Three: On the Idea of a Theology of Culture

What is Religion?
by Paul Tillich

Three: On the Idea of a Theology of Culture

1. Theology and Religious Philosophy

In the empirical sciences one's own standpoint is something that must be overcome. Reality is the criterion by which what is right is measured, and reality is one and the same. As between two contradictory standpoints, only one can be right, or both can be wrong. The progress of scientific experience must decide between them. It has decided that the earth is a body in space and not a flat, floating plate, and that the five Books of Moses stem from various sources and not from Moses himself. Standpoints opposed to this are wrong. Scientific progress has not yet decided who is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Among the various hypotheses only one, or none, is correct.

The situation is different in the systematic cultural sciences; here the standpoint of the systematic thinker belongs to the heart of the matter itself. It is a moment in the history of the develop-


ment of culture; it is a concrete historical realization of an idea of culture; it not only perceives but also creates culture. Here the alternative "right or wrong" loses its validity, for there is no limit to the number of attitudes which the spirit can adopt toward reality. There is a Gothic and a baroque style in aesthetics; a Catholic and a modern Protestant dogmatic theology; a romantic and a puritanical code of ethics; but in none of these pairs of alternatives is it possible simply to call one right and the other wrong. Therefore it is also impossible to form useful universal concepts of cultural ideas. The true nature of religion or art cannot be learned through abstract reasoning. Abstraction destroys what is essential, the concrete forms, and necessarily neglects any future concretizations. Every universal concept in cultural science is either useless or a normative concept in disguise; it is either an alleged description of something that does not exist or an expression of a standpoint; it is a worthless shell or it is a creative act. A standpoint is expressed by an individual; but if it is more than individual arbitrariness, if it is a creative act, it is also, to a greater or lesser degree, a creative act of the circle in which the individual moves. This circle, with its peculiar spiritual quality, has no existence apart from the cultural groups that surround it and the creative acts of the past on which it rests. Thus, in the same way even the most individual standpoint is firmly embedded in the ground of the objective spirit, the mother soil from which every cultural creation springs. From this soil the concrete standpoint derives the universal forms of spirit. And viewed from there, it finds its own concrete limitation through the ever narrower circles and historical components of concrete spiritual quality, until, by its own creative self-expression it develops the new individual and unique synthesis of universal form and concrete content. There are three forms of nonempirical cultural science which correspond


to this: philosophy of culture, which is concerned with the universal forms, the a priori of all culture; the philosaphy of the history of cultural values, which, through the abundance of concretizations, constitutes the transition from the universal forms to one's own individual standpoint and by so doing justifies the latter; and finally, the normative science of culture, which provides the concrete standpoint with a systematic expression.

Thus the following distinctions must be made: between the philosophy of art, i.e., a phenomenology of art, and a presentation of art within a philosophy of value concerned with the essence or value of "art" on the one hand, and "aesthetics," i.e., a systematic and normative presentation of what must be considered as beautiful, on the other hand. Or between moral philosophy-which asks "What is morality? "-and normative ethics, which asks "What is moral?" The same distinction must be made between philosophy of religion on the one hand and theology on the other. Theology is thus the concrete and normative science of religion. This is the sense in which the concept is used here, and in my opinion it is the only sense in which it is entitled to be used in any scholarly context. By this means two allegations are refuted. First, theology is not the science of one particular object, which we call God, among others; the Critique of Reason put an end to this kind of science. It also brought theology down from heaven to earth. Theology is a part of science of religion, namely the systematic and normative part. Second, theology is not a scientific presentation of a special complex of revelation. This interpretation presupposes a concept of a supernaturally authoritative revelation; but this concept has been overcome by the wave of religious-historical insights and the logical and religious criticism of the conception of supernaturalism.

It is therefore the task of theology, working from a concrete


standpoint, to draw up a normative system of religion based on the categories of philosophy of religion, with the individual standpoint being related to the standpoint of the respective confession, the universal history of religion, and the cultural-historical standpoint in general. This is no hidden rationalism, for it recognizes the concrete religious standpoint. Nor is it hidden supernaturalism, such as may still be found even in our historical-critical school of thought, for it is the breaking down of all the authoritarian limitations upon the individual standpoint by means of a philosophy of history. It is oriented to Nietzsche's notion of the "creative" on the basis of Hegel's concept of "objective-historical spirit."

