Adulterous Liberal Heroes
July 27, 2023 (First published February 14, 1997)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
The following article by Gregory L. Jackson is from Christian News, November 7, 1988:
Bishop James Pike

Bishop James Pike

Bishop James Pike, Paul Tillich, and Karl Barth are three of the brightest stars in the liberal galaxy. Fortunately, their biographers have given us a wealth of information about their lives. The following quotations are offered as a guide to those who have not studied modern theology and wonder if the claims of orthodox Christians are true. All three biographies quoted are positive treatments of their subjects, not hatchet jobs by angry conservatives. The authors of the Pike and Tillich biographies were personal friends of their subject:


James Pike frequently made the headlines, in the good old days, when it was news that an Episcopalian bishop denied the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, and other basic doctrines of the faith. He proposed the Consultation on Church Union (COCU), a plan to unite the members of the National Council of Churches in one great amalgamation of apostasy. Although Pike died, COCU lives.

William Stringfellow and Anthony Towne,
The Death and Life of Bishop Pike, an Utterly Candid Biography of America’s Most Controversial Clergyman, New York: Doubleday, 1976.

STRANGE CONTROVERSY: “Controversy also attended more private aspects of Bishop Pike’s life--sometime with heavy imputations of scandal--in his various marriages, in his alcoholism, in his sexuality, in the suicides of his eldest son and of a mistress, in his parapsychological inquiries, in speculations about his mental health. The circumstances of his death became immediately notorious through the world.” (p. viii).

DENYING THE TRINITY: “His sermon proper began, as all his subsequent sermons would, not with the customary Episcopal invocation--’In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen!’--but, the Trinity having fallen from his episcopal vocabulary: ‘In the name of God, Amen.’“ (p. 140).

SEEKING TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE DEAD: After Pike used the oil of unction on the medium he was consulting [in an attempt to communicate with his dead son], she ‘revived.’ “It must be said of the March 14 seance that it’s hard to decide who was healing whom of what.” (p. 144) [After Pike’s son committed suicide, Pike experienced occultic phenomena. He participated in a televised seance conducted by the medium Arthur Ford and wrote a book about the experience called The Other Side.]

BY THEIR FRUITS: Pike lived with Maren Bergrud at the time she committed suicide [he also had a wife and another mistress at the time]. His second divorce took place soon after. “The divorce of Jim and Esther Pike took place one month after the suicide of Maren Bergrud (and seven months before the apparent attempted suicide of young Constance Pike). It had been one year since the bishop met Diane Kennedy in that classroom in Berkeley (and ten months since Jim and Diane had become--’unformally’--married). The formal wedding of Jim and Diane Pike would take place seventeen months later. So, as of July 25, 1967, Bishop Pike, having been for some time unhappily married and unhappily mistressed and happily mistressed, was happily mistressed only and well on his way to becoming happily married only.” (p. 149)

MOURNED BY THREE WIVES: “The situation was unprecedented. Never before in the history of the Episcopal Church had a Solemn Requiem Mass been offered for a bishop in the presence of three surviving wives.” (p. 202)

DRUNKEN BISHOP: “Three times he was intercepted by police of the San Francisco Bay area, found drunk, confused, wandering on the streets late in the night. Once he made an uproarious appearance at an official event in Washington, D.C. ... amid haughty and prestigious company.” (p. 322)

HOMOSEXUALITY: “He was vulnerable at Yale and a single, casual homosexual episode there dramatized that and partly prompted his eagerness to marry, as if marriage, by his definition, would assuage his loneliness and protect his person.” (p. 327)

DEVOTION TO TILLICH: The tormented life of James Pike may be explained in part by his devotion to Paul Tillich. Hannah Tillich wrote an open letter to Pike and sent it to Look magazine. Pike responded in a letter to Hannah that Tillich was his mentor. (p. 67)

[Pike died in the Judean wilderness in Israel either by falling from a ledge or by exposure.]

PAUL TILLICH (1886-1965)

Wilhelm and Marion Pauck,
Paul Tillich: His Life and Thought, Volume I: Life, New York: Harper and Row, 1976.

JUSTIFICATION BY DOUBT: “It was from (Martin) Kaehler that Tillich learned that man is justified by grace through faith, not only as a sinner but even as a doubter. The discovery of this idea brought him immense relief.” (p. 19)

CHANGED AFTER WWII: “When he returned to Berlin four years later he was utterly transformed. The traditional monarchist had become a religious socialist, the Christian believer a cultural pessimist, and the repressed puritanical boy a ‘wild man.’“ (p. 41)

LIBERATION FROM GOD: “For Tillich the traditional concept of God had become invalid, and he now found final liberation from this concept in Nietzsche. . . . In early December he wrote, ‘I have long since come to the paradox of faith without God, by thinking through the idea of justification by faith to its logical conclusion.” (pp. 52,54)

EROTIC ADVENTURES: “The disasters that occurred while Tillich lived there included . . . the departure of his [first] wife Grethi. . . . He was in no particular hurry to remarry, but his monastic ties no longer bound him. He was thus drawn into a multiplicity of erotic adventures with a number of young women who were easily attracted to him and who also enjoyed the new freedom and yielded to the appeal of the metropolis.” (pp. 79,82)

AN AFFAIR WITH A MARRIED WOMAN: Tillich began an affair with Hannah Werner, when she was engaged. She married her fiancé, Gottschow, yet returned to Tillich “for a night.” She went back to her husband, had a baby with him, and then left him for Tillich. The baby died due to neglect. ... In an effort to avenge and compensate for her suffering and become independent,Hannah threw herself into a series of extramarital relationships over the years.” (p. 85f)

GREEK PHILOSOPHER: “They accused him in the classroom of being basically a Greek philosopher and not a biblically oriented Christian theologian.” (p. 226)

OLD WORDS, NEW MEANING: “In the Tillichian vocabulary sin became separation, grace reunion, God the Ground and aim of Being and faith ultimate concern.” (p. 229)

DEATH THE UNKNOWN DREAD: “For the mature Tillich, death represented the ‘absolutely unknown,’ ‘the darkness in which there is no light at all,’ ‘the real and ultimate objective of fear from which all other fears derive their power,’ ‘the anxiety of being eternally forgotten’--death meant parting, separation, isolation, and opposition. Tillich felt uneasy in the presence of the dying, partly because he was fearful of his own death; partly because he could not conceive that he would himself one day no longer be.” (p. 2)

KARL BARTH (1886-1968)

Eberhard Busch,
Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts, translated by John Bowden, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975.

DENIAL OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH: “He was considered for posts in the conservative faculties of Halle and Freiifswald, but in a strange way his denial of the virgin birth in particular ‘twice cost him a professorship.” (p. 10)

BARTH’S MISTRESS: “In 1924 Georg Merz introduced Charlotte von Kirschbaum to Barth [she was 13 years younger than he]; she soon became a loyal assistant and joined his household in 1929. . . . In September 1925 Barth stayed at the Bergli (a remote cottage) again. This time he got to know Charlotte (‘Lollo’) von Kirschbaum more closely. . . . Many people, even good friends, and not least his mother, took offense at the presence of ‘Lollo’ in Barth’s life, and later even in his home. There is no question that the intimacy of her relationship with him made particularly heavy demands on the patience of his wife Nelly. Now she had to retreat into the background. Nevertheless, she did not forsake her husband. . . . However, it was very difficult for the three of them to live together. . . . The result was that they bore a burden which caused them unspeakably deep suffering. Tensions arose which shook them to the core. To avoid these, at least to some extent, was one of the reasons why in future Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum regularly moved to the Bergli during the summer vacation.” (pp. 158,164,185-86)

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