The Concept of “Philosophical Theology” in the Thought of Paul Tillich

Danijel Tolvajčić (University of Zagreb)

1. Introduction

German-American philosopher and theologian Paul Johannes Tillich (1886-1965)[1] undoubtedly has his place among the most significant 20th-century religious thinkers.[2] His influence is immense, especially in the United States of America, where he emigrated in 1933 after Hitler came to power. Historians of contemporary religious thought hold him to be one of the most significant Protestant authors of the second half of the 20th century.[3]

This should not come as a surprise, for truly few authors dealt with such a wide range of topics; namely, Tillich wrote about ontology, German idealism, the philosophy of history, sociology, depth psychology, theory of art, interdependence of culture and religion, the possibility of meeting between socialism and Christianity, and especially by building a theological system (by systematic theology). The question of the relationship of philosophy and theology is inseparably tied to this last (the most important for Tillich) topic. That is certainly not a coincidence because Tillich thinks systematic theology as “philosophical theology”. The idea of “philosophical theology” became his central topic only after he emigrated to the United States of America. For many years he taught a course of the same name at the “Union Theological Seminary” in New York. Moreover, the “chair for philosophical theology” had been established especially for him, and while taking it over, he highlighted that “philosophical theology (…) is a name that suits me better than any other, since the boundary line between philosophy and theology is the center of my thought and work.”[4]

This “standing on the boundary” between two disciplines is present in his scholarly path from the very beginnings, as he himself testifies: “Long before my matriculation as a student of theology, I studied philosophy privately. When I entered the university, I had a good knowledge of the history of philosophy, and a basic acquaintance with Kant and Fichte. Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Schelling followed, and Schelling became the special subject of my study. Both my doctoral dissertation and my thesis for the degree Licentiat of Theology dealt with Schelling’s philosophy of religion. These studies seemed more to foreshadow a philosopher than a theologian; (…) Nevertheless I was and am a theologian, because the existential question of our ultimate concern and the existential answer of the Christian message are and always have been predominant in my spiritual life.”[5]

For Tillich, theology and philosophy are constantly referred to each other, so he could not have thought his own existential and professional situation differently. On the trail of that insight, the intention of this contribution is to illuminate how our author understands the relationship of the two disciplines and how together they make up the “fabric” of his “philosophical theology”.

2. What does Tillich understand as “theology” and “philosophy”?

At the beginning, it should be observed what the author himself implies as “theology” and “philosophy”. Following the trail of his teacher Martin Kähler, Tillich as “theology” implies “mediation” between “the eternal criterion of truth as it is manifest in the picture of Jesus as the Christ and the changing experiences of individuals and groups, their varying questions and their categories of perceiving reality”[6], i.e. the mediation between “the mystery, which is theos, and the understanding, which is logos.”[7] Such an understanding of theology helped him articulate the “Protestant principle”, the basic principle of his overall thought. The “Protestant principle” in a sense represents a reinterpretation of the fundamental Luther’s teaching on “justification by faith”, but it is in no sense exclusively tied to any particular form of confessional Protestantism, for it is present in all Christian Churches, as well as other religious traditions. Tillich defines it quite broadly as “the ultimate criterion of all religious and all spiritual experiences”[8] which articulates the fundamental religious truth that faith justifies not only the one who believes, but also the one who doubts. In this way, the sphere of the religious, in his opinion, expands from the ethical to the overall intellectual life. In that sense, “being religious is being unconditionally concerned”[9] regardless of whether this “ultimate concern” is expressed in an explicitly religious or a completely secular form.

Tillich defines “philosophy” as “a cognitive endeavor in which the question of being is asked.”[10] In that sense, it is essentially identified with ontology. However, it is not about an abstract, separated-from-life ontological speculation, but about something which existentially deeply affects us: “The question of being, the question of a first or fundamental philosophy, is the question of what is nearer to us than anything else; it is we ourselves as far as we are and at the same time as human beings are able to ask what it means that we are.”[11] What is it about? The fundamental question of ontology – “What does it mean that something ‘is’?” – is the question which man necessarily asks. It comes from human nature which as its “ultimate concern” has the very question of “the meaning of human being”. It also means that the “fundamental ontological question” is at the same time the “fundamental existential question”. And precisely because it is both ontological and existential, it produces a “metaphysical shock” or the “shock of non-being”, expressed by the question: “Why is there something; why not nothing?” Non-being necessarily leads to the question of being. That is why “thought must start with being; (…) it is based on being, and it cannot leave this basis.”[12] In other words, ontology is something with which each philosophy has to start if it wants to seriously take man into consideration.

