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Tillich, Paul Johannes°


TILLICH, PAUL JOHANNES ° (1886–1965), Protestant philosopher and theologian, born in Starzeddal (Silesia), the son of a Lutheran pastor. He received his education at the universities of Berlin, Tübingen, Halle, and Breslau. Often compared to Martin Buber because they shared a kind of existentialist thought, Tillich made an impact on American Jews comparable to Buber's influence on Christians. Tillich began his teaching career in his native Germany at various universities, but his opposition to Hitler's National Socialism led to him being dismissed from his teaching activities. Vehemently opposed to Nazism, he subsequently went to the United States in 1933 after having, in his own words, "the honor to be the first non-Jewish professor to be dismissed from a German university." Throughout his years of work at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago, he maintained his many friendships with Jewish refugees from his native land.

Paul Tillich's numerous writings culminate in his great three-volume Systematic Theology (1951–63). In all his work, he employed a "method of correlation" to bring together philosophy and theology. Part idealist, part existentialist, he was a gifted analyst of the human condition in its modern setting. Tillich's concept of "the Protestant principle" self-consciously reproduced elements of Hebrew prophetic tradition, particularly in its stress on criticism of one's own achievements and institutions. Careful to distinguish between Jewish and Christian thought on the messianic question, Tillich was preoccupied with the problem of particularism ("chosenness") and universalism in Judaism. Out of a deep respect for Judaism, he was among the first Christian spokesmen to call for the replacement of attempts at conversion by attempts at dialogue between Christian and Jew.


Agus, in: Judaism, 3 (1954), 80–89; Martin, ibid., 15:2 (1966), 180–8. add. bibliography: C.W. Kegley and R.W. Bretall (eds.), The Theology of Paul Tillich (1952); K. Hamilton, The System and the Gospel: A Critique of Paul Tillich (1963); D. Ford, The Modern Theologians (1997).

[Martin E. Marty /

Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]

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