One final word on the relation between a philosophy of culture and a normative systematization of culture: they belong together and each exercises an influence over the other. Not only is theology oriented to philosophy of religion, but the reverse is also true. As indicated at the outset, any universal philosophical concept is empty unless it is at the same time understood to be a normative concept with a concrete basis. Accordingly, this does not constitute the difference between philosophy and the science of norms, but the fact that each works in a different direction. Philosophy provides universal, a priori categorical thought forms on the widest empirical basis and in systematic relationship with other values and essential concepts. The normative sciences provide each cultural discipline with its content, with what is peculiar to it, with what is to be regarded as valid within the specific system.

Out of the power of a concrete, creative realization the highest universal concept gains its validity, full of content and yet comprehensive in form; and out of a highest universal concept the normative system acquires its objective scientific significance. In


every useful universal concept there is a normative concept; and in every creative "norm" concept there is a universal concept. This is the dialectic of the systematic science of culture.

2. Culture and Religion

Traditionally, systematic theology has included theological ethics as well as dogmatics. Modern theology usually divides the system into apologetics, dogmatics, and ethics. What is this peculiar kind of knowledge which assumes a place beside the general philosophical subject of ethics under the name of theological ethics? To this one can give various answers. One can say that philosophical ethics is concerned with the nature of morality and not with its norms; in which case the two differ from each other as do moral philosophy and normative ethics. But why should normative ethics be theological ethics? Philosophy, or better the science of culture, cannot refrain from producing a system of normative ethics of its own. Insofar as both now claim to be valid, we would then have admitted in principle the existence of the old double truth in the sphere of ethics. But one can also say: the moral life likewise tends to become concrete, and in ethics, too, there must be a standpoint that is not only the standpoint of an individual but also stems from a concrete ethical community in historical contexts. The church is such a community.

This answer is correct wherever the church is the dominating cultural community or wherever culture is under the leadership of the church and not only ethics but also science, art, and social life are controlled, censored, kept within limits, and systematized by the church. In Protestant areas, however, the church has long ago abandoned any claim to do this. It recognizes an overlapping cultural community outside the church, where the individual view


point is rooted in the contemporary viewpoint of the cultural community in general. There is no more room for a system of ethics, aesthetics, science, or sociology based on theological principles than there would be for a German or Aryan or bourgeois system of the same kind, although these concretions naturally play an important part in the actual shaping of the individual standpoint. Once a secular culture has been recognized in principle by the church, there is no longer any question of a theological system of ethics-nor of a theological system of logic, aesthetics, and sociology.

My assertion now is the following: What was essentially intended in the theological system of ethics can only be realized by means of a theology of culture applying not only to ethics but to all the functions of culture. Not a theological system of ethics, but a theology of culture. This calls for a few remarks on the relation of culture to religion. Religion has the peculiarity of not being attributable to any particular psychic function. None of the theories advanced either by Hegel, who assigned religion to the theoretical sphere of the mind, or by Kant, who assigned it to the practical sphere, or by Schleiermacher, who assigned it to the realm of feeling, has survived. The last theory is the one nearest to the truth, inasmuch as it signifies the indifference of the genuinely religious realm toward its cultural expressions. But feeling accompanies every cultural experience without necessarily justifying its being described as religious. However, if a definite feeling is meant, then with this certainty a theoretical or practical element is already given. Religion is not a feeling; it is an attitude of the spirit in which practical, theoretical, and emotional elements are united to form a complex whole.

In my opinion, the following is the way of systematizing which most nearly approaches the truth. If we now divide all cultural


functions into those through which the spirit absorbs the object into itself-i.e., intellectual and aesthetic functions, grouped together as theoretical or intuitive-and those through which the spirit tries to penetrate into the object and mold it after itselfi.e., the individual and the socioethical functions (including law and society), which is the practical group, we find that religion can become operative only in relation to a theoretical or practical attitude. The religious potency, i.e., a certain quality of consciousness, is not to be confused with the religious act, i.e., an independent theoretical or practical act containing that quality.

The connection between religious principle and cultural function now enables a specifically religious-cultural sphere to emerge: a religious perception-myth or dogma; a sphere of religious aesthetics-the cultus; a religious molding of the person-sanctification; a religious form of society-the church, with its special canon law and communal ethic. In forms like these, religion is actualized; the religious principle only exists in connection with cultural functions outside the sphere of religion. The religious function does not form a principle in the life of the spirit beside others; the absolute character of all religious consciousness would break down barriers of that kind. But the religious principle is actualized in all spheres of spiritual or cultural life. This remark, however, seems to have set new boundaries. In every sphere of cultural life there is now a special circle, a special sphere of influence of "the religious." How are these spheres to be defined? Here indeed is the field of the great cultural conflicts between church and state, between the religious community and society, between art and cultic form, between science and dogma-conflicts which occupied the first centuries of the modern era and which have not yet entirely ceased. No conflict is possible as long as the cultural functions are held by a heteronomy dominated by religion; and it


