Process and Secular Theology: Tillich and Bonhoeffer

Introduction

It is not precise when the process of theology began, but it is generally held that it must have started way back in the 500 B.C., the era of Heraclitus, the Philosopher, and the Greeks (John & David, 2001). It is also postulated that Process theology was rejuvenated by Alfred Whitehead, whose assumption was that the universe was constantly experiencing change. Unlike the process thinking, secular theology has been associated with 1960s thinking, with its roots traced in the enlightenment age.

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Secular theology was extensively under the influence of neo-orthodox theology. Process theology had its roots in the Greek philosophies and was greatly influenced by the orthodox doctrines (Escobar, 2003). This essay proceeds by delving into the connection between the theology of Tillich and Process Theology and the connections between the thoughts of Bonheoffer and Secular Theology. It evaluates the process and secular theologies with regard to the validity of the nature of God.

The Process Theology

Process theology was furthered by Charles Hartshorne. In his teachings, Hartshorne rebutted classical theism. His teachings were predominantly based on pantheism. Hartshorne’s views drifted drastically from those of Whitehead regarding the idea of Gods existence. Whereas Hartshom believed there was God, Whitehead refuted the claims, positing that “God could only be conceived as having a primordial nature…” (Clayton, 2001).

However, both the teachings of Hartshorne and Whitehead were not in favor of conventional orthodox. In other words, the process theology, in its entirety, declined the scripture and rejected the notion of authority in the word of God (Clayton, 2001).

Process theology, in its most basic definition, may be said to mean the teaching of spirituality that has a modern-day interpretation of issues and tries to explain them using scientific theories. It has very strong opposition to and does not recognize conventional practices of the old doctrine church or orthodox beliefs (John & David, 2000). Practitioners of process theology believe that the bible can only be interpreted using individual views, thus rejecting the word of God as it is in the Bible. Process theologians hold that when humankind have different interpretations of Gods message, they get multiple servitudes to God, and consequently multiple presences of God (John, & David, 2000)

Process theologians also challenge the biblical views that Jesus Christ is the son of God; he could do miracles, and that he orchestrated his own death just to prove a point to the living souls. They further snub the idea that deliverance or salvation is an individual’s renewal of God’s promise soul-wise. In process theology, God is in two forms, in which case, He is in the center of ever continuing course of actions that shape and keep the earth in balance (Clayton, 2001). This theology unanimously concedes that gods have great influence in the cosmos, and the earth is in an unnoticeable sequence (Clayton, 2001). Process theology practices and promotes the theological study of nature, which is widely thought to have its roots in the United States of America. (Dorrien, 2004)

Alfred Whitehead, one of the pioneers of process theology and a renowned theorist, put forth an assortment of theories that attempted to put in plain words the existence of constituent elements of the universe, and the life forms in it, starting with the most omnipotent to the least recognizable (Dorrien, 2004)

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The Secular Theology

Secular theologians were for the idea that the conventional orthodox teachings and their pattern of interpretation were obsolete. Key personalities in the doctrine of secular theology were inclusive of Tillich, Bonheoffer, and Boltzmann. Bonheoffer is known for his secular theology of worldly Christianity; Tillich argued for “the Ground of Being,” whereas Boltzmann advocated for demythologization of the Scripture (Clayton, 2001).

Theology of secularism was the exclusion of religious beliefs and religious views. The use of “secular” in this theological context implied “the transfer of ecclesiastical to civil use,” and therefore, secular theology was not secularism as it might be understood, but it was “a theology of secularization”(Clayton, 2001). The theology of secularization adjudged the death of God, and the secular theology taught rendered the doctrine of orthodox worthless (Clayton, 2001).

The secular movement gave birth to people who were against the orthodox doctrine. The orthodox Christianity view of the biblical principles became a myth that had no proof or evidence, and they viewed God as a mythical creature. The same applied to Jesus Christ and the story of creation, both of which were more of fairy tales during the age of enlightenment and secular theology practices of the day (Dorrien, 2004).

Tillichs Theology

The Tillich theology and concept was brought in to existence by Johannes Tillich. His principles questioned or tried to authenticate the truthfulness of the creation story, the nature and deity of God, and the salvation story as brought about by the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ. (Clayton, 2001). To Tillich was concerned, the arguments for or against belief in God as the supreme creator of the universe, or the big bang theory as a source of the universe, tended not to support or dispute any of the concepts put forward (Grenz, & Olson, 1992). In his systematic theology.Tillichs argues that there is no God.

Bonheoffers Theology

Dietrich Bonheoffer brought about two controversial theological points of view. His first point of view was that humanity had become completely self-conscious. This was because humanity was finding more ways of testing theologies and myths in order to prove for themselves the truths and misconceptions that they contained (Clayton, 2001). According to Bonheoffer, his time presented an age in which humankind had principles and levels of knowledge that had reached the ultimate point of understanding (Woelfel, 2001). Humanity could now question anything and come up with all forms of theories, arguments, tests, and facts that would argue for a given concept or against a given conception (Woelfel, 2001).

The second point of view presented by Bonheoffer revolved around Christianity and religion. He believed it was an age when people understood the point of separation between Christianity and religion. The two, Christianity and religion, could exist independently from each other, and Christianity without religion or religion without Christianity depended on how individuals looked at it (Woelfel, 2001).

Conclusion

Tillichs theology held that the debates regarding the existence of God neither denied nor approved the claims. Process theology asserted everything, including God, were at perpetual change, and therefore it really depended on where one was in the course of change. Bonheoffers theology brings forth the idea that the world was finally mature, and people could draw the line between Christianity and religion. Secular theory, on the other hand, perceived religion and Christianity as seen as myths, and therefore the conventional orthodox teachings and their pattern of interpretation were obsolete and invalid.

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Both the teachings of Hartshorne and Whitehead were not in favor of conventional orthodox. They had very strong opposition towards orthodoxy and did not recognize conventional practices of the old doctrine church or the orthodox beliefs. The Theology of secularism was the exclusion of religious beliefs and religious views. The secular movement gave birth to people who were by large against the orthodox doctrine.

In his theology, Tillich questioned or tried to authenticate the truthfulness of the creation story, the nature and deity of God, and the salvation story as brought about by the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ. And according to Bonheoffer, his time presented an age in which humankind had principles and levels of knowledge that had reached the ultimate point of understanding.

References

Clayton, C. (2001). “Secular theology: American radical theological thought.”Routledge. ISBN, 9780415250511.

Dorrien, J. (2004). “The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity.” Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Escobar, S. (2003). The new global mission: The gospel from everywhere to everyone. Downers Grove (IL). Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN-13: 9780830833016.

Grenz, S., & Olson, R. (1992). The 20th century theology: God and the world in a transitional Age. Downers Grove (IL). Inter-Varsity Press. ISBN-13: 0-8308-1525.

Hordern, W. (1955). A layman’s guide to Protestant theology: Revised Edition. Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN-13: 1-57910-925-X.

John B. C. & David R. G. (2000). “Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition.” Philadelphia:Westminster Press.

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Woelfel, W. (2001). “Bonheoffer’s Theology: Classical and Revolutionary.” New York: Abingdon Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, January 23). Process and Secular Theology: Tillich and Bonhoeffer. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/process-and-secular-theology-tillich-and-bonhoeffer/

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"Process and Secular Theology: Tillich and Bonhoeffer." StudyCorgi, 23 Jan. 2021, studycorgi.com/process-and-secular-theology-tillich-and-bonhoeffer/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Process and Secular Theology: Tillich and Bonhoeffer'. 23 January.

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