return to religion-online

The Interpretation of History 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 Ted & Winnie Brock.

I: Church and Culture

Behind the question of the relationship of Church and culture, which our theme raises, lie two other questions capable of formulation in different ways. If one begins with the subject, the human mind, there arises the question of the relationship of religion and culture; if one begins with the object, toward which the human mind is directed, then the question of the relationship of God and the world occurs. Religion and culture, God and the world—these contrasting pairs stand back of the contrast of Church and culture. As soon as one realizes these backgrounds, however, a certain unsuitability appears in the formulation of our theme: God and world, religion and culture, these are clearly correlated. Not so, Church and culture. If Church is that sociological group in which religion is meant, then correspondingly, we should seek a sociological group that is the bearer of culture. For this, the state first offers itself. But for a long period society has constituted itself the bearer of cultural life in contrast to the state. Society has left the state, insofar as the state makes and administrates laws, a certain number of cultural tasks, but except in fascist countries the state cannot consider itself the main factor in cultural life. The group to be correlated with Church is therefore not the state, at least only to a limited extent. For our consideration it is "society," not in the formal sense of sociological reality as a whole, but in the sense of a group beside the Church, which feels responsible for culture.

We must, however, go a step further. The root of all the mentioned contrasting pairs is the contrast of holy and profane. If we approach our theme from this final polarity, the foundation of every philosophy of religion and culture, we can define the Church as that sociological reality in which the holy is supposed to be presented, and society as the sociological reality in which the profane appears. And we should have to inquire into the relationship between holy and profane society.

But while the question is put in this way, a criticism of the question itself arises before any further discussion. One recognizes its logical consistency but denies its factual truth. One maintains that simply to place side by side holy and profane, Church and society, means to remove one of the contrasted factors, viz., the holy and to bring the holy to the level of the profane. One denies that Church may be considered a universal concept belonging to the explanation of human existence. One already sees the loss of holiness in its being placed on the same level as the profane. This criticism is launched by the dialectical theology (in dependence on Kierkegaard), according to which the holy can assume only a negative relationship, never a polar relationship with the profane. The importance of this criticism is indubitable. No theology or philosophy of religion can evade it. There is often a more than dialectical, a prophetic force and penetration in this battle for the absoluteness of the divine. But theology and philosophy of religion are not prophecy. They attempt a rational explanation of the prophetic message. Theology does indeed deal with the paradox, but it must not therefore treat it only in paradoxes. Otherwise it might come about that through the very dogmatization of this form it lose the real paradox.

Our procedure will therefore be as follows: first we shall endeavor to clarify the relationship between profane and holy, then attempt an historical view of the broad lines along which this relationship has been realized, and finally advance our own concrete solution, demanded on the basis of both considerations.


Every life that goes beyond the immediacy of the purely biological, psychical, and sociological is meaningful life. Each of our logical and esthetic, legal and social actions contains a reference to meaning. In every meaning, however, lies the silent presupposition of the meaningfulness of the whole, the unity of all possible meanings, i.e., faith in the meaning of life itself. If we want to define this more exactly, we must say: In our every act of meaning, theoretical as well as practical, a definite concrete meaning is before us, and at the same time, as the object of a silent belief, there is the absolute meaning or the meaningfulness of the whole. That this is so, becomes especially clear at moments when all meaning threatens to be lost, and the world sinks down into an abyss of nothingness, a meaningless void. Let us observe both aspects more closely. The single meaning which is experienced and accomplished always bears a relationship to others; otherwise it would be a meaningless aphorism. Meaning is always a system of meanings. The system of all possible systems of meaning we call objectively world, subjectively culture. The unconditional meaning, however, toward which every "act" of meaning is directed in implicit faith, and which supports the whole, which protects it from the plunge into a nothingness void of meaning, itself has two aspects: it bears the meaning of each single meaning as well as the meaning of the whole. That is, it is the basis of meaning. Yet it is never to be grasped as such in any one act of meaning. It is transcendent in regard to every individual meaning. We can therefore speak of the unconditioned simultaneously as basis of meaning and abyss of meaning (Sinngrund und -abgrund). We call this object of the silent belief in the ultimate meaningfulness, this basis and abyss of all meaning which surpasses all that is conceivable, God. And we call the direction of the spirit which turns toward Him, religion.

