The Dialectic of the Holy: Paul Tillich's Idea of Judaism within the History of Religion
Date: 21 February 2014
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Theology
Abstract The topic of Tillich and Judaism has received relatively little scholarly treatment. This is despite the importance of Jews and Judaism for Tillich, which is established by numerous biographical details, including the reason for his opposition to the Nazi government and ensuing emigration to the United States in 1933 ...
Abstract The topic of Tillich and Judaism has received relatively little scholarly treatment. This is despite the importance of Jews and Judaism for Tillich, which is established by numerous biographical details, including the reason for his opposition to the Nazi government and ensuing emigration to the United States in 1933 (Introduction and Chapter 1). Tillich’s ecumenical activities are acknowledged, but Tillich’s dialectical theological method is analyzed to determine how it could have justified his pro-Jewish stance. This refers to his consistent attacks on anti-Semitism, and after World War II, numerous lectures on the structural similarities between Judaism and Christianity, not to mention lifetime relationships with secular and religious Jews (Chapters 1 and 2). Tillich has a dialectical understanding of reality, influenced by F. W. J. Schelling, and this influences every major aspect of his theology. Select primary sources are analyzed to assess the evolution of Tillich’s idea of Judaism through his dialectical, theological and inclusive history of religion (Chapters 3 through 6). ‘Jewish prophetism’, highlighting the critical and existential dimensions of Judaism, emerged as the most characteristic expression, significantly, after World War I, as Tillich rejected the religious nationalism of his early adulthood. After World War II and the Holocaust, Tillich’s ‘dialectic of the Holy’ expressed the fullness of the divine reality as the permanent polar tension between the priestly/mystical/vertical/’Is’, and the prophetic/critical/horizontal/’Ought’. This polar tension is found in his ontology, Christology, and history of religion. The importance of Jewish prophetism, rooted in historic Judaism, would have made it difficult for Tillich to eliminate the Jewish roots of Christianity, compared to the so-called ‘German Christians’ prevalent in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Chapter 7 concludes with a criticism and defence of Tillich’s method. Tillich’s idea of Judaism is inadequate for interfaith dialogue, because it fails to address the fullness of Judaism’s own self-understandings, and is limited to the prophetic aspect. However, the prophetic aspect ensures that the critical and existential aspects of any religion endure in a transformation to a more adequate expression of the divine. Tillich’s ‘religion of the concrete spirit’ not only preserves the importance of Jewish prophetism, but opens the door to dialogue with non-theistic religions, such as Buddhism.
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