is overcome as soon as the cultural functions have won complete autonomy. But what happens then to religion? The autonomy of the cultural life is thr~atened, and even abolished, as long as science stands in any way side by side with dogma; or society side by side with a "community"; or the state side by side with a churchall of them claiming definite spheres for themselves alone. For through this a double truth, a double morality, and a double justice come into being, and one out of each pair has its origin not in the legitimacy of the cultural function concerned but in an alien kind of legitimacy dictated by religion. This double existence must be abolished at all costs; it is intolerable as soon as it enters consciousness, for it destroys consciousness.

The solution can only be found through the concept of religion. Without offering proof, for that would mean writing a miniature philosophy of religion, I shall present the concept of religion I presuppose here. Religion is directedness toward the Unconditional. Through existing realities, through values, through personal life, the meaning of uncoriditional reality becomes evident; before which every particular thing and the totality of all particularsbefore which every value and the system of values-before which personality and community are shattered in their own selfsufficient being and value. This is not a new reality, alongside or above other things: that would only be a thing of a higher order which would again fall under the No. On the contrary, it is precisely through things that that reality is thrust upon us which is at one and the same time the No and the Yes to every thing. It is not a being, nor is it the substance or totality of beings; it is-to use a mystical formula-that which is above all beings which at the same time is the absolute Nothing and the absolute Something. But even the predicate "is" already disguises the facts of the case, since we are here dealing not with a reality of existence, but with a


reality of meaning, and that indeed is the ultimate and deepest meaning-reality which shakes the foundation of all things and builds them up anew.

At this point it now becomes clear without further reference that one cannot speak of special religious spheres of culture in the true sense of the term. If it is the nature of fundamental religious experience to negate the entire cognitive sphere and affirm it through negation, then there is no longer any place for a special religious cognition, a special religious object, or special methods of religious epistemology. The conflict between dogma and science is overcome. Science is in full possession of its autonomy, and there is no possibility of a rule of heteronomy exercised by religion; but in exchange for this, science as a whole is subordinated to the "theonomy" of a fundamental religious experience which is paradoxical. The same holds good of ethics. It is impossible, for a special code of personal or communal ethics in relation to the religious object to exist side by side with an individual or social code of ethics. Ethics, too, is purely autonomous, entirely free of all religious heteronomy and yet "theonomous" as a whole in the sense of the fundamental religious experience. The possibilities of conflict are radically eliminated. By that the relation of religion to culture is clarified in principle. The specifically religious spheres of culture have in principle ceased to exist. The question of what importance may still be attached to them can only be decided after the question of the meaning of a theology of culture has been answered.

3. Theology of Culture

Various references have been made in the last few pages to an autonomy and theonomy of cultural values. We have to follow


these up still further: that is, I would like to propose the hypothesis that the autonomy of cultural functions is grounded in their form, in the laws governing their application, whereas theonomy is grounded in their substance or import, that is, in the reality which by these laws receives its expression or accomplishment. The following law can now be formulated: The more the form, the greater the autonomy; the more the substance or import, the greater the theonomy. But one cannot exist without the other; a form that forms nothing is just as incomprehensible as substance without form. To attempt to grasp import disengaged from form would constitute a relapse into the worst kind of heteronomy; a new form would immediately come into being, now opposing the autonomous form and limiting it in its autonomy. The relation of import to form must be taken as resembling a line, one pole of which represents pure form and the other pole pure import. Along the line itself, however, the two are always in unity. The revelation of a predominant import consists in the fact that the form becomes more and more inadequate, that the reality, in its overflowing abundance, shatters the form meant to contain it; and yet this overflowing and shattering is itself still form.

The task of a theology of culture is to follow up this process in all the spheres and creations of culture and to give it expression. Not from the standpoint of form-that would be the task of the branch of cultural science concerned-but taking the import or substance as its starting point, as theology of culture and not as cultural systematization. The concrete religious experiences embedded in all great cultural phenomena must be brought into relief and a mode of expression found for them. It follows from this that in addition to theology as a normative science of religion, a theological method must be found to stand beside it in the same way that a psychological and a sociological method, etc., exist along-


side systematic psychology. These methods are universal; they are suited to any object; and yet they have a native soil, the particular branch of knowledge in which they originated. This is equally true of the theological method, which is a universal application of theological questioning to all cultural values. We have assigned to theology the task of finding a systematic form of expression for a concrete religious standpoint, on the basis of the universal concepts of philosophy of religion and by means of the classifications of philosophy of history. The task of theology of culture corresponds to this. It produces a general religious analysis of all cultural creations; it provides a historicalphilosophical and typological classification of the great cultural creations according to the religious substance realized in them; and it produces from its own concrete religious standpoint the ideal outline of a culture penetrated by religion. It thus has a threefold task, corresponding to the threefold character of the cultural-systematic sciences in general and the systematic science of religion in particular:

1. General religious analysis of culture

2. Religious typology and philosophy of cultural history

3. Concrete religious systematization of culture

Attention must be paid to two things in regard to the culturaltheological analysis. The first is the relation between form and substance. Substance or import is something different from content. By content we mean something objective in its simple existence, which by form is raised up to the intellectual-cultural sphere. By substance or import, however, we understand the meaning, the spiritual substantiality, which alone gives form its significance. We can therefore say: Substance or import is grasped by means of a form and given expression in a content. Content is accidental, substance essential, and form is the mediating element. The form


must be appropriate to the content; so there is no oppos1uon between the cultivation of form and the cultivation of content; it is rather that these two represent one extreme, and the cultivation of substance represents the other. The shattering of form through substance is identical with the loss of significance of content. Form loses its necessary relation to content because the content vanishes in the face of the preponderance of the substance. Through this, form acquires a quality of detachment, as of something floating freely in space; it is directly related to substance; it loses its natural and necessary relation to content; and it becomes form in a paradoxical sense by allowing its natural quality to be shattered by the substance. This is the first point to which attention must be paid; for it is precisely in the substance that the religious reality appears with its Yes and No to all things. And this is the second point: the relation between the Yes and the No, the relation and the force in which both find expression. There are innumerable possibilities here, because the relations and the reciprocal interactions are infinitely rich in possibilities.

But there is also a certain limitation: and this leads us to the second task assigned to theology of culture, the typological and historical-philosophical task. A limitation is given by the aforementioned image of the line with the poles of form and substance (or import) respectively. This image leads us to three decisive points representing the three fundamental types: the two poles and the central point where form and substance are in equilibrium. From this may be derived the following fundamental classifications for typology: the typically profane or secular and formal cultural creation; the typically religious-cultural creation in which the substance or import is predominant; and the typically wellbalanced, harmonious, or classical cultural creation. This universal typology now leaves room for intermediate stages and transitions and is extraordinarily varied by reason of the different con-


crete forms of religion which it covers. If this doctrine of types is applied to the present and systematically related to the past, a historical-philosophical classification develops which then leads us directly to the third and, properly speaking, systematic task of theology of culture.

How far can the theologian of culture be at the same time a religious-cultural system-builder? The question has to be answered first from its negative side. It is impossible as far as the form of the cultural functions is concerned; that would be a forbidden infringement and would amount to cultural heteronomy. It is possible only from the side of substance, but substance only attains cultural existence in forms; to this extent it must be said that the theologian of culture is not directly creative with regard to culture. The theologian of culture as such is not productive in the sphere of science, morals, jurisprudence, or art. But he adopts a critical, negative, and affirmative attitude toward autonomous productions on the basis of his concrete theological standpoint; he draws up with the material at hand a religious system of culture by separating this material and unifying it again in accordance with his theological principle. He can also go beyond the material at hand, but only in making demands and not in fulfillment; he can reproach the existing culture because he finds nothing in its creative acts which he can acknowledge as an expression of the living substance in himself; he can indicate in a very general way the direction in which he visualizes the realization of a truly religious system of culture, but he cannot produce the system himself. If he attempts to do so, he ceases to be a theologian of culture and becomes in one or more ways a creator of culture; but in so doing he steps over to the full and completely autonomous criticism of cultural forms, which often leads him with compelling force to goals quite different from those he wished to attain. Herein lies the limitation of the task of systematization assigned to the theologian


of culture: but his universal significance also originates here. Far removed from every restriction to a special sphere, he can give expression from the standpoint of substance to the all-embracing unity of the cultural functions and demonstrate the relations that lead from one phenomenon of culture to another, through the substantial unity of the substance finding expression in them; he can thereby help, from the viewpoint of substance, to bring about the unity of culture in the same way that the philosopher helps from the viewpoint of pure forms and categories.

Cultural-theological tasks have often been posed and solved by theological, philosophical, literary, and political analysts of culture ( e.g., Simmel); but the task as such has not been understood or its systematic meaning recognized. It has not been realized that in this context it is a matter of a cultural synthesis of the greatest importance, a synthesis that not only embraces the various cultural functions but also overcomes the culture-destroying opposition of religion and culture by a design for a religious system of culture in which the opposition of science and dogma is replaced by a science religious in itself; the distinction between art and forms of cultus is replaced by an art religious in itself; and the dualism of state and church is replaced by a type of state religious in itself, etc. The task of theology of culture is only understood if it is seen within so wide a scope. Some examples should serve to explain and lead further.

4. Cultural-Theological Analyses

In what follows I want to limit myself mainly to the first, or analytical, part of cultural-theological work, with occasional references to the second, or typological part, since I do not wish to introduce at this point a concrete theological principle


without offering proof; that, however, would be necessary for the completion of the historical-philosophical and systematic task of theology of culture. One or two indications with regard to systematization, however, will make some appearance m the course of the analysis.

I begin with a cultural-theological consideration of art-to be precise, with the Expressionist school of art in painting, because it seems to me to offer a particularly impressive example of the above-mentioned relation between form and substance; and because these definitions were worked out partly under its influence.

To start with, it is clear that in Expressionism content has to a very great extent lost its significance, namely content in the sense of the external factuality of objects and events. Nature has been robbed of her external appearance; her uttermost depth is visible. But, according to Schelling, horror dwells in the depths of every living creature; and this horror seizes us from the work of the Expressionist painters, who aim at more than mere destruction of the form in favor of the fullest, most vital and flourishing life within, as Simmel thinks. In their work a form-shattering religious import is struggling to find form, a paradox that most people find incomprehensible and annoying; and this horror seems to me to be deepened by a feeling of guilt, not in the properly ethical sense, but rather in the cosmic sense of the guilt of sheer existence. Redemption, however, is the transition of one individual existence into the other, the wiping out of individual distinction, the mysticism of love achieving union with all living things. This art therefore expresses the profoundest No and Yes; but the No, the form-destroying element, seems to me still to be predominant, although this is not what the artists, with their passionate will toward a new and absolute Yes, intend. Many of the remarks made by these artists confirm the exist


ence of a strong religious passion struggling for expression. It is no accident that in the lively debates carried on about these pictures, the enthusiastic representatives of Expressionism make constant references to philosophy and religion and even to the Bible itself. The religious meaning of this art is to a large extent consciously affirmed by its representatives.

And now for an example taken from philosophy. The autonomous forms of knowledge achieve perfect clarity in the NeoKantian school. Here we have a truly scientific-and unreligious -philosophy. Form rules absolutely. There are contemporary attempts to go beyond this, but that is harder in this field than in any other; during the idealistic period the experience of reality had engulfed the form too brutally. Not only that: · Neo-Kantianism had forged for itself a new form, which in the name of intuition opposed the autonomous forms of knowledge. This was not a struggle between the different fields of knowledge; it was the old struggle between a particular religious mode of cognition and a profane or secular one. It was a piece of heteronomy which science was compelled to counteract, and did counteract, most vigorously. If now a new movement toward intuition succeeds in gaining influence when the fight against the materialistic shadow of idealism has been completely won, then a mistrust on the part of science is understandable, but not necessary. For a new intuitive method can never attempt to compete with the autonomous methods of science; it can only find an opening where the substance itself shatters the form of these methods and where the way into the realm of the metaphysical opens up. Metaphysics is nothing but the paradoxical attempt to fit into forms the experience of the Unconditional which is above and beyond all form; and if at this point we look back to Hegel, there still being no outstanding metaphysics at present, we find one of the most profound accounts


of the unity of negation and affirmation, though it must be admitted that it has a strong optimistic tendency to raise affirmation above everything else. It does not include the experience of horror which is a fundamental part of Schelling's and Schopenhauer's work and should not be lacking in any modern metaphysics.

We come now to the sphere of practical values: first, to individual ethics. Nietzsche could serve as a splendid and characteristic example for a theology of culture in this sphere. His apparently totally antireligious orientation makes it particularly interesting to analyze, from the theological point of view, his doctrine of the shaping of the human personality. It should now be recognized that the; opposition between the ethics of virtue and the ethics of grace is contained in his message and that, since Jesus' fight against the Pharisees and Luther's fight against Rome, there is hardly a parallel case where the personal forms of ethics are shattered by the substance with such violence.