In the more exact definition of this relationship, it is important to avoid two errors: first, that of placing the unconditioned meaning beside the conditioned meanings or even beside the totality of meanings; that one place God beside the world, religion beside culture. What stands "beside," is by reason of this very position a single, finite meaning, for which one would then have to seek a basis of meaning, a God over God, a religion over religion. No superlative can protect such a God, no matter how high above the word He stands, from becoming a creature within the world; for in every "above" lies a "beside" and in every "beside" a "conditioned." And that is true of religion. To place it in a series of values, in which it is supposed to stand above other values, is to rob it of its meaning, to make it again a particular act of meaning which must be protected from being emptied of ultimate meaning. But it is just as impossible to identify those concepts as to place them beside or above one another. Unconditioned meaning has the quality of inexhaustibility. If it could be exhausted in any totality, in any world of words, in any culture of cultures, then this whole would have again become a single, finite meaning, for which a new basis of meaning would have to be sought. The unsatisfactory thing in all pantheistic and monistic attempts to identify God with the world, religion with culture, is that God and religion forfeit the abyss and thereby make the basis of meaning shallow, that they lose inexhaustibility and thereby rob creation of its terror and depth. A third objection must still be met: the concept of meaning could be interpreted intellectually and therefore the whole exposition would be reproached with intellectualism. One may say in reply that the concept "meaning" is supposed to express all aspects of the human mind and therefore is just as valid in application to the practical as to the theoretical. The basis of meaning is just as much the basis of personality and community as of being and significance; and it is simultaneously the abyss of all. It is the basis and abyss of personality and community not only insofar as they exist (the theoretical aspect), but also insofar as they experience something that they ought to be (the practical aspect). Only through this moral implication, the "tremendum et fascinosum," as Rudolf Otto calls the unconditioned, does it become more than the object of an esthetic emotion. The unconditioned appears as that which does not admit any conditioned fulfillment of its commandments, as that which is able to destroy every personality and community which tries to escape the unconditioned demand. We miss the quality of the unconditioned meaning, of being basis and abyss, if we interpret it either from an intellectual point of view or from a moral point of view alone. Only in the duality of both does the unconditioned meaning manifest itself.

Nothing has been stated here as yet about the contrast holy-profane. In every act of meaning the implicit faith in the absolute meaning is disclosed, and at the same time it follows from the inexhaustibility of the absolute meaning that every act directed toward it needs a concrete; finite meaning in which the infinite meaning is manifest. From this point of view there is no distinction between profane and holy, but the possibility that a distinction will become necessary. There is the possibility of so directing one’s mind to single meanings, that the act of faith, although implicitly concurring, is excluded from one’s consciousness. That is the profane, unbelieving, worldly attitude; just so is it possible, while excluding the single forms of meaning and their relationships, to direct oneself to the absolute meaning. That is the holy, believing, religious attitude. The first is directed toward the single meaning and its fulfillment in the system of meanings of world. In the second, the single meaning is only a medium, a symbol, a vessel of the absolute meaning. All theoretical and practical fulfillment of meaning is directed to the absolute alone. We therefore establish an essential unity of the profane and holy sphere combined with the possibility of difference in intention. One cannot be essentially profane, but one can be consciously profane. One cannot be essentially holy, but one can be so consciously. However, as it is contrary to our nature to desire one attitude or the other exclusively, both finally lead to desperation. The desperation of the profane attitude is emptiness of meaning, and the desperation of the holy attitude is emptiness of form. But in both kinds of desperation the essential relationship becomes manifest: in the desperation of the society that it is destined to be a church and in the desperation of the Church that it is destined to embrace the whole society; in the desperation of society that it is not a true community, not Kingdom of God, in the desperation of the Church that it cannot become a universal community, a Kingdom of God on the earth.

The holy, and the holy community, is therefore not that through which the profane and the profane community can be redeemed. The Church cannot redeem society. And yet the profane cannot remain in the desperation of the unredeemed state. But it cannot redeem itself either, through the creation of forms and realization of systems of culture. Even less can it redeem the Church. Both must be redeemed, the profane and the holy, society and the Church. The contrast itself is the thing from which both sides are to be saved; for it is the distortion of both. But the contrast is real, for existence does not accord with essence. That the Church exists and that society exists, and that both must come closer to desperation, the more seriously they take themselves; that is the great revelation of the cleavage of the world.

That this is so, is a plain fact and underivable. If it could be derived from the nature of the absolute meaning and from its relationship to the single meanings, then the unconditioned would not also be the abyss of thought. In thought at least we would be one with God. But that we cannot think sin and yet must think it, that we cannot understand it either as a contingency or as a necessity, is due to the depth of the divine abyss, apparent in thought. With all this, however, the absolute meaning has also acquired a new depth. It is no longer to be designated merely as the creative—that which gives meaning— but also as that which redeems, fulfills meaning. That we have not yet succumbed to despair, that church and society still live, that they still can live, has its foundation in the fact that they have experienced and can experience the completion of meaning as a divine paradox in meaninglessness. This raises a further aspect of our problem, an aspect for which our introductory words have already prepared us: there is an interpretation of the holy, in which its position beside the profane and its polar relation to it is abolished. The holy in religion and church receives a transcendent meaning, but it is for this very reason a meaning that is simultaneously valid for the profane in culture and society. The holy ceases to be in contrast with the profane. It is the holiness which is not real in either of the two spheres and therefore is capable of redeeming both spheres. The holy is now called deed of God, revelation, in contrast to religion as well as to culture; to the Church, as well as to society. And to be holy means to be situated in this tension, in religion over religion and in culture over culture and through this superposition to lead both sides toward redemption, to fill the profane forms with the content of the holy and to express the contents of the holy in the profane forms.

We know therefore that from the point of view of God, the Church has no advantage over society. That it exists as church, as holy sphere, is the criticism against the Church. But profane culture, society, also has no advantage over the Church. That it is contrasted with the Church, has freed itself from the absolute meaning, in profane autonomy, is the criticism of society. And so it comes about, that the Church is the perpetual guilty conscience of society and society the perpetual guilty conscience of the Church.

And yet it follows from all this that in the polarity of religion and culture both sides are necessary. The mere existence of the Church would make all our mental acts symbols. In theory all knowledge would be resolved into myth; in practice all action would be resolved into cult. Every holy sphere has an inner tendency in this direction. Every church wants to resolve reality into forms of expression, into transparencies of the absolute meaning; that is the inner fate of the Church, which it can never escape. That is its strength, never to be broken, and yet also its weakness. In order to justify these pretensions, it would have to be the Kingdom of God. To be sure, sometimes it calls itself this, but not rightfully, for society is beside it and it cannot exist without itself assuming forms of society. And it has the State beside it and cannot exist without assuming forms of the State. Now, if it claims absolute validity for the assumed forms in which it must live as earthly society, if it calls itself Kingdom of God, then it succumbs to arrogance and violates culture and society in demonic heteronomy.

In contrast let us consider profane society. Its task is to realize the individual forms of meaning, to arrange them within a theoretical and practical system. For the holy is at the same time the right and just; and God is the basis and abyss of meaning, only insofar as He is the one who demands. The significance of the profane, of autonomous culture, of free society, however, is that it pursues logical, moral, esthetic, and social laws, that it grasps the forms of existence and realizes them in nature and society. Thus in accordance with the demand of the absolute meaning, science and art grow out of the myth; law and ethics out of the cult. And because the growth of this profane culture is a demand of the unconditioned, it has divine strength and divine right. The autonomy of the profane rises up against the heteronomy of the holy. But its weakness also lies in this contrast; for through the contrast with the holy it loses its connection with the abyss of meaning, which gave the secular world its own validity. And while the Church violates autonomy demonically, society rushes toward profane emptiness only to fall victim itself to other demonic powers. Thus church and society are subject to the same criticism and are restricted to the same redemption, which comes not from the Church and not from society, but from the act of God, which can be denied by the one as well as the other, and to which the one as well as the other can testify.


Out of the fundamental discussions grows an historical consideration of the relation of church and society, as soon as the general categories are applied to the concrete manifoldness of history. The concepts which have been elaborated are constitutive. They refer to the essential relationship between profane and holy. They are therefore valid for every phenomenon, but never and nowhere are they fully realized. From this fact the enormous variety of possible relationships is derived. And yet every one points to the basic problem that has been worked out, and certain main trends can be determined in which the solution is found in historic reality.

