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My Search for Absolutes by Paul Tillich


Paul Tillich is generally considered one of the century's outstanding and influential thinkers. After teaching theology and philosophy at various German universities, he came to the United States in 1933. For many years he was Professor of Philosophical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, then University Professor at Harvard University. His books include Systematic Theology; The Courage to Be; Dynamics of Faith; Love, Power and Justice; Morality and Beyond; and Theology of Culture. A part of the "Credo Perspectives" series, planned and edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen. Published by Simon and Schuster, New York, 1967. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Chapter 1: What Am I: An Autobiographical Essay: Early Years
From his years in Germany to the radical sociological changes overcoming him in America, Tillich reviews the details of how his life was influenced.

Chapter 2: Absolutes in Human Knowledge and the Idea of Truth
Each statement about the absolutes in knowledge is relative, and this is true of my own statements here and now. But the absolutes themselves are not relative. One cannot escape them. Even if I had argued against them, Id have had to use them to do so.

Chapter 3: The Absolute and the Relative Element in Moral Decisions
The "moral imperative" is an absolute,"unconditionally" valid. But in contrast to the unconditional character of the moral imperative as such, its contents are always changing. The mixture of the absolute and the relative in moral decisions is what constitutes their danger and their greatness. It gives dignity and tragedy to man, creative joy and pain of failure. Therefore one should not try to escape into a willfulness without norms, or into a security without freedom.

Chapter 4: The Holy -- the Absolute and the Relative in Religion
In our dialogues with other religions we must not try to make converts; rather, we must try to drive the other religions to their own depths, to that point at which they realize that they are witness to the Absolute but are not the Absolute themselves.

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