"What is the greatest experience you can have? The hour in which you say: What does my virtue matter? It has not yet made me rage!" But the virtue that makes men rage is beyond virtue and sin. The theological sentence of destruction hangs mightily over each individual: "Thou shalt wish to consume thyself in thine own flame. How wouldst thou be new again if thou wert not first burned to ashes?" But almost at the same moment the affirmation arises, with unparalleled fervor and passion, whether as a sermon by the Ubermensch or as a hymn to the marriage ring of rings, the ring of eternal return. This experience of reality which Nietzsche gained and contrasted with the personal goes so far beyond the individual-ethical form that he could be called the antimoralist kat' exoken (par excellence), just as Luther has to be stigmatized as the great libertine by all those whose personal thinking takes place within the categories of virtue and reward.


From the standpoint of form, it is simply paradoxical how an overwhelming metaphysical substance deprives the ethical contents (norms) of significance, shatters the form adapted to them, and then still, of its own volition, presents within this shattered form a higher order of becoming a person than would have been possible within those other forms. The person who, according to Nietzsche, is beyond good and evil, is just "better" from the absolute viewpoint, even if he is "worse" from the relative, formalethical viewpoint, than the "good and righteous man." The former is "pious," whereas the righteous man is "impious."

In social ethics, it is the new mysticism of love now stirring everywhere that signifies a theonomous overcoming of the autonomous ethical forms without a relapse into the heteronomy of a specifically religious community of love. If you take the speeches of the idealistic socialists and communists, the poems of Rilke and Werfel, Tolstoi's new interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount — everywhere the formal system of ethics of reason and humanity oriented to Kant is being eliminated. Kant's formulae of ethical autonomy, his demand that man should do good for the sake of the good itself, and his law of universal validity are unassailable principles of autonomous ethics; and no interpretation of ethics as a divine commandment or of love as the overcoming of the law can be allowed to shake this foundation; but the content of love overflows the narrow cup of this form in an inexhaustible stream. The world that merely exists and is split up into individual beings is destroyed and experienced as an empty, unreal shell. The man who thinks in terms of the individual can never attain to love, for love is beyond the individual; the man who thinks in terms of the end to be attained does not know what love is: for love is pure experience of being, pure experience of reality. The man who tries to impose a limit or a condition upon love does not know that love


is universal, cosmic, simply because it affirms and embraces everything that is real as something real.

Now we pass on to the theology of the state. This theology shows the substance embedded in the different forms of the state; it shows how this substance outgrows the form of the state, or, alternatively, how the form of the state stifles the substance. The rational theories of the state from which the autonomous state developed in the struggle against theocracy led to an abstract state floating above society, described in Thus Spake Zarathustra as "the coldest of all cold monsters." "Faith and love create a people, but the sword and a hundred greedy desires create the state" is a magnificent characterization of the unreligious power-state or utility-state. Nor does it help matters if we adorn this abstract, autonomous state with all the functions of culture and turn it into God on earth, as does Hegel; for then the spirit itself becomes a power-object or utility-ob;ect. The religious substance shatters the autonomous form of the state: that is the profoundest meaning of idealistic "anarchism," not to make way for a new theocracy but in favor of a theonomy built up from communities themselves and their spiritual substance. Even this is still a form of society-a state, but one created by negation, by the destruction of the autonomous form pertaining to a state; and this very paradox is the form of "anarchy." Such. a state, built up from cultural communities, a "state" in the paradoxical sense of the term, is what must be termed "church" in the sense of the theology of culture: the universal human community, built up out of spiritual communities and bearing with it all cultural functions and their religious substance, with the great creative philosophers for its teachers, artists for its priests, the seers of a new ethic of the person and the community for its prophets, men who will lead it to new community goals for its bishops, leaders and recreators of the economic


process for its deacons and almoners. For the economy, too, can be shattered in its pure autonomy and in its quality of being an end in itself, through the substance of the religious mysticism of love, which produces not for the sake of production but for the sake of the human being. Yet it does not curtail the process of production in accord with the principles of heteronomy, but directs it along the lines of theonomy as the universal form of the earlier, spedfically ecclesiastical care of the poor which has been eliminated on socialist territory along with the concept of poverty.

With this we want to close the list of examples. I have given so many of them that they amount almost to the outline of a system of theology of culture. They will in any case serve to illustrate what is meant. At this point now the question could be raised why the whole of the work is limited to the analysis of culture and why nature ( or technology) is excluded. The answer is that for us nature can only become an object through the medium of culture, if at all. For us, nature derives its sole importance from the functions of the spirit; and culture is conceived as both the subjective and objective embodiment of these functions. The essence of nature in itself is quite out of our reach, and we cannot even comprehend it sufficiently to be able to speak positively of such an essence. But as nature only becomes a reality to us through culture, we are justified in speaking exclusively of "cultural theology" and in rejecting a concept such as "natural theology." Any religious substance or import that may exist in nature lies in the cultural functions insofar as these are related to nature. The religious substance of a "landscape" is a religious-aesthetic phenomenon; the religious substance of a law of astronomy is a religiousscientific one. Technology can function in a religious way through aesthetic, socioethical, or legal interpretations; but in every case we find ourselves dealing with theology of culture, which unques


tionably comprises the whole of nature and of technology. An independent natural theology would have to presuppose the existence of a mythology of "nature in itself," and that is unthinkable.

