what do you put in place of scinece to prove theology?


Paul Tillich

Athesits are always talking about how stupid theology is. "I don't have to read the theology because I know it's stupid." I hear various ones (not all but many) say that all the time. I would like them to actually read some theology and tell me why it's stupid. Here is some theology for them to read. They are always saying "what else would you use but scinece?" What that really means is their self selected set of facts form scinece that back their ideology, excluding those that disprove their ideology. My answer to them is "phenomenology." But you have to read this to know how it works.

Enter Tillich

Born August 20, 1886, in Starzeddel, then a province of Brandenberg, Germany (now part of Poland), family moved to Berlin 1900. His father was a Luthern Pastor. He was ordained as a Luthern Pastor in 1912 and kicked around giving lectures at various universities: Berlin, Dresden and Frankfurt.[i]

His liberalism and opposition to the Nazi movement led to his dismissal in 1933. Fortunately, Reinhold Niebuhr, whom he had met in Germany, offered him a position at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. Tillich became a U.S. citizen in 1940, then took up a position at Harvard in 1954, followed by one at the University of Chicago in 1962, where he was to remain until the end of his life.[ii]

Paul Tillich is the central figure in the current effort; Heidegger is definitely a major influence upon Tillich. Be that as it may the great Theologian did not merely copy off the philosopher’s understanding of being. Tillich was a influenced by Heidegger philosophically, but was also his political enemy. The former was a leftist and a socialist, the latter a right-winger and Nazi. Tillich was coming from the perspective of a larger tradition; Christian theology is not all Aristotelian, there’s a whole Platonic wing that produced centuries of complex and brilliant ferment form which the average communicant is totally cut off. That tradition also has it’s own take on being. Tillich lived in that tradition like a fish lives in water. Perhaps it was Heidegger’s connection with the “life world” that gave him his connection to Nazism through the notion of the folks, the soil, the people and their traditions.[iii] It’s easy for us to judge looking back on Nazism as the emblematic evil, while we forget many intelligent people were duped by it. Perhaps it was Tillich’s connection with the medievalists and his love of the Platonic that enabled him to see the valuable connections in Heidegger’s ties to the past. Tillich was not a dusty scholar, however, stuck in the library with no connection to the life of the day. He was a vibrant intellectual of modernity and he constantly tried to bring his medievalism into the present and understand it in a modern light. He used Heidegger to modernize. Nevertheless, in the world of their present, however, Germany of the 1930’s these arid philosophical issues took on a concrescence of life and death.

Tillich’s response to the political situation of his day was a proving ground for his theological method, and he responded to the crisis of Germany in the twenties and thirties the same way he responded to modern theology; by relating the human situation in which he lived to the larger picture of faith and the Christian and seeking the psychological points of contact where the human perception of God manifested it in symbolic terms pointing to our ultimate concerns. Tillich contrasts “Kerygmatic” theology with “apologetics.” Kerygma refers to the unchanging truth, and this contrasted with the temporal situation, always in flux.[iv] Tillich’s concept of “the situation” includes the cultural context of time and place. Tillich is the embodiment of his own concerns. He more than any other theologian of the twentieth century, personified liberal theological credo; translating the timeless truth of the Gospel into the moment in one’s own cultural context, as he advocated doing.

Tillich’s major methodological move is called “correlation.” In a nut shell, he correlates the great truths of Christian doctrine, though an understanding of the symbols it uses, with the existential apprehensions within the current situation, when the two stack up in some way, he lined them up.[v] Tillich understood this as a philosophical task, even for theologians. The task of the philosopher must draw upon material from all realms of culture.[vi] One central question give focus to the entire inquiry: what does it mean to exist? Tillich understood this as an “existential” analysis. The cultural context of this term as used in that era meant that the question was central to human understanding.[vii] The term “existential” is closely related to phenomenology. Both deal with allowing the sense data to suggest the categories into which we organize the data. Both deal with human understanding as rooted in its own immediate life situation. It begins with the perspective of the individual in the concrete situation. One immediate implication of this aspect is that it might suggest that we ignore the phony Aristotelian perspective of which atheists try to hard to root themselves, the “rational man,” the “scientist” (meaning “reductionist”) who decides before the tally is ever made that there can’t be anything beyond the material. This “rational man” is a phony place to start because it automatically rules out the transcendent, the sacred, the aspects of human existence that have always meant the most to people. It assumes form the beginning that there’s “nothing there” and reality must be defined by pre set ideology involving the wearing of white lab coats.

As the term “existential” implies, the perspective is concerned with the meaning of existence. According to Tillich’s perspective of the existential self understanding rooted in the standard point of the meaning of existence was the primary issue and fundamental problem around which all of human understanding orbits. “Existence is the question which underlies all other questions.”[viii] Yet Tillich did not pin the answer upon existentialist dogma. Nor did he root the answer in the situation itself. The answer would not come from the situation but from the universal and timeless message brought by the symbols of the Christian faith. This is no retreat to the ivory tower; it’s an attempt to bring the truth of the message to the place where it is needed, the actual concrete situation of life, and to apply in a relevant way. Tillich said “the method of correlation explains the content of the Christian faith through existential questions and theological answers in mutual interdependence.”[ix]

The term “correlation” Tillich uses in three different ways. It can indicate the correspondence of a series of different sets of data; it can designate the interdependence of concepts; or it can designate the real interdependence of things in structural wholes.[x]

There is a correlation in the sense of correspondence between religious symbols and that which is symbolized by them. There is a correlation in the sense between concepts denoting the human and those denoting the divine. There is a correlation in the factual sense between man’s ultimate concern and that about which he is ultimately concerned. The first meaning of correlation refers to the central problem of religious knowledge…the second meaning of correlation determines the statements about God and the world, for example the correlation of infinite and finite. The third meaning of correlation qualifies the divine human relation within religious experience…[xi]

This is a crucial passage in Tillich, because these concepts, his take on symbols and their participation in what they symbolize, the use of symbols as the delivery system for revelation, meaning, answers, as well as the religion of the eternal and the temporal, these are the concepts which form the basic engine of his ontotheology. [xii] In the next chapter these concepts will be crucial in formulating the meaning of “being itself, “ or “the ground of being.” There has been a certain degree of fear expressed by various theological concerns that correlation relativizes the divine or makes God dependent upon man. Tillich argues that God is not dependent upon man but our understanding of God’s revelation to us is dependent upon our willingness to understand. Solidarity between humans and the divine is dependent upon our willingness to be in solidarity.[xiii] Thus it is also dependent upon our wiliness to seek correlation.

The methodology of correlation proceeds as follows: In analyzing the human situation the theologian demonstrates that symbols used in the Christian message offer answers to the existential questions that arise. The answers are much older than existentialism. Tillich points out that they are as old as humanity and they have been expressed in many ways since humans began to think philosophically.[xiv] In pondering our existential condition we realize that we are strangers in the world and we can’t penetrate beyond the surface level of science. In coming to grasp this realization we also realize that we ourselves are the answer to this problem. Because we are human, because we are trapped in an existential dilemma we automatically have the credentials and the method for moving beyond the surface level, which is the level of science, and penetrating the nature of being. Though our state as examples of being for itself we are able to understand the nature of existence. This is where we can employ philosophical thinking in understanding our own being. “whoever has penetrated into the nature of his own finitude can find the traces finitude in everything that exists. And he can ask the questions implied in his finitude as the question implied in finitude universally.”[xv]

The Scientific Argument

At this point I can hear the critics, the atheist reader saying “this approach still has none of the virtues of science.” The argument would say science is the only reliable and systematic means of verification for claims one makes about reality. Reliable and systematic are important, and that leads to the concepts of verification, prediction, replicability. Without scientific methods there are no way to guarantee such things, those are the bottom line of scientific work. The more ideologically oriented critic is going to be saying “this is all made up, this is just philosophy, and philosophy is made up crap, only with science can you have this assurance that you have a factually based solid principle.” I’ve already discussed the problem with that concept. Their “factually based” principles are based upon a selective set of facts. It should be enough to point out the ideological nature of a line of thinking to cast doubt upon it. We’ve already discussed the limitations of science. The argument originally is that science can’t get at God. God is beyond our understanding, not given in sense data, the basis of reality, and thus can’t be an object of empirical study. Given the fact that science is not available we are looking for alterative. This is not a matter replacing science with a mutually exclusive from of discovery. It’s a matter of what to do with the gaps where science can’t function.

First, there is an inherent foolishness in expecting theology to do what science does. The skeptics don’t like theology, they don’t want theology to do its job, they don’t understand its job. For atheists science is their er zots religion; it functions for them as a religion. They see theology as transgression against science because it’s a competing form of religiosity. Yet since science is limited in its ability to grasp the divine, it’s not a fit tool for the job. At least in the sense of replacing theology totally, science is not the tool. The skeptic is going to have to allow theology to do what it does, of course that assumes the skeptic listens long enough to get some idea of what theology is supposed to do. We can’t have scientific results, but we should not expect them. We can use science in a way that employs them where divine aspects overlap with empirical data, but we can’t expect the kind of “certainty” and selective pretense of “factual” view point that we from science. The ideology of scientism, the view that says only science counts as knowledge, doesn’t offer the sort of certainty it pretends to, it is merely the pretense of objectivity. The scientistic ideologue cuts off reality at the point where her data ends. If the scientific method cannot be used to deliver certainty then the scientistic adherent just assumes that there is no reality beyond that point. Reality is trucked and closed in on itself as only that which can be controlled through empirical understanding. There is a tendency among legitimate scientific thinkers to follow in the wake of the ideology. This demand for certainty and factualism is actually a bid for control. Phenomenology teaches us to open up to possibilities, to accept that reality is bigger than our understanding. We are not seeking to control but to discover.

Secondly, my standard is global knowledge. I do not push to replace science with theology but to use all we have and use it in an appropriate way. We should use science in conjunction with theology in a manner that employs scientific thinking and methods when and where they are appropriate for the task. There are areas where science is used effectively to tell us something about theological truth; the M scale developed by Ralph Hood that measures the validity of one’s “religious” experience with respect to it’s “mystical” authentication. A huge body of empirical scientific work has been done to understand the effect of mystical experience upon the receiver of that experience.[xvi] Yet, we can’t translate that data into an argument about the existence of God without understanding the proper limits of science and then using theological method in its proper perspective. We should never expect the same kind of results with get with science. We can employ scientific understanding in those areas where we have the possibility of empirical results, and extrapolate from those results by means of deductive reasoning.

The Co-determinate and the Logic of the lamp post

The logic of the lamp post says you should not search for your missing car keys in the dark. You can’t find the keys in the dark so search under the lamp post. If they are to be found that’s where you could find them. One might question this logic on the grounds if we weren’t standing near the lamp post but over in the dark that’s where they will be. Yet there is a lamp post in the quest to answer the God question, that lamp post illuminates the most likely ground. The lamp post is the co-determinate, the concept of Schleiermacher, the “signature,” the trace, the marker that accompanies the presence of God; that would be the effect of experiencing the presence of God. I set out these concepts to a greater degree in The Trace of God.[xvii] This is not phenomenology, although there are overlaps. The Trace of God deals with a huge body of scientific work, mainly from psychology of religion (a much larger sub-discipline than most people realize). This body of work consists of several hundred studies (I say 200 to be conservative) All of which demonstrate that religious experience is life transforming; that is to say it dramatically and profoundly changing life long term is a positive way. This includes self actualization, emotional healing, physical health, mental health, across the board. Those who have such religious experiences are much less likely to be depressed or mentally ill and feel their lives are purposeful and meaningful and score higher on happiness scales than do their religious counterparts, much less unbelievers.

Over the years numerous claims have been made about the nature of spiritual/mystical and Maslow’s “peak experiences”, and about their consequences. Wuthnow (1978) set out to explore findings regarding peak experiences from a systematic random sample of 1000 persons and found that peak experiences are common to a wide cross-section of people, and that one in two has experienced contact with the holy or sacred, more than eight in ten have been moved deeply by the beauty of nature and four in ten have experienced being in harmony with the universe. Of these, more than half in each have had peak experiences which have had deep and lasting effects on their lives. Peakers are more likely also, to say they value working for social change, helping to solve social problems, and helping people in need. Wuthnow stressed the therapeutic value of these experiences and also the need to study the social significance of these experiences in bringing about a world in which problems such as social disintegration, prejudice and poverty can be eradicated. Savage et al., (1995) provided clinical evidence to suggest that peakers produce greater feelings of self-confidence and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Mogar’s (1965) research also tended to confirm these findings.

Some researchers in the recent past have found that life satisfaction correlated positively with mystical / spiritual experiences, and these experiences were further found to relate positively to one’s life purpose (Kass, et al., 1991). In fact researchers are of the view that a positive relation between positive affect and mystical experiences may not be surprising given that intense positive affect is often considered to be one of the defining characteristics of these experiences (Noble, 1985; Spilka, Hood & Gorsuch, 1985). The few studies that investigated well-being measures, spirituality and spiritual experience have found that people who have had spiritual experiences are in the normal range of well-being and have a tendency to report more extreme positive feelings than others (Kennedy, Kanthamani & Palmer, 1994; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1995)…A study by De Roganio (1997) content-analyzed and organized into a paradigm case examples found in themes of 35 lived-experience informants and 14 autobiographers who represented a wide range of people with physical disability and chronic illness. It was found that the combined elements of spiritual transformation, hope, personal control, positive social support and a meaningful energetic life enabled individuals to improve themselves and come to terms with their respective conditions. These experiences led many people to realize their own interest, sense of wholeness and unity, and to experience and integrate a deeper meaning, sense of self and spirituality within their lives….Some studies have offered a spiritual approach to addiction problems. Caroll (1993) found that 100 members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) benefited from spirituality which was found to correlate positively with having a purpose in life and the length of sobriety. Frame and Williams (1996), in their study of religions and spiritual dimensions of the African-American culture, address the role of spirituality in shaping identity, and conclude that reconnecting AA clients to their powerful spiritual tradition may be a crucial catalyst for personal empowerment and spiritual liberation. The finding was confirmed in a later study by Wif and Carmen (1996). Another study reported by Green et al., (1998) described the process of spiritual awakening experienced by some persons in recovery during the quest for sobriety. The data suggested that persons in recovery often undergo life altering transformations as a result of embracing a power higher than one’s self i.e., a “higher power”. The result is often the beginning of an intense spiritual journey that leads to sustained abstinence.[xviii]

The most important step in pulling together an understanding of the significance of this work was the development of the “M scale” (Mystical scale) by Ralph Hood Jr. the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Hood used the theories of W.T. Stace about the nature of mysticism to construct a questionnaire that measured how closely a person’s experiences conformed to the typology that Stace’s theory suggests.

The scale has been so successful it has become the standard operating procedure[xix] and replaces the former practice of the researcher trying to develop her own scale, a practice that led to as many scales as there were studies. The M scale is by far the most successful and has been cross culturally validated with great successes. It is based on the phenomenological categories of mystical study by W.T. Stace and makes certain assumptions of William James. Hood’s original measuring instrument, the REEM, was based upon the categories of James. The M scale follows the phenomenological development of Stace. The scale uses 32 items (these are questions that are asked of the subject). The items are organized with 16 Positive and 16 negatively worded. Independent studies supported Hood’s original design, (Caird, 1988, Reinert and Stifler, 1993).[xx] Originally M scale measured two factors: (1) Assesses items of an experienced unity (introvertive or extrovertive). (2) Assesses items of a experience of religious or non religious and knowledge claims. This is consistent with Stace’s concept that Mystical experience can be interpreted in many ways. Reinert and Stifler suggested religious items and knowledge items might emerge as separate factors. This would split the interpretative factors between religious and non-religious factors. That would not contradict Stace. There is a distinction between “spiritual” and “religious.” Mystical experience can be interpreted (as we have seen already) as “spiritual” without being thought religious, or as “mystical” without involving God. The two-item approach allows greater interpretation. But the interpretive factor was religious in nature. The assumptions made in the study and taken to answering the questions tended to be religious.[xxi]

Hood changed his strategy from two analytic factors to three (“the three factor solution”). The Three factor solution sets up three categories, which more closely follow the predictions of Stace based upon his reading of mystics and person experience. (“phenomenological”). The three categories for Stace were: Staces’ categories of Introvertive and extrovertive mysticism emerging as two separate factors. The third factor is an interpretive dimension where the respondent relates the experiences to knowledge claims (“God is love” or some such). Interovertive means the mystical experience is beyond word though or image, it is iner directed and not related to any outside phenomenon and I supposed to be beyond description. This will also be discussed more in chapter five (“Religious Apiori”). Extrovertive means the subject’s experience is related to nature or to some external image in the immediate environment, a sense of the numinous, the harmony underlying all of nature or something on that order.[xxii]

The M scale has been tailored to many different cultures and been verified and validated in a half dozen different countries, several cultures and religious traditions.

In a series of empirical measurement based studies employing the Mysticism scale introvertive mysticism emerges both as a distinct factor in exploratory analytic studies[xxiii] and also as a confirming factor analysis in cultures as diverse as the United States and Iran; not only in exploratory factor analytic studies (Hood & Williamson, 2000) but also in confirmatory factor analyses in such diverse cultures as the United States and Iran (Hood, Ghornbani, Watson, Ghramaleki, Bing, Davison, Morris, & Williamson. (2001).[xxiv] In other words, the form of mysticism that is usually said to be beyond description and beyond images, as opposed to that found in connection with images of the natural world, is seen through reflection of data derived form the M scale and as supporting factors in other relations. Scholars supporting the unity thesis (the mystical sense of undifferentiated unity—everything is “one”) have conducted interviews with mystics in other traditions about the nature of their introvertive mystical experiences. These discussions reveal that differences in expression that might be taken as linguistics culturally constructed are essentially indicative of the same experiences. The mystics recognize their experiences even in the expression of other traditions and other cultures. These parishioners represent different forms of Zen and Yoga.[xxv] Scholars conducting literature searches independently of other studies, who sought common experience between different traditions, have found commonalities. Brainaid, found commonality between cultures as diverse as Advanita-Vendanta Hinduism, and Madhmika Buddhism, and Nicene Christianity; Brainaid’s work supports conclusions by Loy with respect to the types of Hinduism and Buddhism.[xxvi]

The M scale developed by Hood has been validated by many studies in cross cultural context, while Greely’s Gallop Poll questions have been used both cross culturally and longitudinally.

The two major exceptions to the lack of shared instrumentation are the mysticism scale by Hood (1975) which has been used in quite a number of studies by Hood and others, and the repeated use of certain questions in survey research by Greeley and the Gallop Organization over a sixteen year period.[xxvii]

Holm (1982) “mysticism and intense experiences” demonstrates another level of cross-cultural validation.

Method: The author translated into Swedish several Hood scales designed to measure mystical experiences. The items describing religious experiences drawn from William James, on Hood’s (1970) Religious Episode Experience Measure (REEM) with narratives taken from Nordic anthologies. Eighteen teachers of religion and psychology each administered the scales to 6-9 persons.

Findings: The study replicated most of Hood’s findings with the same instruments. “The results of our empirical study of mysticism in a Finnish-Swedish environment largely coincide with Hood’s results in an American environment…The cross-cultural testing that some of Hood’s methods have received as a result of our research on another continuant and in another linguistic area means that the results have received a wider range of applications.[xxviii]

Holm (1982) presented a Swedish M scale administered to 122 Swedish “informants.” Factor I correlated best to non Christian profiles, while factor II worked best with those who had Christian assumptions. Holm accounts for a general mysticism factor and general religious factor. This parallels earlier research in Sweden (Solderblom—see Holm 82, 275-76) .[xxix]

The M scale has been validated with Iranian Muslims.

In a mostly Christian American sample (N = 1,379), confirmatory factor analysis of Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale verified the existence of Stace's (1960) introvertive and extrovertive dimensions of mystical phenomenology along with a separate interpretation factor. A second study confirmed the presence of these three factors in not only another group of Americans (N = 188), but also a sample of Iranian Muslims (N = 185). Relationships of the introvertive and extrovertive factors with the interpretation factor were essentially identical across these two cultures, but the Americans displayed a stronger association between the two phenomenology factors. In both samples, the interpretation factor correlated positively with an intrinsic and negatively with an extrinsic religious orientation, and the introvertive factor predicted psychological dysfunction. Associations of the interpretation factor with relative mental health appeared only in the Iranians. These data offered general support for Stace's phenomenology of mysticism, although the ineffability he linked with interpretation proved to be as much or even more a feature of the introvertive experience, as hypothesized by Hood.[xxx]/[xxxi]

Tillich doesn’t deal with that sort of empirical data. Yet he does begin with empirical religious experience (but does not offer scientific data) and basic concepts like the eternal vs. temporal, the object of ultimate concern and basic ontological concepts grounded in human experience. This lamp post logic enables us to start from an empirical position backed by concrete data. From there we can follow Tillich as he moves from the empirical to the ideal and the symbolic. He has a whole philosophy of the symbolic that understands symbol as participating in that which is symbolized. Thus God can be both a concrete reality and a symbol of human experience. The concrete data provided by these psychological studies and the M scale furnishes us with an understanding of the experience as the co-determinate of the divine, the concept of Schleiermacher. “God is co-present in religious self-consciousness.”[xxxii] The empirical work in psychology referenced by The Trace of God [xxxiii] offer a means of grounding divine/human encounter in the concrete and the measurable. Thus the experiences are established a rational warrant for the assumption of the co-determinate based upon their content and their concrete effects. The experiences offer grounding in the practical to establish the relationship to the transcendent.

Before we can proceed to applying the method to demonstrate that it is a viable method of understanding we must first understand what we are talking about. The central theme of my approach is Tillich’s concept of God as being itself, or as it should be known from historical Christian theology, the superessential Godhead. The next chapter will be a discussion of Tillich’s view in an attempt to explain what it means. That view is heavily laden with philosophical (especially ontological) assumptions. The next three chapters are about explicating this concept. After that I will deal with applying this method to demonstrate something in the way of a truth content that the reader can cling to. I say all of this in hopes that the reader will not being reading the next chapter while thinking “where’s the science! This is just philosophical garbage, how does he know this? Where’s the science?” Yet what one will see in the way of Tillich’s views in this next chapter, an explication of his systematic theology with regard to the concept of ground of being (being itself) will actually demonstrate the method in action. We will see Tillich reasoning out from human experience in the act of being, to conclusions based upon understanding Christian doctrine in light of phenomenological apprehension.

Depth and Eternity

Two major examples that we will see used in the next chapter, concepts of depth and the eternal; by” depth” Tillich speaks of being having depth, as in “there more to it than meets the eye,” and he also uses the phrase in relation to depth psychology. For him the depth of being means “deep” in these of more to it and hard to understand requires knowledge and thought. This is all a reflection of the psychological effects of our experiences in being.

The eternal is also important in understanding human experience. We can’t know the experience of the infinite or the eternal but we can know the experience of the temporal. The disjunction between the concepts, knowing the temporal and longing for the eternal, and the psychological effect that has on human understanding forms an important basis in understanding the nature of being and its depth. Thus in all of his ontology Tillich is reflecting this dialectical approach that works between historical doctrine and human experience. The two coordinate at some point, but doctrines are shaped by humans. Ultimately it’s all a reflection of our understanding of being as gathered first hand from our participation in being.