Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought

Protestant Orthodoxy. Pietism.

We finished yesterday the theology of the Reformers. The next section is a lecture which would ordinarily last one semester, four hours a week, on the development of modern Protestant theology. But what we can do with these last two hours is to give a kind of survey on the rhythm in which Protestant theology has developed in the last 350 years. This development is important not only in itself, from the historical point of view, but also because elements of everything which has been created within this development are in your minds, souls and bodies, and you cannot get rid of it without knowing it Therefore I believe, negatively and positively it is of extreme importance to have a history of Protestant theology or at least, if this is impossible, to show the tides – because this whole development is like a tide going up and down; but each wave and each low tide is different from the other.

Now the immediate wave which followed the Reformation period is the period we usually call Orthodoxy. Now Orthodoxy is a great and serious thing, much greater and much more serious than what you call Fundamentalism, in this country, which is a product of a reaction in the 19th century, and which is a primitivized form of classical Orthodoxy. Classical Orthodoxy was great theology. We can say it was Protestant Scholasticism, with all the refinements and methods which the word “Scholastic” includes. Therefore, when I speak of “Orthodoxy,” I mean the way in which the Reformation established itself as an ecclesiastical form of life and thought, after the dynamic movement of the Reformation had come to an end. It is the systematization and consolidation of the ideas of the Reformation, partly in contrast to what I said before about the Counter-Reformation.

As such, Orthodox theology always was and still is the solid basis of all coming developments, whether these developments – as was mostly the case – were directed against Orthodoxy, or whether they were attempts of a restoration of Orthodoxy. In both cases, they are dependent on it. Liberal theology, up to today, is dependent on the Orthodoxy against which it fights. Pietism is dependent on the Orthodoxy which it wants to transform into subjectivism. the present-day and former restoration movements try to restore what was once alive in the Orthodox period.

Therefore we should deal with this period with much more seriousness than it is usually done in this country. I can tell you that in Germany, at least, and I think everywhere in European theological faculties – France, Switzerland, Sweden, etc. – every student of theology was supposed to know by heart the doctrines of at least one classical Orthodox theologian of the post-Reformation period, be it Lutheran, be it Calvinistic; and that in Latin Now even if we forget about the Latin today, we should know these doctrines, because they are the classical system of Protestant thinking. And it is a state of things of which I would say that it is unheard of, that the Protestant churches of today largely don’t even know the classical expression of their own foundations – namely, the Orthodox dogmatics – -so that you cannot even understand, really, even the opposition to them: you cannot understand people like Schleiermacher or Ritschl, or American liberalism or social-gospel theology, without understanding that against which they were all directed, and on which they are dependent – as everything which is against something is dependent on that which it is against; you know when you are against your parents, and your parents against you, or husband against wife. And in this sense, all theology of today is dependent on the classical Orthodox systems. So the next lecture should be a seminar on one of the classical Orthodox systems Now all this has to be done in a short time. re should be a seminar on one of the classical Orthodox systems, and then we could go beyond it. This shows the shortcomings in our theological education.

Orthodox theology was not only theological, it was also political. It was political, because of the necessity to define the religious status in the political atmosphere of the post-Reformation period. It was a period which prepared the ThirtyYears’ War, in which the Roman Empire, namely Germany, and the German emperor, demanded that every territory define exactly where it stands, because this was the basis of its legal acknowledgment within the unity of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation.