Friday, May 20, 2011

HERE AND NOW: A REFLECTION BY PAUL TILLICH


In light of the latest end-times hype, I recall this wisdom from one the leading 20th-century theologians.

WHAT IS POSSIBLE FOR US?  "The goal of humankind is not progress toward a final stage of perfection; it is the creation of what is possible for us in each particular state of history; and it is the struggle against the forces of evil, old ones and new ones, which arise in each period in a different way.

THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.  "There will be victories as well as defeats in these struggles.  There will be progress and regressions.  But every victory, every particular progress from injustice to more justice, from suffering to more happiness, from hostility to more peace, from separation to more unity anywhere among us, is a manifestation of the eternal in time and space.  It is, in the language of the writers of the Old and New Testaments, the coming of the Kingdom of God.  For the Kingdom of God does not come in one dramatic event sometime in the future.  It is coming here and now in every act of love, in every manifestation of truth, in every moment of joy, in every experience of the holy.

THE PRESENT STRUGGLE.  "The hope of the Kingdom of God is not the expectation of a perfect stage at the end of history, in which only a few, in comparison with innumerable generations, would participate, and the unimaginable amount of misery of all past generations would not be compensated.  And it might even be that those who would live in it, as 'blessed animals,' would long for the struggles, the victories and the defeats of the past.  No!  The hope of humankind lies in the here and now, whenever the eternal appeals in time and history.  This hope is justified; for there is always a presence and a beginning of what is seriously hoped for."

(Quoted in Prayers for the Common Good, edited by A. Jean Lesher, 1998, Pilgrim Press.  Paul Tillich, one of the 20th century's outstanding Christian theologians, preached these words in 1965.)

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