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Hermeneutical Critique of Its Logical Structure
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The Method of Correlation
in Paul Tillich's Onto-Theological System:
A Hermeneutical Critique of Its Logical Structure






Jae Hyun Chung
(Philosophical Theology, Sungkonghoe University)










I.     The significance of the Issue
II.    Expository Analysis of the Method
III.    Critical Evaluation of the Method











I.     The significance of the Issue

The term "theology" appears for the first time in Plato's critique of Homeric religion, and ever since Plato's critique theology indicates critical events in religion. The so-called theological enterprise has emerged when a mythical configuration appears to be irrelevant and its symbols that are coagulated in a religious scripture come into conflict with a breaking development of human consciousness. When the symbols devised to describe the human's encounter with the divine at a unique moment of history no longer coincide with his/her experience, theology tries to interpret the original symbols in order to integrate them within the context of a new situation: what was presented in myth is then only "represented" in theological interpretation. In a form of systematic reflection, theological interpretation transforms both the original symbols of religious scriptures and human consciousness pertaining to those symbols by establishing an equilibrium between them. However, no human situation is given in absolute nakedness. Only through the symbols of language which intrinsically include a set of interpretative framework can the significance and horizon of human thought and action be revealed and apprehended. Theology thus reconstructs the human horizon by interpreting its situation in terms of the canonic symbols: As apologetics, it tries to preserve the original symbols, but, by transferring the symbols of the religious scripture to a certain changed situation, it catalyzes the production and reinterpretation of symbols. Therefore, the task of theology may be considered as a dialectic of perseveration and transformation in an endlessly changing context.
The function of theology in the Christian Church remains, in accordance with the general characteristics of theology as such, basically preserved throughout its history.  Theology continually transformed the eschatological symbols to an ever changing historical situation and carried through this transformation with the help of Platonic and later, of the Aristotelian philosophy, turning the eschatological symbols into ontological symbols. Without this perpetual act of transformation the Christian community would have degenerated into a "narrow and superstitious" sect and the secular culture would have ignored this community without taking notice of it. The history of its self-transformation in theological enterprises, which began originally with the method of allegorical interpretation of religious scriptures was confronted with the historical criticism of religion in the nineteenth century. After the World War I, however, a new generation of Christian theologians arose that experienced the catastrophe of war in terms of eschatological symbols. The apocalyptic symbols of the New Testaments, symbols that had been the stumbling block for theology throughout the entire history of the Christian Church, suddenly spoke with immediacy and self-evidence that needed no further interpretation and justification. No allegorical translation seemed to be necessary, for only apocalyptic symbols could express and interpret the actual situation. With the trembling impact of the War, the human being has experienced itself as estranged in its social and cosmic setting as well as even from his/herself and could not help but feel alienated from the world of his/her own making. In this critical situation, Karl Barth appeared to proclaim the ultimate sovereignty of God in such a way that the divine and the human were put in antithesis, and that any attempt to approach the divine thus was unmasked as human hybris and illusion. By stressing this antithesis to the point of paradox, the Barthian theology discerned concretely the self-estrangement of human existence, but under the dogmatic title of "paradox" it fell sneakingly into some very unparadoxical stereotypes of Protestant orthodoxy.
It is in such a period of orthodox restoration that Paul Tillich appears to construct a dialectical theology in its authentic sense. Tillich seriously considers the charge that the history of theology represents a progressive amnesia, suppressing the eschatological meaning of religious symbols. He tries to escape the verdict of historical criticism by interpreting ontology in terms of eschatology, or by charging ontology with eschatological dynamics. For this purpose, he suggests his onto-theological construction upon which to interpret eschatological symbols in ontological terms without sacrificing their original meaning. In other words, he eschatologizes ontology and ontologizes eschatology in light of the existential situation of the human being. In Tillich's dialectical theology, the divine and the human are, unlike the Barthian formulation, all involved in the structure of being. God is the structure of being as Tillich himself explicitly states, but God is not subject to, or determined by, the structure of being. God is inexhaustible depth within the structure. The human and all of nature participate in the structure of being, but the human distorts it by his/her existential disruption. Here one finds the structure of being essentially exemplified amid its existential distortions in human history. Here one also finds incarnate the divine depths of the structure of being. This is the New Being manifested in Jesus as the Christ, wherein the essential or ideal structure of being is transparency to its unconditional depth.   
This is the major framework of Tillich's theological system in which he tries to make a structural combination of kerygmatic theology with apologetic theology. For Tillich, theology as the function of the Church is not to be partial in its emphasis on the one side at the expense of the other. His major concern is with keeping the structural balance between the polar structure of theological enterprise. Underlying this magnificent project is his method of correlation, in which existential questions and theological answers are formulated in mutual interdependence. Implied in this methodology is the element of reciprocity between question and answer, namely, between the human and the divine. At first glance, this method seems to be a sort of simple-patterned logic. However, a closer scrutiny of this method reveals that it is not the case; rather, this method is quite a complicated one in the sense that it includes the various meanings of the correlative relationships, not only between question and answer, between form and content, but also between philosophy and theology.
Furthermore, the intrinsic logical structure of the method of correlation itself would seem to be more problematic, unless definitely formulated and apprehended. The main question that will be dealt with in this study thus is as to whether Tillich's method of correlation has a circular type of movement in a closed-ended system which does not allow any sort of dialectical process or a spiral type in an open-ended system which signifies dialectical progression. Some critics argue that this method cannot help but fall into a vicious circle of reductionism because of the ambiguity in their origination and the impotence in their formulation of question and answer. But, it is my contention that Tillich's method of correlation is intrinsically based upon the spiral movement towards a dialectical progression of mutual development in its logical structure, and that, for this reason, it is consistent with, and authentic to, its own apologetic purpose. Within the context of this clarification, this study will be confined to the correlative relation between question and answer, for this relationship appears to be the most pertinent basis upon which to discuss the inner logical structure of the method of correlation.


