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Preface My approach to theology is that it should never be aligned with philosophy. While the scripture writers employed and dispensed some amount of philosophical wisdom, one cannot conclude that their argument was rooted in Greek philosophy. If anything, scripture writers (especially in the New Testament and Paul in particular) made gallant efforts to counter the seepage of Greek philosophy into the faith of early Christians. My own feeling is that theologians who base their work on, and who are influenced by Greek philosophers, begin on the wrong footing, with a wrong set of pre-suppositions which can only lead to flawed theology. The student of theology would be best served if he ignores the discipline of philosophy as best as possible. His only interest if any, should be with a view to gain enough knowledge to effectively counter it. My interest in Tillich was sparked by the limited information that time would allow for in this course of Contemporary Theology. Upon closer reading and research, I must conclude that I find Tillich no different from the other, confused philosophers who “pose” as theologians. Theological reason must have, at the very heart of it, the word of God, which is truth. The student of theology would be better served if he devotes his time to the careful study of the Word of God, rather than being engaged in that which questions and runs counter to his faith. I question whether there can be any such thing as contemporary theology.

At Konigsberg. Simultaneously. Tillich’s Prussian father was a conservative Lutheran pastor of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces. and the University of Chicago Divinity School. I will offer an evaluation. however. In 1900. where Tillich began elementary school. the University of Tubingen in 1905. in the small village of Starzeddel in the province of Brandenburg in eastern Germany. with two sisters: Johanna and Elisabeth. Harvard Divinity School. his mother was from the Rhineland and was more liberal. Tillich switching in 1901 to a Berlin school. When Tillich was four. The author of several well-known books. He subsequently held teaching positions at Union Theological Seminary. the University of Berlin beginning in 1904. In 1898. his father became superintendent of a diocese in Schonfliess. from which he graduated in 1904. After holding several academic posts in Germany. Biography Tillich was born on August 20. 1886. a town of three thousand. Part one takes a closer look at Tillich’s biography. he lived in a boarding house and experienced loneliness that he sought to overcome by reading the Bible. he is possibly best remembered for his three-volume Systematic Theology. For the purpose of this exercise I will approach the present paper in three divisions. he was exposed to humanistic ideas at school. his mother died of cancer in September 1903. Before his graduation. Tillich was sent to Konigsberg to begin gymnasium. He was the oldest of three children. and the University of Halle in . Tillich attended several universities. when Tillich was 17. he and his family moved to the United States in November 1933. Tillich’s father was transferred to Berlin. Part two attempts a summary of Tillich’s theological method and in part three.2 Introduction Paul Tillich (1886-1965) is seen by some as a major figure in twentieth-century theology. however.

it was the second marriage for both. where he began as a Visiting Professor of Philosophy of Religion. . Tillich’s academic career began after the war. During 1924-25. At the Union Theological Seminary. teaching a course on it during the last of his three terms. He published On the Boundary in 1936. Tillich was dismissed from his position. Reinhold Niebuhr visited Germany in the summer of 1933 and. At the age of 47. a collection of his essays. Tillich gave public lectures and speeches throughout Germany that brought him into conflict with the Nazi movement. Margarethe deserted Tillich in 1919 after an affair that produced a child not fathered by Tillich. the two then divorced. During 1933-34 he was also a Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy at Columbia University. Tillich earned his reputation. From 1925 until 1929. and in October he joined the German army as a chaplain. On 28 September 1914 he married Margarethe Wever. The Protestant Era. Niebuhr urged Tillich to join the faculty at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary. On his return from the war he had met Hannah Werner Gottswchow. he became a Professor of Theology at the University of Berlin. in 1948. From 1933 until 1955 he taught at Union. Tillich accepted. Tillich moved with his family to America. contacted Tillich upon learning of Tillich’s dismissal. He held the same post at the University of Frankfurt during 1929-33. where he began to develop his systematic theology. a post he held from 1919 to 1924. This meant learning English. 1912. While at Frankfurt. he was a Professor of Theology at the University of Marburg.3 1905-07. already impressed with Tillich’s writings. Tillich was ordained as a Lutheran minister in the province of Brandenburg. When Hitler became German Chancellor in 1933. publishing a series of books that outlined his particular synthesis of Protestant Christian theology and existential philosophy. the language in which Tillich would eventually publish works such as the Systematic Theology. and in 1940 he was promoted to Professor of Philosophical Theology and became an American citizen. In March 1924 they married. then married and pregnant. Tillich acquired tenure at Union in 1937. He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Breslau in 1911 and his Licentiate of Theology degree at the University of Halle in 1912 That same year. Tillich was a Professor of Theology at the University of Dresden and the University of Leipzig.

