Saturday, August 31, 2013
Theology of Paul Tillich: Introduction (pt.1)
Tillich is partly remembered as a respected philosopher in the existentialist tradition. His major influences include Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Schelling, Kähler, and Heidegger, although he was also deeply engaged with the philosophies of Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, the Stoics, Kant, Marx, Spinoza, and Hegel. But more than anything, it is Tillich the Christian theologian who has remained especially important, clearly standing within the tradition of the great liberal theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher. He was also significantly influenced by the theologies of Augustine and Luther. Reinhold Niebuhr once called Tillich “a seminal theologian” and Georgia Harkness even claimed that “[w]hat Whitehead was to American philosophy, Tillich has been to American theology.” Indeed, next to Karl Barth he is arguably the most significant Protestant theologian of the 20th century.
While there is not a “Tillichean” school of thought in quite the same way as one finds in process, liberation, or Barthian schools, Tillich’s work has had an enormous impact on virtually all of the liberal or progressive theological traditions from his time down to the present. As we
will see in this series of six blog posts, his method of correlation, theory of symbols, doctrine of God as ‘ground of being’, and definition of religion as ‘ultimate concern’ are some of Tillich’s most impressive ideas that have left a mark on not only Christian philosophical theology, but also on cultural and religious studies. In what follows, we will examine some of the major components of Tillich’s thought, primarily considering his overarching method, and then concluding with a shorter consideration of Tillich’s existential ontology and brief explanations of how he understands some of the major Christian doctrines.