II.    Expository Analysis of the Method

In his preface to Systematic Theology, Tillich states that his purpose is "to present the method and the structure of a theological system written from an apologetic point of view and carried through in a continuous correlation with philosophy." Thus his theological system is described as apologetic when it attempts to state the truth of the Christian message and give an interpretation of this truth for each generation. This apologetic motif dominates Tillich's theology, yet at the same time he focuses on the kerygmatic dimension of theology. Underlying this basic intention to make a cooperative balance between the apologetic and the kerygmatic dimensions of theology is his method of correlation. His theological methodology is such that it is intrinsically inseparable from his apologetic emphasis in his theological system. This is another way of saying that, for Tillich, theological method and theological content are mutually determinative.
For Tillich, a method is a way of examining and analyzing a field which is adequate to its subject matter. A norm as the criterion for the adequacy of method to its subject matter cannot be deduced a priori; rather, it is determined in the cognitive process itself. Thus he states:  

A method is not an indifferent net in which reality is caught but the method is an element of the reality itself.  In at least one respect the description of a method is a description of a decisive aspect of the object to which it is applied.   

This means that an epistemological or methodological dimension of the object of inquiry is inextricably related to its ontological structure. Tillich recognizes and accepts the so-called hermeneutical circularity in the relation of being and thinking in such a way that method and content are interrelated in the very process of inquiring into reality. This leads to the necessity of a method of correlation in order to preserve the ontological richness as the "ground" or "basis" of all things.
In clarifying his theological methodology on the basis of such ontological reflection, Tillich first identifies and rejects three conventional approaches. The first is the "supranaturalistic" method which identifies the Christian message with a body of revealed truths having a static and eternal quality. This method puts an emphasis on the divine transcendence so drastically that "no mediation to the human situation is possible." Since this method has no point of contact between the divine and the human, the structure of being is not applicable to a supranaturalistic God in any basic sense. In this approach, the kerygmatic center of the Christian message is preserved, but the denial of human receptivity can not but result in its irrelevance to the concrete human situation: "Man can not receive answers to questions he never has asked."
The second method which Tillich rejects is the "naturalistic" or "humanistic" method.  This method views the natural order as the source of the content of theology in such a way as to derive the message of Christianity from the human being itself in its natural state. In this approach, on the contrary, great significance is attached to the immanent dimension of human experience, and accordingly, religious practices are  viewed as the products of the evolutionary development of human capacities. To express this method in terms of the distinction between essence and existence, it confines itself either to essence or to existence. In either case it does not reach the ground of being, which is the source of both essence and existence, thereby lacking the quality of ontological depth. The decisive weakness of this approach is that it ignores the fact that human existence is essentially the question: "Questions and answers were put on the same level of human creativity."
The third method which Tillich finds inadequate is described as the "dualistic" method which "builds a supranatural structure on a natural substructure." This method has greater affinity with the method of correlation than do the two preceding methods, because, although it is aware of the "infinite gap between man's spirit and God's spirit," it realizes that a "positive relation" between the two does exist. This positive relation has usually been stated in terms of a "natural revelation" which stands in definite continuity with supranatural revelation. Since this method tends to stress the divine power at the expense of human creativity and culture on account of its hierarchical structure, Tillich rejects this approach and its theological effort to prove the existence of God on the basis of natural revelation as well. But, on the other hand, he affirms the significance of this method that it recognizes the human predicament and works out a solution based upon a positive relation between God and human beings.
Underlying Tillich's critical rejection of such inadequate attempts at methodological formulation is his dialectical synthesis, which is based upon the tradition of a "critically reinterpreted Augustinian-Franciscan ontology." This approach is based upon his fundamental presupposition that "man is immediately aware of something unconditional which is the prius of the separation and interaction of subject and object, theoretically as well as practically." Tillich attributes his concept of the "Holy" to the Augustinian-Franciscan understanding of the relationship of God and being [deus et esse], thereby establishing the structural connection between the ontological and the theological entities. Tillich's ontological enterprise in relation to theological system begins with the subject-object structure of reality or, in terms of the human being, the self-world polarity. Since the human being's immediate awareness of the Unconditioned [Das Unbedingte] is an experience which transcends the subject-object dichotomy, the only method available to theology is the method of correlation which links this transcendent experience with the ultimate questions raised by finite human existence. This is obviously affirmed by the fact that Tillich postulates a "mystical a priori " as the core concept of dialectical unity of the ontological and the theological ultimates. The aprioristic and dialectical approach to theological methodology necessitates the apologetic thrust, from which the central issue arises concerning the correlative relationship between existential questions and theological answers. In this sense, the method of correlation is understood as the device through epistemological reflection on the divine-human relationship or the human being's participation in both the finite and the infinite.
The method of correlation is, in fact, already implied in Tillich's emphasis on apologetic theology: "The method of correlation explains the contents of the Christian faith through existential questions and theological answers in mutual interdependence." On the one hand, there are philosophical analyses of the questions implied in human existence; on the other hand, there are religious symbols for the answers implied in divine self-manifestation, that is, "given" in revelation.  The juxtaposition of the two constitutes the apologetic task of theology. Robert Scharlemann's clarification with regard to the distinction of philosophical, religious, and theological assertions is helpful for our understanding of the role of theology in this context: "religious assertions are symbolic (referring to the depth of being), ontological assertions are literal (referring to the structure of being), and theological assertions are literal descriptions of the correlation between the religious symbols and the ontological concepts." This method , then, on the one hand, implies that concrete experience confronts the human with certain threatening dilemmas which fracture its ability to affirm life in its various dimensions. On the other hand,  the Christian message, in accordance with the correlative structure as such, speaks the word which confronts these dilemmas, heals existential problems, and grants it with the perspective and power to affirm itself.  
Tillich's method of correlation as such needs to be linked to his own definition of religion as "ultimate concern" and faith as the "state of being ultimately concerned."  In these two definitions there is a common element combining human subjectivity with divine reality. The method implies that no meaningful concept of God is possible without the human's  existential involvement; indeed, the human being can know God, though in part with an inevitable danger of distortion, only through his/her own experience, and only within the range of human finitude. Nor does this divine-human relation imply that God is dependent upon human existence.  God condescends to come to the human and make Godself real to human dimension through the structures of human life. As Joachim Track puts, "Gott ist in keiner Weise vom Menschen abhaengig. Gott macht sich aber in seinem Schoepfungshandeln vom Menschen abhaengig." Such a structural reciprocity or an experiential intersubjectivity between the divine and the human is, in Tillich's system, the onto-theological basis for the method of correlation.  
At this point  it is worthwhile to consider a more detailed statement by Tillich of the way in which he uses the method of correlation. The following passage will serve not only to illustrate the application of the method, but also to indicate the complex scheme of thought actually involved in what can be stated with apparent simplicity.  Tillich writes:

The method of correlation is especially the method of apologetic theology.  Question and answer  must be correlated in such a way that the religious symbol is interpreted as the adequate answer to a question, implied in man's existence, and asked in primitive, pre-philosophical, or elaborated philosophical terms.   . . .   The questions implied in human existence determine the meaning and the theological interpretation of the answers as they appear in the classical religious concepts.  The form of the questions, whether primitive or philosophical, is decisive for the theological form in which the answer is given.  And, conversely, the substance of the question is determined by the substance of the answer.  Nobody is able to ask question concerning God, revelation, Christ, etc., who has not already received some answer.  So we can say: With respect to man's ultimate concern the questions contain the substance of the answers, and the answers are shaped by the form of the questions.

The mutual dependence of questions and answers is more clearly explained in terms of the relation of form and content: "In respect to content the Christian answers are dependent on the revelatory events in which they appear; in respect to form they are dependent on the structure of the questions which they answer." This is another way of saying that revelation is received and interpreted as the answer not only for, but also by, the question. Here one can find that there is an inner distinction between substance (or content) and form for the relation of question and answer: The substance of the answers, namely, the revelatory events which can be grasped only in the experience of faith, is independent of the questions, while the form of the theological answers is dependent upon, and influenced by, the historical horizon of the existential questions.
Such is the basic structure of correlation that it implies the interdependence of the two independent factors, or "a unity of the dependence and independence of two factors" such as question and answer. The dialectical unity of question and answer can be clarified by examining the meaning of the term "correlation" in the realm of scientific discourse, where the three following aspects are found. First, it involves "the correspondence of different series of data." In this aspect Tillich views correlation as a correspondence between religious symbols and what is symbolized by them. This understanding of correlation grows out of the problem of theoretical knowledge, i.e., the necessity of using symbols in communicating one's immediate awareness of the Unconditioned under the conditions of historical existence. Second, correlation involves "the logical interdependence of concepts as in polar relationships." This aspect implies that there is a continual correlation between concepts referring to the human and those referring to the divine. And, finally, it involves "the real interdependence of things or events in structural wholes." This aspect refers to the human being's ultimate concern and that about which it is ultimately concerned. All these aspects of correlation refer to Tillich's understanding of the subject-object structure of reality, with the third and final one as the most overriding and comprehensive. In fact, the third meaning is the fundamental concept for the correlation of situation and message, with regard to which Joachim Track clarifies: "Grundlegend fur die Inbeziehungsetzung von ewiger Wahrheit und Zeitsituation ist die Korrelation zwischen Gott und Mensch im Sinne der dritten Bedeutung. Im religiosen Erlebnis kommt es zu einer realen gegenseitigen Beziehung von Gott und Mensch." On the basis of the dialectical character of correlation as such, Tillich stresses that correlation is not a static but a dynamic concept.  He resists any order of precedence, of deduction or induction, in the question-answer correlation.  The center and origin of correlation is a point where questions and answers are united.   The crucial question arises here concerning the nature of the inner logical movement in Tillich's method of correlation, the question which will be dealt with in the next section.
Due to the unifying structure of methodology, theology is supposed to undertake a dual task in the actual application of the question-answer correlation. On the one hand, it analyzes the human situation and formulates the questions of existence which arise out of such analysis; then, on the other hand, it seeks to show in what way the "symbols used in Christian message" provide the answers to these questions. Implied in this characterization of theology is the correlation of message and situation, and all the more, the correlation of philosophy and theology, for the analysis of existence which theology is called upon to make is in fact a philosophical task. In this connection, Tillich's following statement is worth noting: "Theology formulates the questions implied in human existence, and theology formulates the answers implied in the divine self-manifestation under the guidance of the questions implied in human existence." At first glance, this statement seems to be ambiguous and even confusing, for it apparently eliminates the philosophical project in terms of its correlative conjunction with theological formulation of questions and answers.  However, closer investigation reveals that Tillich's description of theological task already includes philosophical labor understood as an inherent part of the human venture. Thus, he contends: "Man is by nature a philosopher, because he inescapably asks the question of being. . . .  We philosophize because we are finite and because we know that we are finite."
The process of correlation can be further clarified by examining how Tillich employs the scholastic principle of the analogy of being [analogia entis] which he defines in terms of the ontological presupposition that "God as being-itself is the ground of the ontological structure of being without being subject to this structure itself."   According to this principle, God, as the ground and depth of the ontological structure of being, can be defined only analogically or symbolically because the depth transcends the limitation of existence. Thus, when the ontological elements of the structure of being are applied to the divine life, they are no longer in polar structures but in perfect identities. In this manner, Tillich applies this principle to the method of correlation, on the basis of which he explains the correlative relation between being and God, existence and Christ, life and Spirit, history and the Kingdom of God, with the first epistemological correlation of reason and revelation.
From the above, it becomes obvious that Tillich's theology exemplifies the two principles of continuity and discontinuity. Insofar as the structure of being is descriptive of the nature of the divine, there is continuity between the divine and the human.  But insofar as the depth of God transcends the structure of being or, to the extent that God is not determined by that structure, there is discontinuity between the human and the divine.  The fact of revelation makes both principles necessary. Unless there is continuity between them, there could be no revelation at all, for without human receptivity revelation would not be revelation in its reciprocal sense. Without discontinuity, there could be no disclosure of depth.  In such a way, revelation involves structural paradox.  
The polar tension of continuity and discontinuity between the divine and the human is, in the final analysis, structurally related to Tillich's distinction between form and substance of the theological answers in his theological methodology. Here the principle of continuity is reflected in the form of the answers while the principle of discontinuity is referring to the substance of the answers. It may be said that the principle of continuity has its own metaphysical foundation of naturalism whereas the principle of discontinuity has supranaturalism as its metaphysical basis. For this reason, Tillich's combining of these two principles seems apparently to be a sort of dualistic approach. But it should be clearly pointed out that his onto-theological endeavour to unite those two contrary principles together constitutes a "synthesis" in a form of dialectical unity, on the basis of which the method of correlation is established. Tillich's methodological construction as such thus is no doubt consistent with his thoroughgoing attempts to elaborate a theology of "self-transcending Realism" [glaeubiger Realismus], which is supposed to overcome supranaturalism as well as its naturalistic counterpart. He writes in a concluding manner:

The method of correlation,  . . . . , is at no point forced into the vicious debate between naturalism and supra-naturalism. It describes things as they show themselves to the religious consciousness in the light of the human situation, the questions implied in it, and the answers given to it by the Christian message. Theology has rediscovered its correlative and existential character. It has overcome a theology of objective statements and subjective emotions. It has become again a way of giving answers to the questions which are our ultimate concern.


III.    Critical Evaluation of the Method

As has been shown, Tillich develops the method of correlation in order to solve the apologetic problem of Christianity in regard to the modern mind. It is in fact aiming at the formulation of the synthesis of the message of Christianity and the concrete human situation in which the message must be received:

It tries to correlate the questions implied in the situation with the answers implied in the message.  . . It correlates questions and answer, situation and message, human existence and divine manifestation.  

The method of correlation is such that the correlation of questions and answers is the basis upon which Tillich's entire system of theological methodology is established. According to him, questions influence the mode of receiving answers, and answers influence the mode of formulating questions. To be sure, there appears a sense of reciprocity between questions and answers when he does not allow any order of precedence of deduction or induction in the question-answer correlation.  
Here our question arises concerning the nature of reciprocity characteristic of the logical movement in Tillich's method of correlation. On the one hand, critique can be made against reciprocity by pointing out that it is merely one-sided movement; that is, either from question to answer or from answer to question. Many have accused him of allowing the questions to predetermine the answers he gives. Others criticize him that he merely forges the questions in light of the answers he has already predetermined. In both cases of the critique, the logical structure of methodology is described as that of a unilateral type which does not allow any possible feedback from each other.   
On the other hand, Kenneth Hamilton appears to criticize Tillich's method of correlation as ambiguous and even inconsistent in the sense that it is not so much of a unilateral type as of a circular one. Hamilton vigorously points out that Tillich's method is derived from the inner circularity of his theological system built upon the postulate of essential divine-human unity. According to him, every question in Tillich's method actually contains presuppositions limiting the possible answers that can be made to it: "No question and answer can be correlated unless the congruity of answer with question is assumed." Arguing against the excessive dominance of ontological analysis in Tillich's theological system, Hamilton goes on to make the issue clear:

The whole effort to demonstrate that there are on one side analytical questions and on the other side religious answers, that the two are quite independent and yet happen to agree so well that they can be correlated with the happiest results, and that correlation is the sole theological method employed: this effort appears increasingly barren and incredible as it is displayed. It is manifestly artificial, because both questions and answers derive from a single source (ontological analysis) and reflect their origin at every turn.

By this somewhat severe critique, Hamilton depicts Tillich's method of correlation as that of circular movement, in which questions and answers are separated from each other by means of independence, and in which questions and answers are reunited with each other by means of returning to their origin in a form of mutual interdependence. These two contrary movements are, according to his analysis, simultaneous projects such that they constitute a circular movement which does not allow  any possibility of progression in their actual application. Based upon his own methodological position that "questions and answers can be correlated only when a common view of the Universe is shared by the one who asks and the one who answers," Hamilton tries to find out the very reason why Tillich employs circularity in his methodology: "He [Tillich] has a priori  knowledge of the validity of the method of correlation because system tells him that questions and answers, situation and message, human existence and divine manifestation are essentially one." Thus Hamilton understands Tillich's reciprocity in the sense of structural circularity and original identity. He goes further to criticize that there is no basic need for the method of correlation:

In the system questions and answers interpenetrate as do the 'levels' of philosophy and theology. The system is a comprehensive treasury of knowledge, at one and the same time supplying answers and asking questions. Obviously, there is no need to correlate what is already united, and so the Method is brought into play only when statements from the Christian message are brought on to the scene, having been summoned to answer the questions asked by the system.

However, a deeper insight into the structure of correlation reveals that the above critiques are not the case with Tillich's methodology. At times Tillich seems to admit that the basic logical pattern implied in his methodology is circular, when he states:

Symbolically speaking, God answers man's questions, and under the impact of God's answer man asks them.  Theology formulates the questions implied in human existence, and theology formulates the answers implied in divine self-manifestation under the guidance of the questions implied in human existence.  This is a circle which drives man to a point where questions and answers are not separated.

It is precisely at this point that Tillich's formulation and use of the method of correlation have been criticized. But it should be noted that the term "circle" in the above passage is endowed with a dynamic connotation quite different from that of Hamilton's critique. While Hamilton's circle receives static implication in that it designates the origin and destiny at the same time, the circle in Tillich's system emphatically involves dialectical and progressive movement in the sense that, in the dialectic of question-answer, one presupposes the other in such a reciprocal way as to constitute a sort of interactive elevation to the level of dialectical unity. Moreover, the  actual application of the method requires a series of ever-renewed interpretation of the existentially analyzed questions in light of the preceding theological answers,   and of the existentially received answers in light of the theologically interpreted questions. Hence, the circular movement in question-answer correlation is, in its genuine sense, a "spiral" one, in which a feed-back mechanism involved in the correlative relationship between questions and answers is able to provide the possibility of dialectical progression to the correlation itself. To this redefinition of the "circle" in Tillich's system as "spiral" movement, the above-quoted passage is unreservedly consistent. Just as the answers have no human significance without the questions, so the questions are not posed without some anticipation of the answers. In other words, questions and answers in their correlative relation need to be modified and reformulated in terms of their form and substance through their mutual reinterpretations. This is the very feed-back mechanism involved in the method of correlation. Here we find a correlative type of theological cybernetics which makes possible the theological endeavor to keep the balance between the kerygmatic dimension and its apologetic counterpart.
Underlying the above characterization is the basic supposition that the method of correlation is not a method of discovery but of description and interpretation of what has been discovered. It is not what someone follows to arrive at faith; it is the method of systematically describing and interpreting faith or the possibility of faith.  Furthermore, the method of correlation cannot possibly be used by anyone who has not experienced both questions and answers, because the method is, as stated above, simply a description of the relatedness of the two. Thus, Tillich claims:

No method can be developed without a prior knowledge of the object to which it is applied.  For systematic theology this means that its method is derived from a prior knowledge of the system which is to be built by the method.

This statement repeatedly affirms our redefinition of the method of correlation as a method of spiral progression rather than as that of a unilateral or circular movement. The impact of the divine answer is already present in the concrete theological stance which constitutes the existential commitment of the human, and at the same time, he/she is the very person who is philosophically analyzing the human situation in light of his/her own experience of the divine revelation. If the method of correlation is available only to those who have at least some preliminary knowledge or experience of both questions and answers, it can be nothing other than a method based upon the dialectical progression of spiral movement, since the method itself postulates a person or persons as the subject(s) who employ(s) such a correlative type of theological cybernetics. The following series of quotations from Tillich obviously illustrates this point:

Man, in relation to God, cannot do anything without Him.  He must receive in order to act.

Nobody is able to ask questions concerning God, revelation, Christ, etc., who has not already received some answer.  

Symbolically speaking, God answers man's questions, and under the impact of God's answer man asks them.

Dialectical thinking maintains that . . . no question could be asked about the divine possibility unless a divine answer, even if preliminary and scarcely intelligible, were not always already available.  For in order to be able to ask about God, man must already have experienced God as the goal of possible question.

As implied in these quotations, the existential questions in their formulation and subsequent reformulations and the theological answers in their interpretations and subsequent reinterpretations are structurally influential on each other in such a way as to constitute the dialectical unity on the basis of its inner spiral movement. Through our critical evaluation as such, it is clearly maintained that the logical structure of Tillich's method be analyzed not in terms of the relation between questions and answers but on the basis of the human subject who experiences the relation of asking questions and receiving answers. This is echoed by a relevant hermeneutical axiom that both question and answer are the two concomitant derivatives of primordial interpretation of reality. If expressed in terms of the correlative dialectic of being and being-itself, the method of correlation understands the existential questions as "articulations of the structure of being that is the condition of the possibility for one's experiencing anything at all," and understands the theological answers as "providing a perspective on the depth of that structure." Therefore, throughout his whole system of theological enterprise, Tillich unhesitatingly defends himself against the critiques of the logical structure of his method of correlation, thereby establishing his dialectical theology in its authentic sense.  


IV.     Suggestions for Further Implication

Method is a technique of description and interpretation, not a principle of discovery and demonstration. The theological technique of correlation can be successful only if the possibility of theological correlation is an actual possibility reflecting an actual relation between the correlated elements. The final evaluation of the method thus must be made in terms of its functional adequacy: that is, whether it does correlate the Christian revelation and the human predicament. Tillich himself evaluates his own theological methodology in terms of its intrinsic connection with theological system.

System and method belong to each other, and are to be judged with each other. It will be a positive judgment if the theologians of the coming generations acknowledge that it has helped them, and non-theological thinkers as well, to understand the Christian message as the answer to the questions implied in their own and in every human situation.

In his theological system, Tillich's intention is without reservation apologetic in character. There can be little doubt that he has fashioned in his method of correlation an impressive instrument for making the theological enterprise responsive to the contemporary situation. As such, his theological method is comprehensive and versatile in terms of its structure. In particular, the question-answer dialectic which constitutes the method of correlation indicates that the major concern in his theological endeavour is with the understanding of the Christian message in the present existential situation. It is most praiseworthy that he interprets the relation of situation and message in terms of the question-answer dialectic. He employs ontology in his theological system for the apologetic purpose in such a way as to guarantee the universality and profundity of the existential questions and theological answers. In fact, ontology injects into his theological system "a refreshing intellectual vigor and an antibody against narrowness." For this reason, his theological system can be called a system of onto-theological construction.
However, in spite of Tillich's systematic construction of theological methodology, the problem of keeping the authenticity of correlation in the method is often argued by some critics who have voiced the fear of unilateral or cyclical movement which might obliterate the dynamics of correlation. But as shown in the above, it is not a matter of methodology itself but a matter of actual application of this method. In other words, the point is not the method but the human subject, because relation including correlation is not merely a form of method but the constitutive essence of reality.  Although Tllich does not mention the scope and dimension of correlation explicitly, he indicates the primordiality of relation [relatio] in his presupposition of "mystical a priori " for the human's immediate awareness of the Unconditioned. When he declares that "man is immediately aware of something unconditional which is the prius of the separation and interaction of subject and object, theoretically as well as practically,"he is undoubtedly echoed by mutual dialogicalism suggested by Kierkegaard and elaborated by Buber and Gadamer. On the one hand, in egological transcendentalism whose tradition flows from Descartes through Kant to Husserl subject and object are originally posited and afterwards their relation is formulated derivatively such that other comes to appear as an alter-ego. However, on the other hand, mutual dialogicalism asserts that both subject and object are the co-derivatives of the original relation so that otherness between the two may be preserved for dynamic equivalency. Thus when Tillich mentions correlation, what he tries to claim is that neither question nor answer is in itself substantial or self-caused. By the same token, human being and God are what they are only in relation to each other, and to other creatures; nonetheless, one cannot be deduced to the other. For correlation is not given statically in the two or more substantial entities but the primordial event and act from which all related entities are given. In fact, only through this kind of ontological conjunction between the finite and the infinite can the theological disjunction and qualitative difference between them be preserved and maintained. In this sense, it must be repeatedly emphasized that correlation is to be apprehended not simply as a methodological frame but also as the structure of reality itself.  
From the above it becomes clear that method for Tillich is a reflection of the vision of reality. Thus although he does not seem to point out clearly, the method of correlation is not a secondary addition to an established theoretical system nor a subordinate manipulation of philosophico-theological cooperation but a reflective manifestation of divine-human interaction. Tillich's apologetic endeavour might present the possibility of trans-cultural understanding of particular religions in such a way that it serves as  the basis upon which interreligious dialogue can be attempted for mutual illumination as well as for a global understanding of reality. Therefore, our future task is to elucidate the correlational structure of culture and religion in concrete socio-historical context. This may contribute at least to our effort at clarifying the problems involved in the perennial controversy over the conflict between Christian exclusivism and religious pluralism, which is to be distinguished from the tension between monotheism and polytheism.

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