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The History of Christian Thought by Paul Tillich


Paul Tillich is generally considered one of the century's outstanding and influential thinkers. After teaching theology and philosophy at various German universities, he came to the United States in 1933. For many years he was Professor of Philosophical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, then University Professor at Harvard University. His books include Systematic Theology; The Courage to Be; Dynamics of Faith; Love, Power and Justice; Morality and Beyond; and Theology of Culture. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Herb and June Lowe.


Lecture 1: Introduction
Reality and thought. The concept of dogma.

Lecture 2: The Readiness of the Ancient World to Receive Christianity
Tillich contrasts "kairos" with "chronos; the "right" time with "measured" time. By examining the philosophical schools of the day (the Greek Schools, Epicureans, Stoics, Academics, Peripatetics, Neopythagoreans), he demonstrates a universal revelatory power going through all history and preparing that which is considered by Christianity to be the ultimate revelation.

Lecture 3: Intertestamental Period
Ideas and attitudes formed during the Hellenistic period of the Jewish religion and their influence on Jesus, the apostles, and the writers of the New Testament. Angels, Messiah, Demons, Stoicism, Mystery religions and Mysticism. How the development from a tribal to a universal God gave rise to mediating beings (angels, Messiah, son of man, and wisdom). The origin and meaning of logos and why both good and bad angels do not imply a dualism. How the reader might reply to someone who asks, "Do you believe Jesus was the Son of God?"

Lecture 4: Apostolic Fathers: Clement. Ignatius.
The name "Tillich" brings two phrases to mind: "The ground of all being" and "The Courage to be." The reader will find the seeds of these phrases in this lecture as he describes the ways in which apostolic Christianity separated itself from Judaism and Paganism.

Lecture 5: The Apologetic Movement. Celsus, Justin Martyr.
The nature and role of apologetics, Christianity's response to charges that it is a danger to the Roman Empire and that it is philosophically nonsense. Such response must necessarily find whatever commonality there is between the attacker (e.g. paganism) and the attacked (Christianity), then demonstrate the deficiencies of the attacking power. Finally it must show that Christianity remedies those deficiencies. The understanding of logos not as the description of an individual being, but of a universal principle, the self-manifestation of God, even in Jesus as the Christ, on which depends salvation.

Lecture 6: Logos and the Doctrine of God. Gnosticism. Marcion.
Tillich defines gnosticism as a religious syncretism and explains its temptations and dangers to Christianity, both in apostolic times and in our day. He shows how the apologists combine monotheism with the divinity of Christ and their success in combining the humanity and the universality of his nature at the same time.

Lecture 7: Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus.
Tillich connects his history of Christian thought with the political realties of the day: Nazism and the communistic Soviet Union. He tells how the first great Christian theologians, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus developed their systems in opposition to and partly in acceptance of the Gnostic ideas, resulting in what he calls "early Catholicism." Already in the third century he credits the idea of apostolic succession with guaranteeing the saving truth. An interpretation of eternal life in contrast to what Tillich calls a non-Christian understanding of the immortality of the soul.

Lecture 8: Covenants, Church Fathers.
The history of salvation is described by three or four covenants, all of which add up to the law of love and each of which had its own kairos or right time to appear. The relation between Adam, the old man, and Jesus, the new man. In Tertullian Tillich he sees the two sides of early Catholicism, salvation through discipline and salvation through education by law. The highest form of early Catholicism sees the new being as mystical-ethical, as opposed to the Protestant understanding of renewal by justification by faith. The possibility of infant baptism.

Lecture 9: Neo-Platonism: Plotinus. Clement of Alexandria. Origen.
Understanding Neo-Platonism. Christian Mysticism and taking sin seriously.

Lecture 10: The Theology of Origen
Origen has three meanings for his basic authority, scripture: literal, moral, and spiritual. Origen is fascinated by the cosmological implications of the Logos concept and, he has a heretical side.

Lecture 12: Monarchianism. Sabellius. The Arian Controversy. Nicaea.
What is the nature of Jesus? Is he God or man or something in between? How did the theologians explain the Trinity and sustain monotheism?

Lecture 13: Athanasius, Marcellus, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, John of Damascus. The Christological Problem.
Theological problems related to the nature of Jesus and the trinitarian God.

Lecture 14: School of Antioch. Theodor of Mopsuestia. Apollinarius. Nestorius. Cyril. Chalcedon.
The various schools of theology and philosophy literally fight, at times with clubs, to perfect a formula that explains the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth.

Lecture 15: Dionysius the Areopagite (Pseudo-Dionysius)
An examination of Christian mysticism and the role of hierarchies brings to an end Tillich's interpretation of the East.

Lecture 16: Tertullian. Cyprian. Augustine.
The western Church centers around sin and salvation. Turtullian, Cyprian and Augusting. The Catholic church and the bishops were one and the same.

Lecture 17: Augustine (continued)
Skepticism and the problem of certainty. Augustine stands between skepticism and the new authority the Church.

Lecture 18: Augustine (continued)
What Augustine says about the relationship of God and the world. His statements are more important than what other theologians have said, in the whole history of Christianity.