When we glance into the history of mankind, a certain attitude which we shall designate as sacramental appears in the great majority of human societies. It is determined by a relationship of the forms of social and intellectual life to myth and cult: a religious meaning to which they owe their holiness and strength. Church and society are essentially one. Such an attitude by no means signifies a renunciation of rational elements, in knowing and acting. On the contrary, these can be highly developed. But the rationality is not fundamentally developed. It is not free, and therefore has quite definite limits. Whoever oversteps these hallowed limits, commits sacrilege. Here, too, there are tensions, but they do not lead to a break. In this way the heights of Hindu speculation or of Chinese cultivation of customs can be reached, but one does not arrive at a free unfolding of the rational principle. At some very decisive points anti-rational elements remain. Myth and cult consecrate the lie and injustice. This, however, means that in the sacramental attitude the essential unity of profane and holy, of church and society, is not reached.

The profane, the true and the just, however, are also an essential demand of the absolute. And it can come about that in the name of God a battle is launched against holy lies and especially holy injustices. One can call such a battle theocratic, not in the sense of priestly rule, but in the sense of the reign of God, who is the bearer of the absolute demand. Theocracy wishes to subjugate society to this demand in the name of God. It wants to erect no new hierarchy, certainly not a sacramental one; it therefore reduces the myth to divine law, the cult to obedience (prophetism, Puritanism). But theocracy is not yet autonomy. Certain elements of the sacramental attitude remain and create a new myth and a new cult which often exercise irresistible sacramental force, although they have no independent significance, but rather are supposed to serve for the proclamation of the divine law. The unity of church and society is not destroyed but stabilized with especial emphasis and even oppressively.

A complete development of autonomy is arrived at only when these elements of heteronomous authority have also disappeared, and reason stands entirely on its own feet, i.e., those of the individual bearer. This happened once fundamentally and radically, viz., in Greek history. For this very reason it is a standard characteristic of the whole development of autonomy. First, in the name of the metaphysical and moral concept of God, it turns against the holy immoralities and flaws of the folk-religion. It puts the latter on the defensive and shuts it off from the general cultural development. This takes place most efficaciously and thoroughly, where autonomy officially bows to the folk-religion. The philosophical religion, however, tries to enforce the purified form of the holy, and therewith approaches very closely the theocratic conception, but with this difference, that it starts out from the individual and his free recognition; while the other is supported by a faith of the community. Herein lie the points of contact and at the same time the differences between, let us say, Stoicism and late Judaism. The antisacramental protest starts out in the first instance from the autonomous, rational form, which receives divine consecration; in the second instance from the God, who as the Holy, stands for truth and justice. Thus it occurs that through the autonomous attitude, society becomes more and more profane and religious functions become state functions, as especially in late Rome. While previously the holy provided society and its life with strength and substance, the holy now becomes a secondary element of social life. That really means, however, that it is eliminated as the holy or unconditioned. Independent religious spheres with no public cult and myth take a place beside the state religion which has been secularized. Only in the lower classes is the original folk-religion retained. A wide gap separates church and society.

But autonomous society necessarily becomes void of content. It is directed toward the cultural forms and their rational unity and thus loses the abyss threatening meaning and culture. In order to find the divine depth again, the religious spirit finally throws aside all the forms that have become empty for it, the profane as well as holy, and ends in a world-surmounting mysticism: church and society are equally denied.

But this "no" without a "yes" is impossible. It is impossible to interpret life only from the point of view of the divine abyss without regarding God as the creative basis of life. For this reason the historical consequence was not a mere mysticism, but rather a new union of holy and profane, of church and society, as it is represented in the Middle Ages. It is an unique fulfillment, complete in itself despite all battles and tensions, an essential fulfillment of the relation of profane and holy. But it could not maintain itself, because on the one hand its heteronomous and sacramental elements became more and more predominant, on the other hand, in opposition to this development, the rational elements it had assumed became independent and entered into an antihierarchic struggle. This opposition did not attain victory by itself, but with the help of Protestantism, i.e., of the great theocratic battle against the petrifaction of the medieval union of church and society. Only as a result of the gap which had become unbridgable through this battle, did the new autonomy of the Occidental nations grow. It led to the formation of profane bourgeois society and to a depreciation of the churches to an extent far surpassing even late antiquity.

