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Tillich And Infidelity

Re Paul Tillich and infidelity, here’s the relevant bit from Eugene Peterson’s ‘The Wisdom of Each Other: A Conversation Between Spiritual Friends’ (Zondervan, 1998, pp.47-48) – a book worth reading. (I have multiple copies, if anyone’s interested):

‘I can appreciate the devastation you feel on discovering the false life of that pastor… you admired so much. But I wonder if it is quite the disaster you suppose it to be? I think it might even be a good thing (not the disaster, but your having to deal with it)… I remember once as a seminarian that I had become completely captivated by a theologian who seemed to me to embody everything that a theologian should be. He knew everything, had thought through everything, was conversant with all the ins and outs of the “present evil age,” and was able to re-say the Christian faith in ways that were profoundly true and immediately understandable – and in a German accent no less! And then I found out that he was a compulsive philanderer and a dabbler in pornography. I stormed into the study of my pastor, striking a tragic pose, and said, “I’m totally disillusioned!” He slapped his hand on his desk and said, ” Good! Who wants to go around stuck with a bunch of illusions! Jesus is not going to disillusion you.”

‘Initially, I was put off by his lack of sympathy but since then have appreciated his wisdom. He was right. We are in a fight for truth and God-reality – illusions are dangerous in this business. We need to know the human heart in this business. We need to know the human heart and the surrounding culture as they are, deceitfully wicked and infested with prowling lions.

‘The Christian life is not romantic. And it certainly doesn’t assume the best in everyone – particularly preachers. In some ways we assume the worst, but without despair, for it is because of this “worst” that we are in the salvation business, not out selling religious cosmetics.’


And some more random quotes from random sources::

Paul Tillich, the radical German theologian of the last generation, fascinated by Buddhism, attempted to change his god and his worldview, but never quite succeeded. After a life of sexual infidelity and debauchery, he declared to his wife Hannah at the beginning of his stay at the hospital at the onset of death: “My poor Hannachen, I was very base to you, forgive me.”


What I found most disturbing about this book was the way in which the famous and distinguished are constantly being dragged down by their sexual quirks. One wants to believe that there are people somewhere who will not betray their principles the moment their erotic nerves are triggered. But this book is full of evidence to the contrary. The socialist theologian Paul Tillich is exposed as a seducer, liar and reader of pornography; once more we are treated to the pathetic ruses resorted to by T.E. Lawrence in order that he should receive his regular quota of thrashings from a naive young Scot called John Bruce.

From a review of

The Misfits: a study of Sexual Outsiders by COLIN WILSON

(grafton books)



In affirming the centrality of the concepts of New Being and the courage to be, Daly is clearly affirming the partial revelation of Tillich’s theological system. Yet Tillich himself was firmly entrenched in the patriarchal system, a fact clearly attested by his penchant for sadist pornography (Daly 1978[1990], 94-95).

http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/mwt/dictionary/mwt_themes _905_daly.htm


Paul Tillich’s erotic life provoked his wife Hanna to portray him in From Time to Time as an undisciplined womanizer given to erotic sex and pornography. Surely a sex addict enslaved to the erotic will not expound a balanced view of eros and agape. Without awareness of a seriously flawed life one might not thoroughly critique his theory. But do moral flaws translate into correlative intellectual flaws? Thomas suggests that if “reason or conceptual thought can transcend its personal, social, cultural, historical context” the thinker’s moral/political life may not be relevant to the assessment or perhaps even the interpretation of the thought, and vice versa.”

Jesus sheds some light on the complexity of relationships between thought and life. He affirms that the self’s moral implications are directly relevant to human thought (“a good tree bringeth forth good fruit,” Matt. 7:17). There is some entailment between ontology and ethics and conduct. One’s lifestyle reflects one’s doctrine. But the connection is not solely logical; it involves the volitional also. Jesus affirms: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32) and “if anyone chooses to do God’s will, he shall find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” John 17:7). The natural man is morally enslaved; extended spiritual disobedience expands alienation. The content of intellection is not unrelated to man’s volition. Spiritual comprehension is not a byproduct only of learning skills but is assisted also by obedience to truth already known. The Christian’s supreme role model is Christ Jesus; the apostles urge their disciples to follow them as they follow Christ (Phil. 4:9; I Pet. 1:21).

Carl F H Henry http://www.iclnet.org/pub/facdialogue/24/henry24


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