There are obvious influences of German idealism here, and particularly those of the late Schelling (on whom Tillich wrote his PhD dissertation and licentiate thesis), Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. Also, it seems that Tillich owes much to Heidegger’s analysis of man’s existence, as well as to other authors of “existential” provenance.

3. Systematic Theology as “Philosophical Theology”

It has already been mentioned that the very attempt to build systematic theology illuminates the nature of the relationship of the two disciplines. In that sense, it is necessary to see what Tillich implies as “systematic theology”.

Systematic theology is not only an attempt to systematize Christian doctrines, but it is a matter of taking seriously into consideration man’s inalienable existential questions (which are, as has already been mentioned, on the fundamental level articulated by philosophy) and showing how an adequate answer is provided by the Christian revelation (especially through its symbols articulated by theology). Tillich seeks to show how fundamental philosophical questions correlate with theological answers.

He named this very approach to systematic theology “philosophical theology” (philosophical theology, philosophische Theologie). “The term ‘philosophical theology’ points to a theology that has a philosophical character.”[13] It is about a theology which “tries to explain the contents of the kerygma in close interrelation with philosophy.”[14] In that sense systematic theology is necessarily philosophical theology because philosophy must not and cannot be excluded from theology, even though it itself is not mixed with and abolished in theology. Vice versa is true as well.

Tillich defines its “task” as follows: “Philosophical theology deals with the concept of reason and the categories belonging to it and leads to the existential problem implied in reason, to which the answer is: revelation. Philosophical theology deals with the concept of being and the categories belonging to it, and it leads to the existential problem implied in being, to which the answer is: God. Philosophical theology deals with the problem of existence and the categories belonging to it and leads to the existential problem implied in existence, to which the answer is: the Christ. Philosophical theology deals with the concept of life and the categories belonging to it and leads to the existential problem implied in life, to which the answer is: the Spirit. Philosophical theology deals with the concept of history and the categories belonging to it and leads to the existential problem implied in history, to which the answer is: the Kingdom of God.”[15]

The realization of this task is systematically carried out in three volumes of “Systematic theology” where the whole structure of the theological system is presented in five sections of correlation between philosophical questions and theological answers: the problem of “reason” and Christian revelation[16], the question of being and the Christian idea of “God”[17], the problem of man’s existence and Christ as the “New being”[18], the “existential problem of life” and the Christian idea of “Spirit”[19], and the concept of history and the Christian symbol of the “Kingdom of God.”[20]

Tillich thinks the task of such a philosophical theology is perennial – it lasts ever since there was philosophy itself and it will last so long as the Church is alive. Its end would be the end of the Christian message of Jesus Christ because “what has appeared as our ultimate existential concern has appeared at the same time as the logos of being”[21], and that, according to Tillich’s understanding, is the “fundamental Christian claim and the infinite subject of philosophical theology.”[22]

And the task of the philosophical theologian is that he “as a Christian, tries to show in his work that the existential situation of the Christian church is, at the same time, the place where the meaning of being has appeared as our ultimate concern.”[23]

First of all, what is manifested here, according to Tillich, is the inalienability of fundamental philosophical concepts in a theological research, which is what some of his contemporaries regarded as the greatest mistake of Christian theology. Particularly worth mentioning is the controversy with a great Swiss theologian Karl Barth and his disciples, i.e. representatives of the so-called “kerygmatic theology”, who perceived any influence of philosophy on theology as an expression of human arrogance arising from the “fallen nature”. These theologians thought there was an insurmountable gap between God and man. The only thing left is “grace” which derives from the self-proclaiming God’s act. It is a trend that appeared with Barth’s theology of “the Word of God”, especially articulated in his brief polemical text titled “Nein!”[24] where Barth vigorously rejects any other possibility of speaking of God that would not originate from Christian revelation.

