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The New Being Paperback – June 1, 2005
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The psychologist Rollo May [a close friend of Tillich’s] wrote a sympathetic biography of him (Paulus) and Tillich’s wife Hannah wrote a much less-friendly account (From Time to Time). [NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 179-page paperback edition.]
He wrote in the Preface to this 1955 book, “This book contains sermons which I gave mostly in colleges and universities… since the publication of the first volume of my sermons… ‘The New Being’ is, so to speak, the answer to the questions developed in ‘The Shaking of the Foundations.’”
In the first sermon, after quoting Luke 7:36-47, he comments, “Jesus does not forgive the woman, but He declares that she IS forgiven… And nothing greater can happen to a human being than that he is forgiven. For forgiveness means reconciliation in spite of estrangement; it means reunion in spite of hostility; it means acceptance of those who are unacceptable, and it means reception of those who are rejected. Forgiveness is unconditional or it is not forgiveness at all.” (Pg. 7-8)
He states, “In his letter [to the Galatians], Paul combines New Creation with reconciliation. The message of reconciliation is: BE reconciled to God. Cease to be hostile to Him, for He is never hostile to you. The message of reconciliation is not that God needs to be reconciled. How could He be? Since He is the source and power of reconciliation, who could reconcile Him? Pagans and Jews and Christians---all of us have tried and are trying to reconcile Him by rites and sacraments, by prayers and services, by moral behavior and works of charity. But if we try this… we fail.” (Pg. 20)
He observes, “There are many healing stories in the Gospels, a stumbling block for scholars and preachers and teachers, because they take them as miracle stories of the past instead of taking them as healing stories of the present… These stories also describe attitude which makes healing possible. They call it faith. Faith here, of course, does not mean the belief in assertions for which there is no evidence. It never meant that in genuine religion, and it should never be abused in this sense. But faith means being grasped by a power that is greater than we are, a power that shakes us and turns us, and transforms us and heals us. Surrender to this power is faith.” (Pg. 37-38)
He suggests, “let us now drop the word ‘providence’ with all its false connotations and look at what it really means. It means the courage to accept life in the power of that which is more than life. Paul calls it the love of God… This love is the ultimate power of union, the ultimate victory over separation… It gives us the certainty that no moment is possible in which we can be prevented from reaching the fulfillment towards which all life is striving. This is the courage to accept life in the power of that in which life is rooted and overcome.” (Pg. 57-58)
He notes, “The family is no ultimate! The family relations are not unconditional relations. The consecration of the family is not a consecration for the final aim of man’s existence. We can imagine the revolutionary character of such sayings in face of the religions and cultures of mankind. We can hardly measure their disturbing character in face of what has happened century after century the so-called Christian nations---with the support of the Christian churches who could not stand the radical nature of the Christian message in this as in other respects.” (Pg. 107)
He points out, “Let us not be misled by the phrase ‘word of the Lord.’ It is not an oracle-word telling us what to do or to expect. Then what is it? It is the voice from another dimension than that in which we ordinarily life, It cuts into the dimension of things and events which we call our world. It does not help us to manage things within this dimension more successfully than before. It does not add to our knowledge of the factors which influence a situation, it does not remove the responsibility for our decisions. It does something else. It elevates the situation in which we have to decide, into the light of a new dimension, the dimension of that which is ultimately important and infinitely significant and for which we use the word ‘Divine.’” (Pg. 116)
He says, “The problem of man is not that God does not speak to him: God DOES speak to everyone who has a human countenance. For this is what makes him man. He who is not able to perceive something ultimate, something infinitely significant, is not a man. Man is man because he is able to receive a word from the dimension of the eternal. The question is not that mankind has not received any word from the Lord; the question is that it has been received and distorted. This is the predicament of all of us. Human existence is never without that which breaks vertically into it. Man is never without a manifestation of that which is ultimately serious and infinitely meaningful. He is never without a word from the Lord and he never ceases resisting and distorting it, both when he has to hear it and when he has to say it.” (Pg. 120-121)
He acknowledges, “Perhaps we [Christians] can defend ourselves convincingly against the criticism that we are people who despise life, whose behavior is a permanent accusation of life. Perhaps we can show that this is a distortion of the truth. But let us be honest. Is there not enough foundation for criticism? Are not many Christians---ministers, students of theology, evangelists, missionaries, Christian educators and social workers, pious laymen and laywomen, even the children of such parents---surrounded by an air of heaviness, of oppressive sternness, of lack of humor and irony about themselves? We cannot deny this. Our critics outside the Church are right. And we ourselves should be even more critical than they, but critical on a deeper level.” (Pg. 142-143)
He asserts, “There are innumerable concerns in our lives and human life generally which demand attention, devotion, passion. But they do not demand INFINITE attention, UNCONDITIONAL devotion, ULTIMATE passion. They are important… But they are not ULTIMATELY important. And therefore Jesus praises not Martha, but Mary… The hour of a church service… is dedicated to listening in the way Mary listened. Something is being said to us… about which we may become infinitely concerned. This is the meaning of every sermon. It shall awaken infinite concern.” (Pg. 153)
In the final sermon, he says, “Love overcomes separation and creates participation in which there is more than that which the individuals involved can bring to it. Love is the infinite which is give to the finite. Therefore we love in others, for we do not merely love others, but we love the Love that is in them and which is more than their or our love. In mutual assistance what is most important is not the alleviation of need but the actualization of love.” (Pg. 173)
Tillich’s sermons are a much more accessible and “personal” side of his theology/philosophy, and will be of great interest to anyone seriously studying modern theology.