So much for the historical analysis. It shows changing combinations of profane and holy spheres of Church and society. Just because it places the profane and the holy side by side, however, the historical consideration is actually profane. We must now consider the opposition which arises from the holy, if the holy and the profane are coordinated. Revelation is present wherever the divine appears, not as religion but as challenging religion and denying the contrast of culture and religion. This happens when an entirely new reality becomes manifest in anticipation and expectation. Religion and culture, church and society live on such manifestations. They live on that which denies their contrast, the divine, but they realize the divine in their contrast. This contrast is insurmountable and was not overcome even where such potent unifications appeared, as in the early and late Middle Ages. The Kingdom of God not only stands beyond the contrast of autonomy and heteronomy, but also beyond the temporal, and therefore only partial and transitory, conquest of this contrast in an attitude which we call theonomy. For even theonomy is not the Kingdom of God, but only an indication of it, even if, as such, it is the meaning and the goal of history.

The decisive manifestation of the divine, however, can occur only where this contrast of revelation to culture and religion becomes manifest. The decisive manifestation, therefore, cannot be a new religion or a new unity of culture and religion, but only a protest against the claim of every finite form to be absolute, i.e., the Word of the Cross. The Word of the Cross, too, became religion in the moment it was uttered, and it became culture the moment it was perceived. But its greatness and the proof of its absoluteness is that it denies again and again the religion and the culture that proclaim it. The congregation which knows of this self-negation stands beyond church and society, but this congregation is invisible. It is not identical with the Christian Church and not identical with bourgeois society. It is also not identical with the theonomous unity of profane and holy, as it was realized in the past and will be realized in the future. Therefore it is not limited by Christian Church history nor Christian cultural history. It can be sought and yet not proved wherever the absoluteness of the divine breaks through against religion and culture. The more strongly and distinctly that happens, the stronger also is the power of revelation in creating religion and culture. But this, its own creation, is at the same time its entrance into finitude, into conflict, into that which it must itself contradict ever anew. That is the depth and the background of all history.

This is the result of our historical investigation. Church and society are one in their essential nature; for the substance of culture is religion and the form of religion is culture. In historical reality, however, church and society exist beside and against one another, though this essential relationship again and again encourages new attempts to realize pure unity, to overcome the contrast of autonomous society and heteronomous church through a theonomous community. But beyond all these tensions and battles and, shattering them, stands the act of God, which turns alike against church and society and creates the invisible congregation. His action is the creative element in cultural and religious history. Yet as soon as it enters into a finite form, church and society and their destructive conflict grow again, so that no church and no society can rest in its pride.

What does this result signify for us at present? It means that we are free, in principle free from the Church, but not through the antithesis of society, but rather through the revelation of God. And it further means that we are free, in principle free from society, and society is the more oppressive mistress in our times. We are free from it, but not through the antithesis of the Church, but rather through the revelation of God. And because we are free from both, we are therefore also free for both, for service to both: for the Church, because we know that we do not enter into conflict with society through service to her, but only announce symbolically to society the basis of meaning upon which it rests and the demand to become a Kingdom of God, to which it is subject; for society, because we know that we do not enter into conflict with the Church through service to society, but only announce to the Church obedience to the forms of meaning, to truth and justice, to which it also is bound. For both, in that we try to reconcile their conflict and that we struggle for the theonomous unity, in which they cannot, to be sure, be the Kingdom of God, but a more perfect symbol of the Kingdom of God.

Our standing in this freedom from the Church is what distinguishes us from Catholicism, which does not accept the judgment for itself which it passes again and again on culture and society. On the other hand, that we see the essential unity of church and society has the effect that the earlier, less heteronomous Catholicism can become a symbol for our future work, for the struggle for a new theonomy growing out of our present problems.

In Protestantism, too, a church which claims absoluteness and is heteronomous toward society, is possible. Out of the battle against Catholicism, i.e., against the religion which sets itself up as absolute, a new absolute religion can grow, whether it be absolute Bible-religion, or absolute Christ or Jesus-religion. But this very qualification "absolute" means that Protestantism, i.e., the protest against confusion of divine and human, is forgotten. A Protestant Church which raises this claim against society is in truth a bad imitation of the Catholic Church.

