- Series: The Terry Lectures Series
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 3 edition (July 8, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 030018879X
- ISBN-13: 978-0300188790
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 84 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I know that some will object to my position by saying something along the lines of: "How can someone who has written a systematic theology not be a theologian?" Go ahead and ask. I know of no sane person who has read his systematic all the way through without having been compelled by someone higher up in the power structure of academia.
This leads me to the thesis of my review. Tillich was not a theologian or as some would no doubt suggest, a philosopher. I cannot put my finger on exactly what he was. The most honest and least vitriolic (though this book simply begs for vitriol) description I can provide of this book is that it is vague. Tillich seems to want to make some universalist and yet subjective statement about courage and anxiety, but he never pulls the trigger on it. He dances round and round the subject, leaving the reader both tired and queasy.
This leads me back to the question of Tillich. Is this book the work of Tillich the theologian, Tillich the existentialist philosopher, or an undefined, wholly other Tillich? I don't know. However I do believe I know who Tillich was writing for; and I believe this is the key to our question about Tillich, meaningful as part of understanding the book, and of the utmost importance to you as you consider whether or not to buy and read this book. It is my sincere belief that this book was written for that all too common half-breed that is found in our universities: the Liberal Academic (those who are too lacking in honesty to be true scholars and yet still fearful enough to admit their own atheism).
Tillich is still widely read by captive audiences under the tutelage of these academics. This ensures why this book is still read and discussed. This notwithstanding I urge you to take my honest and heartfelt advice: don't read this book unless one of them forces you to.
In order to resolve the angst of modern man, Tillich imposes upon himself that "The answer must accept, as its precondition, the state of meaninglessness." This precondition creates the cul-de-sac for his rational argument.
Tillich himself, offers the naïve solution of "The faith which creates the courage to take [meaninglessness/anxiety] into itself has no special content. It is simply faith, undirected, absolute. It is undefinable, since everything defined is dissolved by doubt and meaninglessness."
In other words, Tillich suggests that to resolve meaninglessness and despair one should resort to having faith without subject matter.
Tillich further explains himself by stating the requisite courage/faith is not without subject matter but rather is in "pure being" or "the God above God". This is nonsense. The God of the Bible is the great "I AM", pure being. There is no God above God.
By giving the proposition "God above God" Tillich is either:
a) making a substitution identical to that which is being substituted, making the proposition gibberish
b) removing God from the equation, replacing Him with the power of being within ourselves as the basis for our courage (what an ersatz this exchange would be, a finite force within ourselves, leading to certain death, rather than a personal God who could be implored that held the power to gift eternity).
c) replacing the definition of God handed down through the ages and substituting it for one, more amenable to his existentialist philosophy. In so doing he is falling into the trap of creating god in his own image. One also would have to ask the question why he feels he should be trusted with elucidating to mankind who God is, using his reason alone? The credentials of Jesus and Moses are likely more qualified for this which is likely why their assertions are believed more than those of Tillich.
If you were not certain before reading this book that Existentialist philosophy has no real legitimate answers for meaning in life this book should provide another nail in the coffin towards that conclusion.
Pros: helps to fall asleep,