes he longs for solitude. He is often a superlatively gentle husband because he acknowledges his own weakness. And yet, this fixation on weakness is really a form of pride. Falling is most painful for those most invested in their own virtue. The greatest danger for this person is suicide; his ideal mate is a Taurus.

Despair in Willing to be oneself
This almost parallels Sartre. This person has consciousness of an infinite self, but the infinitude is severed from God. He wants to create his own self, without reference to God. This self is incredibly abstract; the self is a project of sorts created by reference to imaginary constructs.

However, this person usually runs into some sort of finite limitation on the self he wants to construct. However much he may initially wants to overcome this, he eventually becomes fixated on this flaw, making it central to his or her identity, to the degree that he would rather remain nailed to this flawed self than accept relation to God.

Part II: Despair is Sin
Sin is to despairingly will to be oneself or to despairingly will not to be oneself before God. The presence of God magnifies the transgression, in the way assaulting a public official constitutes aggravated assault. There is a certain sort of poetic despair, which poeticizes God, longs for God, without being able to feel certain that God has really called.

Chapter I: gradations of consciousness
The quality of a self is determined by the thing it establishes itself in reference to. The master in front of his slaves has almost no self; the man in front of God has the highest self. The greater the conception of God, the greater sin. Since the pagan lacked a conception of the single individual before God, in a certain sense he didn’t sin. Sin is basically disobedience. the opposite of sin is faith, not virtue.

Speculative philosophy cannot think sin or the single individual before God (which amounts to the same thing). It whitewashes the individual to be merely a member of a race. But why do people refuse to engage in Christianity? Because it offends. Offense is unhappy admiration, envy turned against the self. The greater the offense, the greater the admiration and the closer to belief an individual is. In this case, people are offended in the way a peasant would be if the emperor sent for him and asked him to be his son-in-law. The honor is too great. He disbelieves. So too with Christ.

Chapter II: socratic sin as ignorance
According to the socratic definition sin is ignorance, specifically the effort to obscure knowledge. That, however, raises the question of whether a person is aware of what he is doing when he obscures his knowledge. If no, then his knowledge was already obscure and the question begins again. If yes, then sin is really the act of will, not of knowledge. Yet paganism has no room for disobedience, defiance. It assumes one cannot do wrong knowingly.

Christianity understands that sin lies in the will, in disobedience. Good must be done the instant it is known, for the lower nature will try and stretch out the period before action, allowing knowledge to become obscure and action endlessly deferred. Christianity teaches sin through revelation. It can’t be understood through reason, only believed.

Chapter V
The strength of orthodoxy is its knowledge that sin can’t be defined as a lack without weakening it. Sin must be a position. This cannot be proved; at best, one can show that attempts to comprehend/rationalize this are contradictory, and this must be left to faith.

Appendix A: is sin a rarity?
If this heightened form of despair is rare, doesn’t that mean that sin is rare? Doesn’t that mean most of the world never sins? In one sense, yes. But in another, the sinner is not innocent, because it is his fault that he lacks spirit. All people are born with a primitive sense of the self, after all. Anti-Climacus blames Christendom for this, arguing that pastors are now the equivalent to lovers who try to produce logical formulas to justify love. To defend is always to disparage.

The Continuance of Sin
It’s a mistake to think of sin as primarily an act. Everything which does not come from faith is a sin; every unrepented sin is a new sin and every moment in which one does not repent is a new sin. Specific sins are symptomatic of the state of sin; they’re epiphenomenal.

The sin of despairing over one’s sin
This is fairly self explanatory. It’s higher than the previous states, but still not ideal. The sinner here becomes self-enclosed, fixated on his sin. His break is twofold; first, he breaks with the good in despairing/sinning, second he breaks with repentance by despairing over his despair. And yet, this is often lauded in the world as the sign of a deep soul.