5. Theology of Culture and the Theology of the Church

We still have to deal with a question that has been postponed several times: What happens to the specifically religious culture, to dogma, cultus, sanctification, community, and church? How far does a special sphere of holiness still exist? The answer must be based on the relationship of polarity existing between the profane or secular and the religious aspects of the line of culture. In point of fact, they are never apart; but they are separated in abstracto, and this separation is the expression of a universal psychological need. In order to experience anything at all, we are perpetually compelled to separate things that in reality are bound up together, so that our conscious mind may become aware of them.

A specific religious culture must already have come into being before we can experience religious values in culture, or develop a theology of culture, or identify and label the religious elements. Church, cultus, and dogma must already have come into being, and not only that, before we can conceive of the state as church, or art as cultus, or science as theory of faith. To be able somehow to comprehend the Holy and experience it as distinct from the profane or secular, we must take it out of context and bring it into a special sphere of cognition, of worship, of love, and of organization. The profane or secular pole of culture-the exact sciences, formal aesthetics, formal ethics, the purely political and economic aspects-claims our whole attention if it is not balanced by the opposite pole; a universal profanation and desecration of life would be inevitable if no sphere of holiness existed to oppose and


contradict it. This contradiction cannot be resolved as long as a distinction must be made between form and content, and as long as we are forced to live in the sphere of reflection and not in the sphere of intuition. This is one of the profoundest and most tragic contradictions of cultural life. But the importance of the progress made in recent centuries is revealed by the fact that we have learned the true nature of this conflict and have ceased to credit it with any real, fundamental significance, so that it has lost its residue of active power.

The relation of the theology of culture to the theology of the church is a consequence of this. Our whole development of this theme has taken culture and its forms as a starting point and has shown how culture as such receives a religious quality when substance or import flows into form, and how it finally produces a specifically religious-cultural sphere in order to preserve and heighten that religious quality. This sphere is one of teleo-logical, not independently logical, dignity. The church theologian now understands this sphere as the expression of a definite religious "concreteness," no longer derived from culture but with an independent history going back much farther than most other cultural creations. It has evolved its own forms, each with its separate history, its independence, and its continuity, in spite of all the influences exerted by autonomous forms of culture. Yes indeed, from its own nature it has exercised the very greatest influence on the evolution of these forms. That is an accurate statement of fact; but it is not adequate to decide the attitude that must be adopted toward theology of culture.

There are three possible attitudes that the church theologian can adopt toward culture. He can group all its aspe~ts together under the heading of "world" and confront this group with the "kingdom of God," which is realized in the church. The result is


that the specifically religious-cultural functions, insofar as they are exercised by the church, share in the "absoluteness" of the religious principle; and that there are absolute science, art forms, morality, etc.-i.e., those realized in the church, in its dogma, in its cultus, etc. Starting from this typically Catholic attitude, there is no possible road to a theology of culture.

The second possibility is the old Protestant attitude. Here church, cult us, and ethics are freed and seen in their relativity; but the cognitive tie, the idea of absolute knowledge as a supernatural revelation, is still retained. But since the period of the theology of the Enlightenment this position has been seriously shaken, for it is basically inconsistent; and the preference given to the intellectual sphere could no longer be justified, once the absoluteness of its only possible advocate, the church, had been allowed to lapse.

The task now facing present and future Protestant theology is to arrive at the third attitude. On the one hand, the distinction between religious potentiality and actuality, i.e., between religious principle and religious culture, will be strictly drawn and the character of "absoluteness" assigned only to the religious principle and not to any factor of the religious culture, not even that of its historical foundation. On the other hand, the religious principle will not be defined in purely abstract terms, nor will its concrete fulfillment be entrusted to every fleeting fashion of cultural development. Every effort, however, will be made to ensure the continuity of its concrete religious standpoint. Only if this !tttitude is adopted can there be any positive relation between theology of culture and the theology of the church.

