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HALL OF FAMEon 20 October 2005
This is an interesting collection of the writings of Tillich. It breaks down Tillich into more easily digestible pieces. Tillich is not an easy read. Educated in German schools deeply influenced by liberal theology of the nineteenth century and philosophical schools reacting to the breakdown of Enlightenment thinking, Tillich sought to make theology a relevant subject in the academy. Much of his writing is primarily geared toward other academics, philosophers in particular. Many seminarians have difficulty with Tillich, both in making real-world connections as well as traversing the language -- Tillich invents his own terminology and develops his own linguistic methods of discussing theological issues.
Tillich is sometimes mistaken for being an atheist, since he makes the radical claim that God does not exist -- however, this shows the redefinitions and subtle aspects at work in Tillich's writing. Only finite things can be spoken of as 'existing'; God, not being finite, does not 'exist' in the way that any created thing exists. God becomes for Tillich the Ground of Being, that from which all existing things come and in which all in existence have their being.
Tillich was profoundly influenced by his experiences in the first world war, where he served as a chaplain in the trench warfare. Unlike theologians such as Barth, he initially had a young man's bravado and support for the war, until the grim realities set in. This experience would never leave Tillich, and he continued to strive all his life to craft a systematic theology that would on the one hand address the concerns of culture but at the same time resist traditional pitfalls of theology-of-culture that make it less universal, and too much a human construct.
Tillich's development of Christology, with Christ as the New Being, is very significant, the way for Tillich's more general philosophical theology to find a grounding in Christianity. Tillich had a long fascination with other religions, Buddhism in particular, and was charged by some critics of relegating Christianity to a secondary status. Like many of Tillich's theological ideas, there is a tension apparent in his Christological development that exists between different traditional methods of dealing with the issue historically, philosophically and theologically.
The selections here come from many of Tillich's works - 'The New Being', 'The Courage To Be', 'Dynamics of Faith', 'History of Religions', and 'Systematic Theology', among others. All of the fundamental concepts of Tillich - the ground of being, the ultimate concern, the idea of history of religions as a primary source of theology, etc. - are here in Tillich's own words, with careful arrangement and a bit of commentary by F. Forrester Church.
This is a good, one-volume introduction to Tillich for those who wish to seek deeper insights into one of the major theologians of our times. This is useful for individual study, for group and bible study groups, for beginning theology classes, and for those ministers and other seminary graduates who would like a one-volume text with which to refamiliarise themselves.
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