The sin of despairing over forgiveness
There is a qualitative abyss separating man and God. And while in some sense this person is infinitely close to God, in that he relates his self to God, understands that he stands and despairs in front of God, he is infinitely far in his sense of offense at the idea of his sins being forgiven. ‘

sin of dismissing christianity as false
This can take three forms. First, neutrality. Christianity requires commitment and to remain an agnostic is to sin. Second, refusal to accept the paradox (this bleeds into the previous section). Finally, simple unwillingness to accept Christianity as true.

*the introduction says that anti-Climacus actually means "prior to Climacus" - anti as in ante.

Philosophical Fragments

Johannes Climacus, 1844


The piece begins with a piece of self-effacement. Climacus disavows the importance and originality of this effort, claiming it should not be understood as an effort to save the city. He claims to lack the security of an opinion, and says he strives only to learn how to learn to dance lightly with death.

I Thought Project

Can truth be learned?

The piece begins by outlining the socratic paradigm of knowledge. The problem with learning, as Socrates sees it, is that one cannot seek what one knows, and what cannot know what one seeks. Thus, all seeking must be recollection. Socrates, the teacher, can only be a midwife to knowledge; he cannot create new knowledge. Time and teacher become occasions for recollecting the forgotten knowledge. There is something radically egalitarian about this paradigm. As self-knowledge is knowledge of God, every person can be the center, and every encounter an occasion to discover knowledge.

  1. - the Christian paradigm

Whereas the teacher and the moment were merely occasions under Socrates, here the moment must have decisive significance, by virtue of the fact that the seeker is not in possession of the truth. The individual is in untruth, outside of the truth. The teacher must give both truth and the condition understanding it, because to be in the condition to understand the truth means to in a certain sense to already be in possession of the truth.

God created the human with the condition for understanding the truth, but the human lost it because of his or her own actions. The teacher is God, who, acting as an occasion, reminds the learner that he is in untruth through his own fault. Acting as more than an occasion, though, the teacher also gives truth and the condition for understanding it.

To be in untruth through one’s own fault is to be in a state of sin. Despite being in the state of untruth through one’s own fault, the individual lacks the capacity to leave that state of untruth. He once had the freedom to truth between truth or untruth, but now, having chosen untruth, he is like a child who buys a toy and wants to swap it for a book. The book seller tells him that, while at one point he could have bought the book, now the choice is gone, because a used toy is useless.

To sum up: the teacher is the savior, deliverer, reconciler, and judge. The moment is the fullness of time.

  1. the follower

In conversion, the individual becomes a new person, and repents the knowledge that he was in sin through his own fault.

II: God as Teacher and Savior (A Poetical Venture)

While, for Socrates, the student-teacher relationship was fundamentally reciprocal, because the encounter was an occasion for him to become a teacher and the other to learn - it was both sympathetic and autopathetic - the student-teacher relation in Christianity is fundamentally asymmetrical.

God is moved by love of the learner and wants to win him. Love makes difference equal through unity of understanding. How, then, can God achieve this equality, without it becoming an unhappy love, where God and the individual can’t understand each other?

Here Climacus uses the analogy to a king who wants to wed a peasant. He could appear before the peasant in his glory, making the girl ascend in status. This, however, would be a form of self-loss for her, and would ultimately glorify God, without glorifying the girl, which is the goal.

Therefore, for the moment to have significance, and the equality to be achieved, unity must be achieved by the God/King descending. This, however, necessarily remakes the girl/learner; it’s as if wine is poured into an old wine skin. The vessel shatters.

III: The Absolute Paradox (A Metaphysical Caprice)

“The paradox is the passion of thought, and the thinker without the paradox is like the lover without passion: a mediocre fellow” (36). Thought always pushes toward its own impossibility; the ultimate paradox is the desire to think the unthinkable. The paradox collides against God, the unknown.

