In Paul Tillich’s book, Systematic Theology, he talks about the belief that humans have a quest for the New Being and meaning for Christ. Our existence is considered finite in terms of freedom and as a “bondage of will”, as proposed by Martin Luther. It is said to be only applicable to man and not nature because we have freedom and are spontaneous. Even though we are free and filled with the fulfillment of joy, people cannot live out their lives without God. There must be an established union with God. Religion is considered to be one of the most significant functions of life where we seek a New Being and the truth for Christ. The personal connections and reunion with God are at the basis for a religious belief. Religion specifically, is classified as a function of life that provides a sense of meaningfulness where hope rests. It is a source of hope that always helps followers seek beyond the hardships that are endured on a daily basis. As humans, self-salvation is an opportunity and gift that is given to humans from Jesus dying on the cross. It is a gift of sacrament; however, it becomes distorted when you put yourself before God. It ends up becoming an artificial relationship.
In terms of the meaning of Christ, Jesus or the “Messiah” was the one chosen by God to save humans from sin. He can be classified as the one that confirms an expectation for a new being or reality. A Messiah is defined as the anointed one or the one who conquers the enemies, and establishes peace and justice. Traditionally, the Messiah transforms the existence of history and is embodied by a group, or in similar terms a religious affiliation that share common beliefs. Followers of Christ believe that a New Being is achieved through Him. He is the bearer and mediator in a relationship with God where one seeks a New Being. Christ is the one who represents God to humanity and shows God what humans ought to be. Jesus was made in human likeness and takes on the human form that mankind can relate and connect with. God is shown to humans as the saving unit in the predicament of sin that is rested with since birth. Tillich provides an in-depth understanding of the meaning behind Christ, but the symbol of Christ is often left unnoticed and often avoided. Historically, humans have used light or a human figure for example to symbolically represent God but there is still little reasoning according to Tillich as to why.
In addition to the meaning of Christ, Tillich also emphasises the use of revelation, how God makes himself known, as answers for the existence of our life. He believed that there was some sort of correlation between God’s existence and the signs that are told through the Bible. In regards to systematic theology specifically, it is an area that focuses on how the religious truths of the Bible and other forms of scripture can directly be related to our own lives. The brief twenty pages of Systematic Theology, stresses the importance of reason for its use when explaining how God’s existence is necessary for the purpose of humanity. It is considered as a condition of existence according to Tillich. He defines reason, in terms of the mind and reality, as “the processes of being, existence, and life” (Tilich 81). Therefore, if people establish a sense of reason in their own lives, their meaning of life can be tied to the reason for existence; that being Jesus Christ. God is the main figure that humans praise and thank solely because of his role as the one that shapes the world. He reveals himself to us in a way that is recognized by those who believe in Him and understand the commitment that is placed before oneself if they are willing to sacrifice one’s own life for believing in Him.
Tillich also discusses connections between essence and existence. According to him, human beings exist and have essence, and the world is an expression of the essence of God. In terms of the Fall, it is the transition from essence to existence in which he ties in the involvement of Adam and Eve. The biblical reference shows that nature is a piece that participates in good and evil, not just the creation of man. It is said that existence is the state where the relationship with God has been ruptured through sin. With sin in the world, it is up to us humans to transform man’s very being. Jesus Christ, who was sent down from God, is the bridge between essence and existence. Because of this, faith is a necessity for a “New Being” in a personal life. Those who commit themselves and participate in faith are those who are transformed. The state of being human is the beginning of what is expected with eternal life after our time runs out on Earth. It is encouraged that humanity follows and praises Christ in the things that we do, further providing a reasoning for our existence.
While staying on this topic of sin, it is common to see how sin removes us from Christ and God. Tillich defines sin as “a state of things in which the holy and the secular are separated, struggling with each other and trying to conquer each other” (Tillich 218). Sin is a common theme discussed by Tillich throughout his book and my designated section of choice. He explains how God is Holy, but humans separate themselves from God since we are born sinners. However, God is the one who reaches out and helps restore and bless the connection we have with him. It is up to each individual to develop a relationship with Christ so that it is not a one way accord where we are the ones breaking it off. That is why we are called to Him and glorify him in our lives. This was hinted and talked about thoroughly in the previous paragraphs.