In that sense, the concept of “philosophical theology” can be read as a response to “kerygmatic theologians”, i.e. it is a question of attempting a kind of “apology” for the idea of a theological system where Tillich seeks to show that the endeavour to violently and unnaturally separate philosophy and theology is “self-deception” or “primitivism”. Moreover, something as such ultimately is not even possible.[25]

4. The Method of Correlation: the Philosophical Question and the Theological Answer

Philosophy and theology are obviously related, but they do not, thinks Tillich, mix with each other or cancel one another. “Neither is a conflict between theology and philosophy necessary, nor is a synthesis between them possible.”[26] Why? Both conflict and synthesis would assume a kind of common ground, which is missing. If the theologian needs an ontological analysis of the structure of being, he either takes it from a philosopher or becomes a philosopher himself. Likewise, if the philosopher enters the field of theology, he becomes a “hidden theologian” and no longer performs philosophy. “In no case does the theologian as such stand against the philosopher as such and vice versa. Thus there is no conflict between theology and philosophy, and there is no synthesis (…) A common basis is lacking.”[27] Instead of a conflict or a synthesis, both disciplines prefer to coexist in correlation within the system.[28]

Because of that, the method of “philosophical theology” is the “method of correlation”. The method of correlation analyses “the human situation out of which the existential questions arise, and it demonstrates that the symbols used in the Christian message are the answers to these questions.”[29] Thereat “existential questions”, as has already been said, belong to the sphere of philosophy, and the possible answers are derived from the symbols of the Christian revelation which belongs to the field of theology.

Philosophy, i.e. its fundamental discipline ontology, has the task of analysing human existence and its fundamental structure. Tillich here obviously largely relies on the philosophers of existential provenance. The philosophical analysis of man’s “finitude” which arises from the “threat of non-being” and articulates itself as “anxiety” turns out to be crucial. “Anxiety” is not a psychological category here, but rather it can be defined as a state in which we become aware of the possibility of our own non-being. There was a time when there were no us and there obviously will be a time when we will not be. The “threat of non-being” is implicitly present in every existence and is irremovable.[30] And so we become aware of our own “finitude” which clearly demonstrates that our “power of being” is limited. Man is “a mixture of being and nonbeing.”[31] It is a question of, in Jaspers’ words, the fundamental human condition. Man becomes aware of his own finitude and the finitude of everything that surrounds him at the same time. Everything that is, is limited and final, i.e. does not exist necessarily and thus it contains “non-being”. This is, of course, a rearticulation of the old metaphysical idea of contingency of the world and man.

This “philosophizing from finitude” shows that deep inside man there is longing for “a form of being that prevails against nonbeing in ourselves and in our world.”[32] It is not possible to think “non-being” if at least implicitly we do not think “being”. This shows that man has an infinite capacity for self-transcending. He is the only being able to see beyond his own finitude and the finitude of all that surrounds him; i.e. man then becomes a possible radical question on what is “beyond nonbeing, namely, to being itself.”[33] Thus we can come to self-affirmation, in spite of non-being.

And this is the very point where the question articulated by philosophy can be answered by theology. “It is our finitude in interdependence with the finitude of our world which drives us to search for ultimate reality.”[34] Christian revelation and its symbols, first of all the central symbol of “God”[35] can help us with this. “God is the answer to the question implied in man’s finitude” and in that sense he is defined as “that which concerns man ultimately”, i.e. our “ultimate concern.”[36] This somewhat phenomenological description of God (which Tillich often applies, as has already been said, to religion in general), also points to the fact that God is implicitly present in the very question. A certain “awareness of God”[37] is already contained in the “fundamental human condition” and in that sense precedes any theological and philosophical research. The old Augustinian solution to the problem of access to God is adopted here, interpreted by Tillich as “the way of overcoming estrangement” in which man discovers himself when he discovers God – he discovers “something that is identical with himself although it transcends him infinitely.”[38] Augustine’s concept of veritas (truth) is crucial here. “Veritas is presupposed in every philosophical argument; and veritas is God.”[39] In that sense, it shows that “God is the presupposition of the question of God (…). God can never be reached if he is the object of a question, and not its basis.”[40] God is immediately present to the soul as “the principle of knowledge, the first truth, in the light of which everything else is known (…). As such He is the identity of subject and object.”[41] There can be no doubt in such a God, for doubt is possible only if subject and object are separated. “Psychologically, of course, doubt is possible; but logically, the Absolute is affirmed by the very act of doubt, because it is implied in every statement about the relation between subject and predicate.”[42] Of course, according to the Augustinian tradition this applies equally to the philosophical Absolute as to the God of religion. The question of the unconditional belongs to both theology and philosophy. Moreover, precisely this – “the problem of the two Absolutes”[43] – is the “central problem” for Tillich.

It also means that if the a priori answer is not only contained, but the very basis of the question itself, “the religious and the philosophical Absolutes, Deus and esse cannot be unconnected!”[44] Where does Tillich see their connection? In the traditional statement of metaphysics – “God is being”![45] The theological question of God and the ontological question of being-itself interweave; the theological answer of God assumes the philosophical question of being. “Theology (…) cannot escape the question of being any more easily than philosophy.”[46] That is why theology necessarily has to be “philosophical”.

