The German-born Paul Tillich was an ordained minister who is known today
for his work in the U.S. as one of the most influential Protestant systematic
of the early- to mid-twentieth century. He studied at the Universities
of Berlin, Tübingen, Halle, and Breslau (where he was awarded his
Ph.D. in 1910), and served as an army chaplain during Word War I. Subsequent
to that, Tillich held university appointments in Berlin, Marburg, Dresden,
and Frankfurt, though his position was terminated by the Nazi government
in early 1933. By that Fall, Tillich had been invited to travel to the
US to hold an appointment at Union Theological Seminary, in New York.
Eventually, he also held appointments at Harvard University as well as
the University of Chicago's Divinity School. Tillich's fame is the result
of his efforts to create a theological system that took into account a
series of early- and mid-twentieth-century intellectual currents, including
the influence of European Existentialism,
the growing awareness, and thus interest, in cultures outside the Euro-North
Ameircan world, as well as an interest in reconsidering the long-assumed
split between religion and contemporary culture. Like many who have put
their stamp on the field, he delivered the Gifford
Lectures (at Scotland's University of Aberdeen), which resulted in
one of the works for which he is best known today: the 3 volume Systematic
Theology (an effort to present a complete and coherent theological
system). Tillich's normative scholarship (his interest in articulating
the "truth" and the "meaning" of the Christian witness)
distinguishes him from the modern study of religion, as does his attempt
to define religion, which employs the common strategy of lodging religion
within the individual by equating it with vague, subjective value judgments.
Nonetheless, given the historical development of the academic study of
religion from largely (Protestant) Christian theological concerns, Tillich
can be seen as a transitional figure whose interest in contemporary culture,
whose willingness to work with Historians of Religions, and whose efforts
to understand religion "in a wider sense," as he phrased it,
prompted a generation of humanistic
scholars to expand their interests to include cross-cultural analysis
of religious symbols.
"Faith is a concept--and a reality--which is difficult to grasp and
to describe. Almost every word by which faith has been described ... is
open to new misinterpretations. This cannot be otherwise, since faith
is not a phenomenon
besides others, but the central phenomenon in man's personal life, manifest
and hidden at the same time. Faith is an essential possibility in man,
and therefore its existence is necessary and universal.... If faith is
understood for what it centrally is, ultimate concern, it cannot be undercut
by modern science or any kind of philosophy.... Faith stands upon itself
and justifies itself against those who attack it, because they can attack
it only in the name of another faith. It is the triumph of the dynamics
of faith that any denial of faith is itself an expression of faith, of
an ultimate concern."
- from Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith (1957)
Secondary Literature on Tillich and Religion
Wilhelm Pauck and Marion Pauck, Paul Tillich: His Life and Thought.
Harper & Row, 1976.
Walter Capps, Religious Studies: The Making of a Discipline, pp.
30-5. Fortress Press, 1995.
Robert P. Scharleman, "Tillich, Paul," The Encyclopedia of
Religion, 2nd edition. vol. 13, pp. 9203-5. Macmillan Reference USA,