A Protestant Church with a claim of absoluteness in any direction, even with reference to doctrine, is in itself a contradiction. That seems to remove the possibility of a church altogether, and to dissolve the holy community into the changing profane societies. That is true—but only as it is true that the profane societies always and of necessity find their way back into the holy community. There can be a Protestant Church as a community of those who give heed to the revelation and want to proclaim and realize it, no matter whether it be from the religious side or the cultural. Therefore the Protestant Church reaches further than the religious sphere in times of discord between religion and culture. It reaches out beyond itself and embraces in itself all those who testify to revelation in society. However, just by reaching out beyond itself, just because its opposition to profane society is simultaneously an opposition to itself as a holy society, it closes the breach between autonomy and heteronomy and creates the germ of the new unity, the new theonomy. This and no other is the attitude of a church that is con-scious of the divinity of the divine. It is an attitude that is basically self-denying, but, for this very reason is creative in the broadest sense and new creation in the spirit of theonomy.

This attitude to all phases of culture and social life means at the same time refuting the one-sided conception of preaching the Word of God. Word is present, not only when one speaks and understands, but word is also present when something is made apparent and treated in effective symbols. Verbum is more than oratio. Protestantism has forgotten that to a great degree. Verbum, word of revelation can be in everything in which the spirit expresses itself, even in the silent symbols of art, even in the works of the community and law. And therefore a church must be able to speak in all these forms. They must all become symbols for the word of revelation. And that means nothing other than that the whole life of society in every direction is destined to be strongly symbolical of God. Church and society are destined to become one.

Such a church, such a society we do not have. We have indeed a church in which the echo of the word of revelation transmits itself in writing and tradition; we have indeed a society in which in all fields the pure form of thinking and acting, knowledge and justice are served. But the symbols of the Church have become strength-less. The "word" no longer sounds through its speech. Society no longer understands it. And vice versa the work of society has become empty, and into its vacuum powers of the anti-divine, of the untrue and unjust, have forced their way, the very powers which it wanted to escape. Its symbols are demonic rather than divine. That the Church cannot give society and its life meaning and depth, cannot speak in powerful symbols of that which stands beyond church and culture, and that society does not bring to the Church full and living forms wherein divine truth and divine justice can express themselves, is the wicked aspect of the situation in which we find ourselves. But that we know of this wickedness; and that we no longer believe we can redeem culture through the Church or the Church through culture—this is the first and most important sign of salvation.

Thus we arrive at the question as to what is to be done. No new religion is born of religion, and no new culture of culture and no new unity of both is born of both. However, all this is created through revelation. Therefore the will for the new church or new society is irreligious and unspiritual. The new church and the new culture and the unity of both grow out of the new revelation, or rather (since always and everywhere there is only the one revelation) out of the new awakening of the word of revelation. A new awakening, however, cannot be made, but only received. First of all and decisively then the answer is: we can do nothing. More harmless but just as impossible is it to wish to make new symbols in culture and religion. Symbols also grow and are not made. And it has been evidenced that they grow most creatively at the point where revelation breaks through. It is by the prophetic personality and not through the priests of religion nor the leaders of culture that the decisive symbols are created. But to try to make a new church or a new culture with the help of new symbols is to attempt to evade the word of revelation.

Therefore we cannot do the decisive thing. What we can do is to pave the road. Thus it always was and thus it must remain in all epochs that long for revelation. The Church can prepare the way, by placing itself and its forms under the judgment of the old word of revelation and freeing itself of all forms that have lost their symbolic strength, and opening itself up to the work of the law, which culture has achieved in obedience. And culture can prepare the way by realizing the emptiness of the mere form, of service to the law, in all its own functions, in natural and technical science, in art and philosophy, in law and economics, in the social and the personal, in society and state; and thus becoming capable of listening to the word of revelation and filling itself with the living content of grace, which breaks through the law. There are many in society and many in the Church who can prepare the way. When there are enough, and when their waiting and their action have become profound enough, then a new "Kairos," a new fullness of time will have arrived. We all are involved in this growth, some nearer the Church, others nearer society, but none wholly without one or the other. Therefore we are all responsible for both: for the Church, that it may become free from itself and open to the word of revelation; for society, that it fill itself with a living substance and be able to create symbols in the service of the word of revelation—neither, however, for itself but for that which is more than culture and religion and to which both bear witness.

Viewed 105158 times.