The Role Of Philosophy In Tillich’s Theology -- By: Arthur F. Holmes

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 10:3 (Summer 1967)
Article: The Role Of Philosophy In Tillich’s Theology
Author: Arthur F. Holmes


The Role Of Philosophy In Tillich’s Theology

Arthur F. Holmes

The relationship of philosophy to theology is a variable thing, depending in part on the views held from time to time of the nature of human reasoning and of proper philosophic method. Recent decades have seen a revolution in these views. Scientific empiricism and dogmatic rationalism have both had their day, and a wider and richer conception of philosophy and human reason is emerging in both analytic and phenomenological thought, one which goes beyond the forms of traditional thought, not denying their validity but questioning the range of their application and the claims they make to objectivity. It is the assumption of this paper that analytic and phenomenological investigations have progressed to the point that we can no longer rest content with older notions of philosophic reasoning, but must take cognizance of the enriched understanding of reason and experience, and of the resultant claim that truth cannot be reduced simply to empirical correspondence or rational coherence. Elsewhere I have attempted to outline an informal logic of religious belief in the light of these developments. 1 The purpose of the present paper is to examine Tillich’s attempt to relate this conception of philosophy and human reason to theology, in the hope that we may learn from him both some mistakes to avoid and some emphases to cultivate.

Paul Tillich regarded himself as a theologian rather than a philosopher. Yet his commitment to “apologetic” rather than “kerygmatic” theology forces him into philosophy as well; an “apologetic theology,” he tells us, is an “answering theology,” answering the questions implied in the present human situation in the power of the eternal message. His method is one of correlation: addressing the answers implied in the Christian message to the questions pointed up by philosophy. 2 He attempts to make “the correlation of existence and the Christ” his central theme. 3 In the method of correlation, philosophy’s role is two-fold: (1) it clarifies the questions to which theology must speak, and (2) it provides theology with the conceptual means whereby it can speak the Christian message to men today. We shall look at each of these tasks in turn.

I. Philosophy and the Question

1. What is being-in-itself? What are the structures of being which make possible various forms of human experience? This is the philosophic question. Tillich interprets it, however, as calling for neither rationalistic

abstractions nor Kantian...

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