In this relationship the church theologian is in principle the more conservative and the more selective, looking backward as well as forward. "The Reformation must continue" is his principle; but it is reformation and not revolution; for the substance of


his concrete standpoint is preserved and the new mold must be adapted to the old one in every field.

The theologian of culture is not bound by any such considerations; he is a free agent in the living cultural movement, open to accept not only any other form but also any other spirit. It is true that he too lives on the basis of a definite concreteness, for one can live only in· concreteness; but he is prepared at any time to enlarge and change this concreteness. As a theologian of culture, he has no interest in ecclesiastical continuity; and this of course puts him at a disadvantage as compared with the church theologian, since he is in danger of becoming a fashionable religious prophet of an uncertain cultural development divided against itself.

In consequence, the only relationship possible is one in which each is the complement of the other; and the best way of achieving this is through personal union, which is admittedly not always desirable, as types must be free to develop unhampered. In any case, a real opposition becomes impossible the moment the theologian of culture acknowledges the necessity of the concrete standpoint in its continuity, and the church theologian in turn acknowledges the relativity of every concrete form compared with the exclusive absoluteness of the religious principle itself.

The cultural-theological ideal itself, however, goes farther than the distinction between cultural theology and ecclesiastical theology. Yet it does not demand a culture that eliminates the distinction drawn between the profane or secular pole and the holy, for that is impossible in the world of reflection and abstraction, but it does demand one in which the entire cultural movement is filled by a homogeneous substance, a directly spiritual material, which turns it into the expression of an all-embracing religious spirit whose continuity is one with that of culture itself. In that case, the


opposition of cultural theology and church theology is eliminated, for it is only the expression of a split between substance and meaning in culture.

Even in a new, unified culture, however, the task of working on the predominately religious-cultural elements would be entrusted to the theologian, with the idea of producing a specifically religious community that would not differ in reality from the rest of the cultural community. Instead, and precisely in the manner of the pietistic communities in the seventeenth century, which liked to refer to themselves as ecclesiola in ecclesia, the church, as far as theology of culture is concerned, will be something like an ecclesiola in ecclesia to the cultural community as such. The church is the circle, as it were, to which is assigned-ideally speaking-the task of creating a specifically religious sphere and thus removing the element of contingency from the living religious elements, collecting them, concentrating them in theory and in practice, and in this way making them into a powerful-indeed, into the most powerful-cultural factor, capable of supporting everything else.

Let me add a few closing words on the subject of the most important supporters of cultural-theological work, that is, the theological faculties. What is the meaning of the theological faculties, and what significance do they possess in this particular connection? The theological faculties are regarded by science with suspicion, and rightly so, in two cases. First, when theology is defined as a scientific knowledge of God in the sense of one particular object among others. Second, when theology is taken to mean a description of a definite and limited denomination with authoritarian claims. In both instances the autonomy of other functions is threatened, even if outwardly they still seem to run independently side by side. A universitas litterarum, considered in terms of sys


tematic unity, is then not possible. These objections at once disappear when theology is defined as a normative branch of knowledge concerned with religion and put on the same level as normative ethics, aesthetics, etc. The meaning of "standpoint" in the cultural branches of knowledge must be made clear at the same time, as was done at the beginning of this lecture. Regarded from the standpoint of theology of culture, however, the theological faculties are not only entitled to the same rights as others, but acquire, as do the purely philosophical faculties also, a universal and outstandingly high cultural significance. The theological faculties then perform one of the greatest and most creative tasks within the scope of culture. The demand for the removal of the theological faculties originated in the age of liberalism and of individualistic and antithetical culture. Socialism, by reason of its enmity toward the existing churches, unhesitatingly took up this demand for removal; although the demand contradicts the nature of socialism, for its nature is that of a cultural unity. It must be admitted that socialism has no room for a hierarchy or theocracy or heteronomy of the religious, but in order to complete its own development it needs the all-embracing religious substance which through theonomy alone can free the autonomy of the individual and also that of the individual cultural function from their self-destroying isolation. For this reason we need theological faculties for the new, unifying culture springing from socialist soil; and the first and fundamental task of these faculties is a theology of culture. For nearly two hundred years theology has been in the unfortunate but unavoidable situation of a defender whose position is finally untenable and who is forced to relinquish point after point, and now must again take the offensive, after abandoning the last trace of its untenable, culturally heteronomous position. It must fight under the banner of theonomy, and under this banner it will conquer,


not the autonomy of culture but the profanation, exhaustion, and disintegration of culture in the latest epoch of mankind. It will conquer because, as Hegel says, religion is the beginning and the end of all things, and also the center, giving life and soul and spirit to all things.