Lecture 19: Augustine. Pelagius.
The great struggle between Augustine and Pelagious is perhaps the classical example of the problem in the Christian Church. This is the tension pastors will experience in every hour of religious instruction, counseling, and preaching.

Lecture 20: Augustine. Donatism. The Medieval Church. Scholasticism. Mysticism.
Authority, traditions, and interpretations through the eyes of the Medieval Church.

Lecture 21: Medieval Period: Nominalism, Realism, Monasticism, Crusades.
Different trends in Scholasticism and points of view which are always valid yet always in conflict with each other.

Lecture 22: Medieval Period (continued)
The struggle for power between the Church and secular authorities and the nature of the sacraments. Augustine. The Medieval situation. Curialism. Conciliarism. Criticism of Church. Sacraments. Problems of the Middle Ages.

Lecture 23: Anselm and His Arguments
Explication and analysis of Anselm's theory.

Lecture 24: Abelard. Bernard of Clairvaux. Mysticism.
Twelfth century understandings of "objective" and "subjective." as lived out by Abelard and Anselm pose both historical and philological tasks for the reader.

Lecture 25: Thirteenth Century: Joachim di Fiore, Franciscan theology, Dominic.
The dynamics of the high Middle Ages are determined by the conflict between Augustine and Aristotle, or between the Franciscans who were Augustinians and the Dominicans who were Aristotelian. But don't take this too exclusively.

Lecture 26: Medieval Theology. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus.
Duns Scotus insists there is only one way open to receive God, the way of revelation received by the authority of the Church. He becomes the turning point in the history of Western thought.

Lecture 27: Pelagius and Aquinas
Nature, human nature and grace as the fulfilment of nature. Revelation and reason or revelation as reason. Finding God from the inside or finding the outside from God.

Lecture 28: Ethical Teachings (Aquinas). Nominalism (Wm. Occam). German mysticism (Eckhart).
Says Tillich "we have dealt very thoroughly with the ancient and medieval Church. And this was our intention, because that is what you will never hear again. You will hear about the Reformation, and. you will hear, very often, about the modern development. But you will not hear about the Early Church and the Middle Ages."

Lecture 29: Pre-Reformers, the Counter-Reformation. Council of Trent.
What is lacking in all the pre-Reformers is the one fundamental principle of the Reformation, the breakthrough of Luther to the experience of being accepted in spite of being unacceptable, called by him, in Pauline terms, justification through faith by grace.

Lecture 30: Justification by Faith Alone. Sacraments. Papal Infallibility. Jansenism.
A sobering, pre Vatican Two, delineation of the irreconcilable positions of the Catholic and the Protestant Church.

Lecture 31: The Reformation: Luther and Catholicism
Martin Luther is responsible and he alone for the fact that a purified Christianity, a Christianity of the Reformation, was able to establish itself on equal terms with the Roman tradition.

Lecture 32: Penance and Luther's Attacks. Erasmus. Muenzer.
Don't translate sola fide by the English phrase "by faith alone," but "by grace alone, through faith," where "faith" means nothing other than the acceptance of grace. But the Evangelical Radicals think Luther is still half-Catholic.

Lecture 33: Reformation Sects. Luther's Teachings Faith, Concept of God.
For Luther, the lack of love towards God is the basis of sin, the "word of God" has at least a half dozen meanings, and God is both totally imminent and totally transcendent.

Lecture 34: Luther (cont.) Christology, Doctrines of the Church and State. Zwingli.
Luther holds that if a man is righteous himself, God is righteous. If a man is pure, God is pure for him. If he is evil, God is evil for him. Luther defines the Word, the Church, and the State. Then Tillich turns to the differences between Luther and Zwingli.

Lecture 35: Zwingli and Luther. Calvin.. Predestination and Providence. Capitalism. Church and State.
Luther wanted everything as non-rational, non-legal, as possible, not only in the process of salvation but also in the interpretation of history and nature; while Zwingli and Calvin accepted nature in terms of law. Even back then they were discussing the meaning of the word "is." For Calvin, predestination was an afterthought.

Lecture 36: Calvin: Predestination, Providence, Capitalism, Church and State, Biblical Authority.
The suffering of the world is not a real problem for Calvin because his idea of providence as strictly "God-caused." Tillich asks why most of the great names in religion, from Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, to Luther, are adherents of "predestination," while those who do not adhere always are nearer to a moral interpretation of Christianity than to a strictly religious interpretation?

Lecture 37: Protestant Orthodoxy. Pietism.
The rhythm in which Protestant theology has developed in the last 350 years (up to 1953), including the threefold doctrine of Orthodoxy and the three points made by Pietism.

Lecture 38: Pietism. Enlightenment. Autonomy. Heteronomy. Locke. Deism. Modern Development. Final Remarks.
Tillich explains the way of correlation, namely, to accept all the problems which are involved in self-criticizing humanism - -we call it existentialism, today -- and then, on the other hand, to show that the Christian message is the answer to these questions.

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