Here, Climacus launches into a critique of proofs for the existence of God (which is probably useful to remember for exams). Basically, if God does not exist, it is impossible to demonstrate this. If God does exist, my demonstration is superfluous because it presupposes the existence of God. To demonstrate that the unknown is God would be to provide a definition, not to demonstrate his existence. Demonstration always becomes something else. It’s also backwards to think I could ever demonstrate the existence of anything through logic. I demonstrate that the accused is a criminal, not that a criminal exists. Likewise, if I try to prove Napoleon’s existence through his works, either I include his name in his works, making it a tautology, or I can never link his work back to him. At most, I can link his works back to a great general, etc. I must let go of the demonstration in order for existence to emerge.

Contra Hegel’s notion of relational difference, Kierkegaard’s God is absolutely difference. Humans and God are absolutely difference, and this difference is sin. The paradox has two levels, two aspects which cannot be thought. First, that there exists the absolute difference of sin, and that the positive desire exists on God’s part to annul this and create absolute equality. Both thoughts are equally unthinkable.

Appendix: Offense at the Paradox

A person has a happy relation to the paradox when understanding and the paradox meet in mutual recognition of their difference. Grace determines this.

However, an unhappy meeting of understanding and the paradox is a type of offense, and, by extension, a type of suffering. The particular way in which this offense manifests is irrelevant; it is always offense and always suffering. Offense is misunderstanding of the moment. Every response the understanding gives to the paradox - bewilderments, dismissal, etc - responds to an originates from the paradox. Understanding is predicated on the paradox.

IV: the situation of the contemporary follower

The paradox has two difficulties: that man is God and that the revelation/moment of eternity takes place in time. Both man and God are radically incommensurable, as are time and eternity.

So, in one sense, it seems as if the contemporary witness does not have much of an advantage. He has access to the historical event, but the historical is radically different from the eternal of the revelation. The paradox unites the eternalizing of the historical and the historicizing of the eternal.

Faith in the paradox cannot be an act of will, because the will can only be efficacious once one has the condition to understand truth. One is contemporary by virtue of faith, not by virtue of the historical situation.

Interlude: is the past more necessary than the future?

Coming into existence proves something to be contingent. The actual is no more necessary than the possible; just because something happened doesn’t make it any more necessary than the thing which might have happened. All coming into existence comes by way of freedom. Everything that comes into existence is historical. Even nature is historical, in that it has a past. It is the perfection of the historical to have no history.

the Past

What occurred is unchangeable, but not necessary. To regard the past as necessary is to forget that it came into existence. The future is equally contingent. It’s a mistake to think, like Hegel, that the past can become necessary through apprehension, first because the fact that it came into being makes it unnecessary, but more importantly because the historical cannot be made accessible to sense perception. One cannot perceive something coming into being. Thus, I believe in the historical through an act of will. The conclusion belief draws about the past is not a conclusion, but a resolution. Belief is always battling against doubt. While belief affirms that something came into existence, doubt denies it, refuses to draw conclusions, and dwells with the immediate sensation.

so belief is always an act of faith, for both the contemporary and second-hand follower, because the event is never immediately accessible. The incarnation particularly could not have been immediate to the contemporary, because it was not accessible to the senses, and is a contradiction, because if God is necessary, he cannot come into being. Basically, all of our knowledge is tenuous, an act of belief, and this is only heightened vis a vis the incarnation. The historical contemporary gains nothing.

V: the follower at second hand

At most, the historical contemporaries have the benefit of understanding the offensiveness, the magnitude, the absurdity of the incarnation. the stakes of the decision seem clearer, as opposed to the later follower, who receives a domesticated version of the event, by means of a culture which accepts it. The later generation, however, can clearly see the significance and repercussions of the event, if not its radicality.

The advantage all depends on perspective. If the incarnation is a historical fact, the first generation has the advantage. If it is an eternal fact, then everyone is equally close/distant from it. If it is an absolute fact, then it is absurd, because the historical and the absolute/eternal are radically different.

At best, the testimony of the first generation can dissuade the present generation from thinking that the incarnation was in any way a historical fact or fundamentally historically accessible.