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The Religious Situation 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. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Translator's, Author's Preface and Introduction
The movement of concern is the slowly developing defeat of the spiritual temper of the nineteenth century. But the self-sufficient this-worldliness of capitalist culture and religion is being questioned. Doubts are arising on all sides; they point toward something beyond time and threaten the security of a present which has cut itself loose from the eternal

I. Science
Science, philosophy and the battle for the spirit. The decisive point is the recognition that a living structure cannot be composed out of its parts but can only grow forth out of an original, creative source.

II. Metaphysics
With the growth of opposition to capitalist society a different interpretation of history was bound to arise. The closed circle of finite existence which is represented by the faith in progress has been broken and the presence of the eternal in time and history has been recognized.

III. Art
The immediate task of art is not that of apprehending essence but that of expressing meaning. It indicates what the character of a spiritual situation is and it does this more immediately and directly than do science and philosophy, because it is less burdened by objective considerations.

I. The Political Sphere
In its inner structure capitalist society stands in complete antithesis to the principle of nationalism. The organization of the people in the interest of economic efficiency destroys the organic structure of vocations and leads to the division into classes. The efficient economic organization of the world destroys national individuality and imposes the capitalistic pattern on all nations.

II. The Ethical Sphere
The ethics of the anti-capitalistic movement remains provisional, insecure and expectant in all cases and always falls prey again to capitalist morality. Only if the ideal of humanity instead of being denied were given a measure of self-transcendence in vision and in realization would the ethics of self-sufficient finitude be broken through.

I: Mysticism Outside the Churches
Mysticism in its various roles is discussed: the occult, spiritualism, astrology, magic and various other mystical movements. All of these, however, have limited religious significance.

II: Eschatological Movements
For the spirit of self-sufficient finitude there is no such thing as an end in the definite sense of the term, since the end means the real catastrophe of all finitude which is sufficient to itself. For this reason the strongest, the religiously most decisive challenges to time, have come out of the great prophecies of the end. For the end is the expression of the essential relationship between time and eternity.

III: Religious Situations in the Church
In every sphere from the natural sciences to ritual and dogma there is a turning away from the spirit of self-sufficient finitude, from the spirit of capitalist society. However this turning away has shown us the difficulties, aberrations and reactions of this movement and has designated belief-ful realism as the attitude which is proper to our present situation.

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