The Courage to Be

by Paul Tillich
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What is the significance of Paul Tillich's theology in our modern churches?

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Paul Johannes Tillich (August 20, 1886–October 22, 1965) was a German-American philosopher and Lutheran theologian whose work was intended to respond to the alienation experienced in the modern world. He fused the philosophy of existentialism with Christian theology in a way that spoke to many people who felt modern life...

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Paul Johannes Tillich (August 20, 1886–October 22, 1965) was a German-American philosopher and Lutheran theologian whose work was intended to respond to the alienation experienced in the modern world. He fused the philosophy of existentialism with Christian theology in a way that spoke to many people who felt modern life had become alienated or meaningless, and his work was extremely popular. Many mainline Protestant churches find Tillich's analysis of the modern condition relevant to the lives of their congregations.

Tillich's starting point is not Biblical literalism, which has become problematic in light of modern linguistic and historical research, but rather the problem of anxiety and despair. He argues that these are the result of the threat that nonbeing poses to being, something that people under the threat of global climate change and weapons of mass destruction experience as existential threats.

Tillich sees the greatest modern anxiety as one of meaninglessness, which is the result of a secular world and breakdown of social cohesion. He sees self-affirmation and religious belief as a solution to this anxiety. This creates a theology that is relevant to modern churches in that it enables members to find meaning rather than simply performing rituals for their own sake.

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