Tillich expresses this central thesis in the most pregnant way possible when, in opposition to the great Pascal, at the end of the brief text “Biblical Religion and the Search for Ultimate Reality” he concludes: “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the God of the philosophers is the same God.”[47] Thereby at the same time the whole idea of his thought enterprise is summarized.

5. Deus est esse

How to understand this fundamental thesis that “God” is “being-itself”? The most complete explanation can be found in the first volume of “Systematic Theology”[48]: “God as being-itself is the ground of the ontological structure of being without being subject to this structure himself. He is the structure; that is, he has the power of determining the structure of everything that has being.”[49] Everything that is necessarily participates in God as “being-itself”, i.e. he is the foundation of all beings. It also means that he is not an individual being, not even the highest one. According to Tillich, to think of God as “the highest being” is the greatest mistake theology or philosophy can commit. Why?

If God were “the highest being”, he would be a being among other beings and as such necessarily subjected to the categories of finitude that all beings are subjected to. Also, such a “God” – because he is a being – would be subjected to the structure or principle in which all beings participate and on which all of them are based, like e.g. the gods of the Greek pantheon, and even the supreme god Zeus, are subjected to fate. “The highest being” – because it is finite itself – could no longer be the answer to the question implicated in man’s finitude and would cease to be his “ultimate concern”. God is divine enough only as “being-itself”; only then he represents the power able to withstand non-being, which is present in all that is, but at the same time above all that is.[50]

Furthermore, “the highest being” would necessarily be related to the structure of reality divided into subject and object. It would be an object for us as subjects, and vice versa, God, who would be a subject, necessarily constitutes an object of man. Thus “the highest being” “deprives me of my subjectivity because he is all-powerful and all-knowing. I revolt and try to make him into an object, but the revolt fails and becomes desperate.[51] Man is reduced to a mere object here, to “a thing among things” and against such a tyrannical God, he rightly revolts and wants to get rid of him. Moreover, “this is the God Nietzsche said had to be killed because nobody can tolerate being made into a mere object of absolute knowledge and absolute control.”[52] Atheism is a justified and, moreover, necessary consequence of the relationship to the tyrannical “highest being” conceived like this.

Finally – and this is one of the most controversial theological attitudes of “Systematic Theology” – one cannot talk about God as “existent”. “God does not exist”[53], Tillich is resolute. To claim the opposite, paradoxically, means to agree with atheism. “Being-itself” is beyond essence and existence, “the ‘existence of God’ contradicts the idea of a creative ground of essence and existence. The ground of being cannot be found within the totality of beings, nor can the ground of essence and existence participate in the tensions and disruptions characteristic of the transition from essence to existence.”[54] “Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him.”[55] An authentic religious thought, according to Tillich, should completely give up the idea of relating the concepts of “God” and “existence”.

6. The Intention of Philosophical Theology

What did Tillich ultimately want to achieve with the concept of philosophical theology? He certainly sought – by his own admission – to overcome the problems and limitations of supranaturalism on the one hand, and naturalism on the other. Traditional theological supranaturalism is inadequate because, as we have seen, it makes God to be just another being, though the highest, that is subjected to the categories of finitude. The consequence is that the “divine world” becomes an extension of our world, and “God as a cause” becomes just another cause among causes.[56] But neither the alternative – naturalism – offers an adequate background for speaking of God, because it “identifies God with the universe, with its essence or with special powers within it”[57], i.e. “God is the name for the power and meaning of reality.”[58] The disadvantage of this approach is that it denies the “infinite distance” between everything that is essentially determined by finitude and their “infinite foundation”. The consequence is that the concept of “God” is interchangeable with the concept of “universe”.

Both of these sketches of God form an “idol” that cannot in full sense be a subject of “ultimate concern”, so it is necessary to go in a new direction. The idea of “God as being-itself” and realising the system in correlation with ontology seeks to offer a plausible alternative between these “two insufficient and religiously dangerous solutions.”[59] In this effort, Tillich above all tries to answer the needs of “the spiritual situation” of his age. This is particularly evident in the fact that his thought is adorned with “openness for the fundamental question of human existence: ‘What am I?’”[60] It is “the question which theology and philosophy both try to answer.”[61] It is obvious here that he is undoubtedly in the tradition of existential thought extending from Augustine to Heidegger.

In that sense, even someone superficially acquainted with his thought could agree with English philosopher and theologian Don Cupitt, who considers that Tillich, following Nietzsche’s trail, “saw himself as a Christian theologian writing after the death of God, and who knew that old-style culture-Christianity had come to an end with World War I.”[62] His intention is to rethink Christianity to be relevant to the contemporary man. Of course, that does not mean that Tillich’s understanding of Christianity is acceptable to most believers. Some critics pointed out that Tillich ultimately replaces the Christian God with the “ontological God.”[63] A more traditionally oriented Christian believer can rightly say that Tillich, as a “philosopher, casting the net of ontology, believes that he has caught God in his net. What kind of a God is it who makes himself available to this technique?”[64] Is Christian talk of God completely replaced by the philosophical idea of “being-itself”? Some would certainly agree with such an assessment. Perhaps this was not Tillich’s intention, but in a certain sense this objection is surely valid.


  1. Tillich was born on 20 August 1886 in Starzeddel, back then a part of Prussia (today it is located in Poland), where his father Johannes was a Lutheran pastor. He was fascinated by philosophy since his gymnasium days, but opted for theology studies in Berlin, Tübingen, and Halle. He received a doctorate in philosophy in 1910 in Breslau with the thesis titled “Die religionsgeschichtliche Konstruktion in Schellings positiver Philosophie, ihre Voraussetzungen und Prinzipien”. Also, he earned the licentiate in theology at the Faculty of Theology in Halle in 1912, after which he was ordained as an Evangelical (Lutheran) pastor.
    During the war he was preparing his habilitation after which he started his academic career, first (1919-1924) as a “privatdozent” for theology in Berlin, where he developed the central idea of his “German” phase – religious socialism. In 1924 he became a professor of systematic theology at the University of Marburg, where he met Martin Heidegger, Rudolf Bultmann, and Rudolf Otto. In 1929 he moved to the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Frankfurt (instead of the deceased Max Scheler), where he worked with Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. At the beginning of the 1930s, in times of the rise of National Socialism in Germany, Tillich encountered problems related to the engagement with “religious socialism”, and because of the fact that, being the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, he advocated for students of Jewish origin. He fell into ultimate disfavour of the new government in 1933 by publishing “Die Sozialistische Entscheidung”, which led to an immediate dismissal from the faculty. Tillich thus became the first non-Jewish university professor in Germany who lost his job by the Nazis’ rise to power. Moreover, because of his activity perceived by the new government as explicitly anti-German and anti-Nazi, it was no longer possible for him to live and work in Germany. In that unfortunate situation he suddenly got an offer from the “Union Theology Seminary” in New York. Tillich accepted the invitation and arrived in New York with his family in November of 1933.
    Thus ended the “German” period and began the “American” period of his life and professional activity in which he fully affirmed himself as a supremely original thinker and wrote most of his known works.
    Although having no previous knowledge of English, Tillich first became a lecturer of philosophy of religion and systematic theology at the “Union Theology Seminary”, and later on also associate professor and full professor for “philosophical theology”. After retiring from the “Union” in 1955, he accepted the position of professor at Harvard University, where his fame reached its climax: he gave guest lectures across Europe and America, and received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. In that period, he became one of the most important and in the American public most present intellectuals. He left Harvard in 1962 and taught for the rest of his life at the “Chicago Federated Theological Seminary”, where he worked with a renowned historian of religions Mircea Eliade.
    He died on 22 October 1965 as a result of a heart attack.
  2. In terms of the idea and content, this contribution largely relies on our previously published works in Croatian: “Na granici filozofije i teologije. Paul Tillich i pitanje o ʻfilozofijskoj teologiji’”, in: Bogoslovna smotra 79 (2009) 2, pp. 305-324; “ʻOnkraj teologijskog teizma’. ʻBog’ u ʻfilozofijskoj teologiji’ Paula Tillicha”, in: Anthropos 42 (2010) 1-2, pp. 65-85; “Barthovo i Tillichovo razumijevanje odnosa filozofije i teologije”, in: Diacovensia 24 (2016) 3, pp. 421-440.
  3. Cf. e.g. H. Zahrnt, Die Sache mit Gott. Die protestantische Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert, München, 1966, especially pp. 382-467.
  4. P. Tillich, The Protestant Era. Abridged Edition, Chicago 1966, p. 83.
  5. P. Tillich, “Autobiographical Reflections”, in C. W. Kegley, R.W. Bretall (eds.), The Theology of Paul Tillich, New York 1952, p. 10.
  6. P. Tillich, The Protestant Era, p. IX.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ivi, p. VIII.
  9. Ivi, p. XI.
  10. P. Tillich, Biblical Religion and Search for Ultimate Reality, Chicago 1955, p. 5.
  11. P. Tillich, The Protestant Era, p. 86.
  12. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology. Volume I. Reason and Revelation, Chicago, 1951 (1975), p. 163.
  13. P. Tillich, The Protestant Era, p. 83.
  14. Ivi, 84. This is highlighted also by German philosopher Wilhelm Weischedel who in the book “The God of the Philosophers” (Der Gott der Philosophen) argues that “if someone of today’s Protestant theologians deserves to be examined with regard to the question of philosophical theology, then it is Paul Tillich.” (W. Weischedel, Der Gott der Philosophen. Grundlegung einer philosophischen Theologie im Zeitalter des Nihilismus. Zwei Bände in einem Band, Darmstadt 1998, p. 87.)
  15. P. Tillich, The Protestant Era, pp. 92-93.
  16. Cf. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, pp. 71-159.
  17. Cf. Ivi, pp. 163-289.
  18. The whole second volume of “Systematic theology” deals with the correlation between human existence and Christ.
  19. Cf. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology, Volume III: Life and the Spirit, History and the Kingdom of God, Chicago 1963, pp. 11-294.
  20. Cf. Ibid., pp. 297-423.
  21. P. Tillich, The Protestant Era, p. 93.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ivi, 92.
  24. Cf. K. Barth, Nein! Antwort an Emil Brunner, München 1934. It is about Barth’s very fierce controversy with a longtime friend and theological comrade Emil Brunner on the occasion of his text “Nature and Grace” about the nature, the role, and the possibility of philosophical theology in general. E. Brunner, Natur und Gnade. Zum Gespräch mit Karl Barth, Tübingen 1934.
  25. Cf. P. Tillich, Biblical Religion and Search for Ultimate Reality, p. VII.
  26. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, p. 26.
  27. Ivi, p. 27.
  28. From this it also becomes apparent why Tillich explicitly rejects any possibility of “Christian philosophy”, i.e. what he considers to be an unnatural synthesis of philosophy and theology.
  29. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, p. 62.
  30. Cf. P. Tillich, The Courage to Be, New Haven – London, 1952 (2000), p. 39.
  31. P. Tillich, Biblical Religion and Search for Ultimate Reality, p. 11.
  32. Ivi, p. 14.
  33. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, p. 191.
  34. P. Tillich, Biblical Religion and Search for Ultimate Reality, p. 14.
  35. Here it is necessary to clarify the meaning of “symbols” within “philosophical theology”: the “symbol” is not the same as the “sign”. Both the symbol and the sign point to something other which is beyond themselves, but the decisive difference is that the symbol participates in the reality it points to, while the sign does not. Because of that, signs are subject to change, while symbols are not, and therefore cannot be arbitrarily replaced. In that sense, each of our concepts of God is in fact a “symbol” of God because it enables us to participate in the power of being-itself and becomes the ultimate expression of our “ultimate concern”. (Cf. P. Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, New York 2001, pp. 252-253.)
  36. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, p. 211.
  37. Ivi, p. 206.
  38. P. Tillich, “The Two Types of Philosophy of Religion”, in: Ibid., Theology of Culture, Oxford, 1964, pp. 10-29, here p. 10.
  39. Ivi, p. 12.
  40. Ivi, p. 13.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Ivi, p. 12.
  44. Ibid.
  45. Ibid.
  46. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, p. 163.
  47. P. Tillich, Biblical Religion and Search for Ultimate Reality, p. 85.
  48. Cf. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, p. 235 et seq.
  49. Ivi, p. 239.
  50. Ivi, p. 236.
  51. P. Tillich, Courage to Be, p. 185.
  52. Ibid.
  53. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology I, p. 205.
  54. Ibid.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Cf. P. Tillich, Systematic Theology II, p. 6.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Ibid.
  59. Ivi, p. 7.
  60. P. Tillich, Autobiographical Reflections, p. 21.
  61. Ibid.
  62. D. Cupitt, After God. The Future of Religion, New York 1997, p. 37.
  63. Cf. B. Martin, The Existentialist Theology of Paul Tillich, New York 1963, p. 158.
  64. K. Hamilton, The System And The Gospel. A Critique Of Paul Tillich, New York 1963, p. 84.


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