Systematic Theology was a common concept used by Tillich in explaining how God’s existence is meaningful for humanity. As a matter of fact, he even wrote a book on the whole concept of it with three different volumes. Systematic theology is defined as the “application of God’s Word by persons to all areas of life” according to John Frame as referenced by Stephen Wellum. Systematic theology requires that we interpret scripture and apply it to the various forms of life. There is a construction process that allows us to interpret our meaning for life and connect with God that gives a better understanding for why each and every one of us were created. Systematic theology gives us the ability of interpretation. We are able to have beliefs about who God is and how we should live as Christians. What people believe directly influences how they live out their lives. Scripture, in terms of systematic theology, is the source of Christian doctrine. Our class discussion tied in Felker Jones and how church traditions, human reason, and our experiences stand under the authority of scripture.
Revelation was an area of discussion used in Tillich’s use of systematic theology that is directly tied to God’s existence. It is defined by Tillich as how God makes himself known to us without directly speaking to us. This directly ties in our lecture discussion on Revelation and the area of importance on the supreme manifestation of nature and the purpose of God. He reveals himself to us and shows us what is true and needed. He is expressed to us in a way that reflects his own being. This is in terms of giving yourself up with the basis of love in the community around you. In terms of its connection to how God’s existence makes life meaningful, Thaddeus Metz and Richard Swinburne both provide some sort of insight to this question. Metz’s area of focus is towards a God-centered theory where he attempts to explain what makes a human life meaningful. According to the idea of his views and those of the purpose theory, it is understood that God holds us to a certain degree of purpose that will ultimately be a part of a larger picture in the world. An individual’s life would be considered useless if he or she does not pursue a life directed toward God or with some sort of meaning behind it. Swinburne has a similar approach where he talks about the meaning of life of humans before death if there is a life after death. He asks the question in regards to why humans were created and what would be the purpose to the existence of humans. It is understood from him that God created us for the existence of life. God is the one who gives us reason for the nature of things and the understanding as He attempts to satisfy our needs.
Lastly, Tillich vaguely touched on the image of Christ in terms of a symbol. He touched on the concept of the cross and incarnation, and how God saves people from their sins. Experiences of despair or “sin” might lead one to believe that God does not exist and therefore would not contribute to the meaning of life. Suffering is something that all human beings encounter in their lives; however, Christians believe that suffering has a sense of meaning to it. The Bible is a perfect source that shows how God is to be perceived and is shown to us. 1 John 1:5 directly tells us that “God is light” and that light is the nature and character of God. Therefore, God is everything light and darkness is everything that is essentially evil and filled with sin. In terms of our class discussion on Christian art, it shines a “light” on how the image is perceived as seen in historical paintings. The paintings early on in history showed God taking on characteristics and qualities. Later on as time progressed, it was a common theme to see Him taking on the form of a bright light coming down from the heavens. This takes on the biblical meaning that is seen in 1 John 1:5, Genesis, Proverbs, Psalms, etc.
After conducting various forms of research, I would accept the arguments put forth by the texts of Paul Tillich, Thaddeus Metz, Richard Swinburne, and Erik Wielenberg all supporting my topic of God’s existence making life meaningful for humanity. Before this research project, I had a very vague understanding of our existence. I had attended a Catholic church my entire life, went to Mass, occasionally read the Bible, but I truly didn’t understand the meaning for why God chose me to be a part of the world that He created. This project allowed me to tie in my curiosity of existence with theology. Paul Tillich gave me a deeper understanding and interpretation for the correlation between the Bible and the belief that God exists through systematic theology. Beforehand, I hadn’t known that I had been using this type of theology my entire life with the beliefs of the church and scripture. Tillich also tied in biblical references, especially those of The Fall, in order to enhance a stronger connection for Christ and God’s reasoning. When originally brainstorming about a topic, I wouldn’t have thought that Adam and Eve would be used when talking about our existence on Earth.
On the contrary, Tillich writes about the New Being and Jesus being a paradoxical. However, I don’t truly agree with the fact that paradox is not a necessity for the New Being to be revealed to humans. Tillich’s views on incarnation do not necessarily align with mine. He believes that incarnation is a characteristic of paganism and not Christianity. Tillich believes that phrases such as ‘the Son of God’ are dangerous and have no meaning or don’t necessarily make sense in relation to God.
If I were to write a research paper knowing the effort it took to put together this research project, I would spend more time digesting the primary source. This will give me more concrete information that I can pick and take topics that support and contradict my own views furthermore. In terms of the research project, I found it very difficult to transfer the information and the concepts written by Paul Tillich into writing. It was hard to grasp his reasoning on some of the claims he aimed to make. With more time, I could really put concrete information into written text. In the end, I felt that this project built on and strengthened my ability to research and pick out information that was useful for the area of discussion in my paper. This project was surely beneficial to in terms of my research, writing, and understanding of theology.