His collections of sermons would give Tillich a broader audience than he had yet experienced. also in 1948. An apologetic theology answers the questions being asked in one’s cultural context. In his view. Tillich’s Harvard career lasted until 1962. During this period he published volume 2 of Systematic Theology and also published the popular book Dynamics of Faith (1957). However. In 1964 Tillich became the first theologian to be honoured in Kegley and Bretall's Library of Living Theology. he intends to avoid this problem by writing an “apologetic” theology. In 1966 his ashes were interred in the Paul Tillich Park in New Harmony.” By “situation” Tillich means the cultural context of a particular time and place. or “situation. kerygmatic theology often fails to adequately address the ‘situation’ of modern man. Tillich moved to the University of Chicago. 1965.4 and The Shaking of the Foundations. where he was a Professor of Theology until his death in Chicago in 1965. In 1962. where he became one of the University’s five University Professors. were the 1951 publication of volume one of Systematic Theology which brought Tillich academic acclaim. A Summary of Tillich’s Theological Method Tillich begins by contrasting “kerygmatic” theology with “apologetic” theology. These works led to an appointment at the Harvard Divinity School in 1955. His most heralded achievements though. and the 1952 publication of The Courage to Be. Tillich died on October 22. Volume 3 of Systematic Theology was published in 1963.” using “the means provided by the situation” in order to answer the questions in a relevant and comprehensible manner. the five highest ranking professors at Harvard. ten days after experiencing a heart attack. Indiana. The first volume of the systematic theology series prompted an invitation to give the prestigious Gifford lectures during 1953–54 at the University of Aberdeen. Kerygmatic theology “emphasizes the unchangeable truth of the message (kerygma) over against the changing demands of the situation. the first of three volumes of his sermons. .

Since man is unavoidably shaped and conditioned by the pervasive influence of culture. this method “correlates questions and answers. preferring rather to view it as “the medium through which the sources ‘speak’ to us”.” but he rejects the notion that “the Bible is the only source” of systematic theology . “Christian theology is based on the unique event Jesus the Christ. his real concern is using what he terms “the ‘method of correlation’ as a way of uniting message and situation” .” But this event “is given to experience and not derived from it”. even while acknowledging that some (e. situation and message. He rejects the notion that experience can be a “source” for systematic theology. In Tillich’s view. the careful theologian must avail himself of numerous sources past and present. the Bible) deserve a more prominent place than others. as well as the history of religion and culture. The third methodological issue to which Tillich directs his attention concerns the “norm” or “criterion” of systematic theology. He is primarily interested in assigning a place to experience in the mystical sense. In Tillich’s view.g. The importance of this issue was recognized “early in the history of the church”. Having briefly examined Tillich’s general approach to systematic theology.5 Although Tillich maintains that the statements of apologetic theology must be based on the kerygma. in addition to the Bible. he says. As one might expect. Tillich argues. the systematic theologian must also use sources from church history. Tillich next turns to a discussion of the role of experience in systematic theology. Thus. let us now turn to consider his method. the norm has been differently expressed from one . When properly used. “Every person who encounters a biblical text is guided in his religious understanding of it by the understanding of all previous generations”. we inhabit a very different historical context than the authors of the New Testament. kerygmatic theology must be supplemented by apologetic theology if it is to effectively answer the questions of modern man in his contemporary cultural context. After two thousand years of church history. He acknowledges that the Bible “is the original document about the events on which Christianity is based. and the mystical. He distinguishes three ways in which the term “experience” is often employed in theological discussions: the ontological. human existence and divine manifestation”. the scientific. After all. He begins with a discussion of the sources of systematic theology.

For now. After discussing the rational character of systematic theology. for Tillich. revelation is concerned with the manifestation of “God. Since we have already touched upon this “method” in our discussion of kerygmatic and apologetic theology. in Tillich’s view. somewhat paradoxically. The content of revelation is a matter of our ultimate concern “because it is the ground of our being” . he believes it preserves “the same substance” and that it brings it out “in a form more adequate to the present situation and to the biblical source”. the norm was “justification through faith” in Christ. everything that exists is a potential vehicle. . if by “God” we mean “being-itself” or “the ground of being.” differs in emphasis from these. Nevertheless. . in Tillich’s view. then. If we use the term “God” to describe a particular being who is distinct from other beings. or philosophical way of referring to God? The answer.” then it is appropriate to characterize “God” as the object of our ultimate concern. Since everything that exists participates in being-itself. Tillich proceeds to a more detailed consideration of his previously mentioned “method of correlation”. let us turn to Tillich’s doctrine of revelation. Tillich acknowledges that his own norm. For Luther. appears to be both yes and no. Thus. In his view. whereas “for the Roman church it was salvation from guilt . of revelation. God is not the object of our ultimate concern. However. Indeed. we will postpone the remainder of our discussion until the “evaluation” section of the paper. abstract. there is nothing that cannot (at least in principle) “become a bearer of the mystery of being and enter into a revelatory correlation”.” but “God” understood as “being-itself” or “the ground of our being”. revelation is understood to be “a special and extraordinary manifestation which removes the veil from something which is hidden in a special and extraordinary way”.6 time and place to another. Thus. revelation cannot be thought to have taken place “if there is no one who receives it as his ultimate concern”. or medium. the “New Being in Jesus as the Christ. by the actual and sacramental sacrifice of the God-man”. . What are we to make of this notion of “ultimate concern”? Is it a veiled.

these things should not be identified with divine revelation itself.7 In this sense. Insofar as “kerygmatic theology” fails to consider the very different cultural context in which man finds himself today. According to Tillich. and in the preaching and teaching of the church. Tillich is careful to point out that while divine revelation can occur through the mediums of the Bible and preaching. An Evaluation of Tillich’s Theological Method What are we to make of Tillich’s theological method? In the first place. the mystery of the divine abyss expressing itself through the divine Logos—this is the meaning of the symbol. everything that exists is potentially the Word of God. . the ‘Word of God’”. In fact. “the mediator of revelation may not be a preacher or religious teacher at all but simply someone whom we meet and whose words become the Word for us in a special constellation”. Tillich concludes his discussion by claiming that all these different meanings of the term “Word” are ultimately “united in one meaning. it refers to “the divine self-manifestation in the ground of being itself”. in Jesus as the Christ. the phrase “Word of God” can be used in six different ways. however. in the Bible. Tillich’s attempt to use an “apologetic theology” to answer the questions of his day in a form suited to the contemporary mind is something we could considered “applaudable”. we can certainly commend his desire to seriously engage the questions of modern man. On the other hand. . how faithfully has Tillich upheld the original Christian “kerygma” in the development of his theology? He tells us in the “Introduction” to his Systematic Theology: . in the history of revelation. it will undoubtedly fail to accurately communicate the full depth and richness of the biblical message to modern man. ‘God manifest’. But it can also refer to the manifestation of the divine in creation. For example. one needs to raise some questions. Of course. On the one hand. Most importantly. relative to biblical times. namely.

“if the Bible is the ‘basic source’ of systematic theology. And one would not want to downplay the degree of difficulty in understanding a text so far removed from our own . his “apologetic theology” often tends to distort. This distortion may be partially explained by Tillich’s use of sources.8 “A theological system is supposed to satisfy two basic needs: the statement of the truth of the Christian message and the interpretation of this truth for every new generation” One wonders. at one point he writes: “The statement that God is being-itself is a nonsymbolic statement. whether Tillich’s theology actually accomplishes these aims. While one may agree with his view that the Bible is not “the only source” of systematic theology. For example. after which “nothing characteristic of the kerygma remains. or has he rather distorted it beyond recognition? It seems to me that Kenneth Hamilton is entirely correct in arguing that Tillich’s method amounts to taking certain terms found in the kerygma (e. it’s surprising how little he cites it. It means what it says directly and properly. one would think that more frequent references to it would be appropriate. Other assertions about God can be made theologically only on this basis”. Does this statement accurately reflect the Christian doctrine of God? Has Tillich merely “interpreted” this doctrine for a new generation. It does not point beyond itself. we first assert that he is not God if he is not being-itself. for one who regards it as “the original document” of historic Christianity. especially in presenting the ‘answers’ of the Christian message. nevertheless.g. the original kergyma. rather than clarify. As George Thomas observed. we must also admit that he completely fails to “interpret” this message faithfully. however. Unfortunately.” Of course.” So while we can commend Tillich’s desire to “interpret” the Christian message for a new generation. if we speak of the actuality of God. Tillich is correct in observing that the Bible must be interpreted. God) and translating them into the technical terminology of his system.

But he rejects this by noting. Although Tillich’s view of the role of experience may have merit. the question of finitude. of creativity. the question being asked “is not. What about the role of experience in systematic theology? Is Tillich correct to reject it as a “source”? Should it rather be viewed as “the medium through which the sources ‘speak’ to us”? This is a difficult question. but Tillich’s position at least seems possible. For this reason.” speaking to the saint through the medium of his experience. he asserts. one could quibble with Tillich about the meaning of the term “experience.” But Tillich seems content to merely point out the difficulty without ever really attempting a viable solution. etc.g. nor is it. modern man experiences “his present situation” in terms of “meaninglessness and despair”. According to Tillich. Thus. the question of a merciful God and the forgiveness of sins. a reality of reconciliation and reunion. as in the early Greek church.9 “situation. history.” Rather. the one “who brings the new eon. it seems that we only have access to them via our “experience. what are we to make of his claim that the “norm” of theology is the “New Being in Jesus as the Christ”? Tillich claims that this norm “is based on what Paul calls the new creation”. . It is manifest most fully in Jesus the Christ. even here Tillich seems to conceive of the Spirit as a “Source. as in the Reformation. Tillich claims. He tips his hat to the Bible at the beginning of his work. because the saint is also a sinner”. the question being asked in our day concerns “a reality in which the selfestrangement of our existence is overcome. the new reality. but then largely ignores it afterward. of death and error. What Tillich seems to be saying is something like this: If we consider the “sources” of systematic theology (e. this does not seem necessary.” In this sense.). the Bible.” but for the purpose of this exercise. nor is it the question of the personal religious life or of the Christianization of culture and society. Tillich later says that only if the believer’s spirit were one with the divine Spirit could his experience count as a source for theology. Granted. creation. “experience” is indeed the medium through which the sources “speak” to us. “Even the saint must listen to what the Spirit says to his spirit.

