Monday, 14 April 2008

Eat this

At the University of Chicago Divinity School there has been an annual "Baptist Day" for many years, when leaders of that denomination in Illinois are invited to the School. Their supports is encouraged, and those who go bring their packed lunches and sit and eat together on a grassy knoll in between listening to theologians. One year the Divinity School invited the late Dr Paul Tillich to speak. Tillich was born in Germany in 1886, and in 1933 he went to Union Seminary, New York. On that "Baptist Day", Tillich lectured on the resurrection of Jesus, giving his restitution theory: that the resurrection took place in the "ecstatic" experience of the disciples, and that it restored Jesus to the dignity of the Christ in their own minds; that it probably belonged to the time prior to Peter's confession, but it was not an event belonging to the time after the death of Jesus. Tillich told them that the resurrection of the body was a symbol expressing the truth of "essentialism", and that heaven and hell were to be taken seriously, but not literally.

The lecture was long, almost two hours, and given with a strong German accent. Then there was a question time. An old minister rose to his feet: "Docta Tilick, I got a question." The congregation turned round and looked at him. He slowly lifted an apple out of his lunch bag and took a bite. There was an embarrassing pause. "Docta Tilick .... my question is very simple (munch, munch) ... I don't know much about essentialism, nor about this restitution theory (crunch, crunch) ... and I don't speak a word of German ... All I wanna know is this ... This apple I'm eating (chew, chew) ... is it bitter or is it sweet?" The plain white-haired man was old, and from a minority race, and so he could not be belittled. In exemplary scholarly fashion Dr. Tillich replied courteously, "I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven't tasted your apple." The white-haired preacher dropped the remains of the apple into his lunch bag, looked at Dr. Paul Tillich and said calmly, "Neither have you tasted my Jesus." There was a smattering of applause in the room.

Daniel: Servant of God under four kings, Geoff Thomas, Bryntirion Press, 1998, p25-26

No comments: