Paul Tillich and the Question of God: A Philosophical Appraisal

Dissertation, University of Arkansas (1981)
Tillich has been accused of being an atheist and pantheist. This study shows mainly that once one studies Tillich's work with care and with an open mind, one can see clearly that his existential ontology is quite consistent in form and theistic in content, and that the terms which he uses to express the idea of God are not unduly vague at all. ; There are six chapters in this thesis. In the first chapter, I argue that Tillich is not an atheist; his God above the God of theism is a more adequate concept than most traditional concepts of God. I show that, for Tillich, God as our ultimate concern expresses the appropriateness of a worshipping attitude towards God, and that God as being-itself shows that God is the ground of being that gives us the moral courage to affirm our being in spite of the fact of nonbeing. God is thus the "power of being" which conquers anxieties. ;In the second chapter, I show more clearly what being-itself means for Tillich. God as being-itself is not a being among beings. Beings are bound to the structure of being and the categories of finitude, but God as being-itself is not bound by them. Being-itself transcends the world and everything within it. Being-itself is not the kind of immanent God that pantheism holds. Thus I once again argue against the accusation that Tillich is an atheist or pantheist. I also argue against the idea that the Platonic or Aristotelian universal is adequate as a model to interpret Tillich's idea of being-itself. Being-itself, for Tillich, cannot be identified with the Platonic or Aristotelian universal. ;The third chapter shows how Tillich gives a philosophical-theological interpretation of religious symbols. Except for the claim that "God is being-itself" is a direct non-symbolic statement about God, everything we say about God is interpreted by Tillich as symbolic. In chapter four, I show in some detail why, for Tillich, the word "existence" cannot be applied to God. But when Tillich claims that God does not exist, he does not mean that there is no God. He only rejects the misleading combination of the word "existence" and "God." "Existence" should be applied only to finite beings, not to being-itself. Therefore I also argue that arguments for God's existence cannot be constructed out of Tillich's system as some commentators have claimed. In fact, for Tillich, God is presupposed necessarily; any argument for God's reality is impossible and unnecessary. ;Chapter five is a discussion of Tillich's idea of freedom in relation to God's transcendence. Only things are determined. Human being has finite freedom which is rooted in his destiny. And God is absolute freedom. However, God's absolute freedom does not destroy man's finite freedom. For Tillich, the crucial theistic assertion of God's transcendence is rooted in this reality of both human and divine freedom. ;In the final chapter, I discuss Tillich's proposed solution to the problem of evil and omnipotence. For Tillich, to say that God is omnipotent does not mean that God can do everything; rather it is to express our trust in God. It is to assert that God as the power of being can conquer nonbeing in all its expressions. The existence of evil does not constitute a reason for a believer to abandon his belief in God; it simply constitutes one of the mysteries of existence reflected in religion. The existence of evil is inevitable because it is implied in the creaturely finitude. To believe in God's providence, according to Tillich, is the only answer to the question of theodicy. Thus Tillich shows us how to face suffering
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