How can any serious theologian buy into any of this argument? This observation leads one back to Tillich’s method of correlation. the answers (at least in theory) “are contained in the revelatory events on which Christianity is based”. Tillich contends. This method. Perhaps the best way to evaluate this method is to cite an illustration. God must be called the infinite power of being which resists the threat of nonbeing. corresponds to the New Being in Jesus as the Christ. he says. in his finitude. “explains the contents of the Christian faith through existential questions and theological answers in mutual interdependence”. Although the questions arise from an existential “analysis of the human situation”. Suppose that our analysis of the human condition reveals that man. offered by Tillich.’ can be replaced by his ‘norm’ of the ‘New Being’?” It seems that in this case Tillich’s existential diagnosis of the predicament of modern man leads him to formulate a norm for theology which isn’t any more convincing (and probably less so) than the norms he dismisses. And this reality. and hope”. “if the notion of God appears in systematic theology in correlation with the threat of nonbeing which is implied in existence. In classical theology this is being-itself”. But wait a minute! Does Tillich really believe that modern man is no longer concerned about the mercy of God and the forgiveness of sins? Does he really believe that “other ‘norms. What sort of answer does Christian theology offer us? According to Tillich.’ such as ‘justification by faith.10 meaning. How adequate is this answer? Can it really be said to be derived from “the revelatory events on which Christianity is based”? And what are we to make of this existential analysis of the human condition? Is it really a valid procedure to use a relatively autonomous and impersonal philosophical system to formulate questions for Christian theology to answer? Isn’t there a potential for the answers to be distorted by the way in which the questions are formulated? . is threatened by the question of nonbeing. of how this might actually look in practice.

and maybe even Christian preaching. On the other hand. and the Bible.11 After discussing a quotation from Tillich in which he refers to the being of God as “being-itself. though an individual without the limits of finite individuals. He is not merely ‘the ground of everything personal’. My own assessment of Tillich based on his line of argument. Theological answers cannot be found and should not be sought in Greek philosophy. nevertheless. While it would seem appropriate to use this phrase of God the Son (whether in His incarnate or pre-incarnate states). than in theological understanding. namely. . I wonder whether Tillich’s statement of it has not been weakened at points by the intrusion into his thinking of an impersonal philosophy alien to the spirit of Christianity.” George Thomas writes: It seems to me that in the Christian message. although some aspects of Tillich’s theological method may be helpful. If this is the Christian view. everything that exists is potentially the Word of God. For all its hype. or of God’s revelation in creation. everything that exists participates in “being-itself” (i. He is a concrete individual. perhaps the clearest example of this is Tillich’s own theology. his extension of the phrase “Word of God” to cover every type of revelation appears unwarranted and runs counter to what theology is all about. his view that everything is a potential medium of divine revelation can be commended. Thomas is surely correct. In conclusion. What can we say of this view? While we would object to his unbiblical doctrine of God. to provide truly Christian answers to the questions of modern man. Here one can be brief. Truly Christians answers must only be found in the word of God which Tillich apparently. in Tillich’s view. Let’s now return once more to Tillich’s doctrine of revelation.’.’ not ‘being itself. Ironically. completely ignores. the method as a whole (particularly the method of correlation) seems more likely to result in theological error. it does not seem appropriate to use it of the revelation of God the Father. God) and is thus a potential medium of divine revelation.e. In this sense. . . We previously learned that. ‘God’ means ‘a being. is that this is the ramblings of a confused philosopher who is under the illusion that he is a theologian. He is personal Himself. Tillich’s “method of correlation” often fails to do the very thing he claims for it.

Tillich is a heretic. Stanley & Olson. R. one who allowed Greek Philosophy to completely cloud the realities and clear truths of theology. “20th Century Theology: God & the world in a transitional Age” Illinois: Intervarsity Press . in the name of reason. BIBLIOGRAPHY Grenz. Having looked carefully at his work (or enough of his work to come to a reasonable conclusion) the serious scholar of theology must dismiss his entire argument. In the first instance. in my view. one had a sense that his views were a departure from the other philosophers who. It has no theological basis and does more to harm the cause of Christ than to enhance it.12 There is no way to put this mildly. confused themselves and their readers.

13 Hamilton. Thomas. 1951 . Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Tillich. George F. Thomas. Vol.” New York: The MacmillanCompany. J. 1. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Paul. “The Method and Structure of Tillich’s Theology. Systematic Theology. 1963. Paul Tillich: An Appraisal. Kenneth. 1961. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. The System and the Gospel: A Critique of Paul Tillich. Heywood. 1963.