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Buddhist-Christian Studies 21.1 (2001) 161-164

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Book Review

"Was Uns Unbedingt Angeht": Studien Zur Theologie Und Philosophie Paul Tillich

"Was Uns Unbedingt Angeht":studien Zur Theologie Und Philosophie Paul Tillich. By Werner Schüssler. Münster, Germany: LIT Verlag, 1999. 271 pp.

In this book we are introduced to central themes of Paul Tillich's theological and philosophical thinking. Several essays deal with the problems of secularism; Tillich's concept of faith, religion, and theology; his understanding of authority, revelation, and prayer; his theology of culture and religion; his concept of "God above God"; his work on symbols; his relation to natural theology and metaphysics; and his thoughts on the danger of power and the ambivalence of progress. It becomes quite clear that Tillich--who, contrary to Karl Barth, explicitly searched for ways and methods of dialogue with culture, philosophy, and non-Christian religions--still offers much for human beings living in the Third Millennium to reflect upon.

In the introductory notes we learn that Paul Tillich (1886-1965) was a thinker who was not bound by any borders between disciplines. The only discipline he explicitly referred to was philosophical theology, which had no place in the academic tradition [End Page 161] of German Protestantism at that time. If we follow his Main Works(Berlin/ New York, 1987-1998), we can differentiate between philosophical, cultural-philosophical, sociophilosophical-ethical, religious, and theological writings. Tillich's writings are the testimonies of a thinker who tried to understand his time--especially the religious, cultural, and political situation in Germany from 1918-1933 (including the problem and idea of totality, as in his three-volume Systematic Theology)--and later, after he had to emigrate, the problems of a civilization shaped by science, technology, the disintegration of traditional systems of meaning, the loss of the religious dimension in daily human life and, following this, the radical experience of nothingness, and finally the encounter with Far Eastern spirituality and religion. Always he wanted to correlate questions arising from the human situation with answers from the Christian message. Therefore, Schüssler argues, we cannot just casually review Tillich's thinking, but we have to dare it anew with honesty, realism, and passion and allow it to inform our ongoing interdisciplinary and intercultural conversations.

The essays come in two parts: theology and philosophy.


The first part consists of eight contributions: Tillich and the problem of secularization, Tillich's dynamic concept of faith, Tillich's understanding of religion and theology, the relation between authority and revelation found in the writings of Tillich and Jasper, Tillich's theonomous theology of prayer, Tillich's contribution to interreligious dialogue from the viewpoint of philosophy of religion, the continuing effect of the christological paradox in Tillich's philosophy of religion and theology of religion, and Tillich's and Barth's first encounter in the 1920s.

Schüssler's essay on interreligious dialogue makes clear that, like Barth, Tillich at the end of his life regretted not having included non-Christian religions into his systematic outlines. Although Tillich worked with history of religion and the question of other religions within his study of Schelling rather early, this aspect became relevant thematically only late (aside from a relatively short comment in his Philosophy of Religion from 1925 and in his Dogmatics from the same year). It was stimulated by two important encounters: a journey to Japan from May until July 1960, and contact with his colleague Mircea Eliade in Chicago. And although his Systematic Theologydeals primarily with the encounter with secular culture, in its chapter on "Manifestation of the Divine Spirit within Historical Humanity," Tillich speaks of the "spiritual community in its latent and manifest states" and in so doing represents the inclusivist model in interreligious dialogue. The author sees many different aspects in Tillich's thought as useful within the theology of religion, particularly the theocentric aspect in his concept of "God above God," the revelatory aspect in his discussion of primary revelation or fundamental revelation, the epistemological aspect in his definition of faith as "that...


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