Monday, October 26, 2009

Paul Tillich


I have just finished reading Fred Sanders' post on the anniversary of Paul Tillich's death. I can't recall anything I have read in recent years that was more excruciating to endure. Fred Sanders wrote accurately and beautifully. It was his subject which was so hideous. For many years, I have known that Tillich's theology was repulsive -- so repulsive, in fact, that I never probed deeper into his life. So I was shocked to read what I did in Sanders' post. I would commend the entire post to you for reading (misery loves company): http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com/2009/10/22/the-end-of-paul-tillichs-life/

A few salient points from the post:

"His 3-volume Systematic Theology is a desert where the harsh sun of existentialism beats down on the dry sand of historicism. But there are oases within that desert, and just when I think I’m going to sell off all my Tillich books at cheap rates, I flip through them and find underlined sections in which he manages to say something helpful that nobody else has said."

"As for his life, it was infamously licentious. He was a kind of rock-star academic, broadcasting his professorial charisma and harvesting dalliances and liaisons with adoring groupies. Many were sexual, some were long-term, and all were wounding to his hapless second wife, Hannah."

"After his death, Hannah wrote one of the strangest biographies ever written about a theologian, From Time to Time. ... the book is like one of those very long Ingmar Bergman movies where everybody screams at each other in Swedish and then the camera does a close-up on a face that starts bleeding for no reason while Liv Ullman blows smoke at it and laughs. Yes, it’s that bad."

"She is at his side when he dies, offering to read the Bible to him but being waved off. After his death, she returns home and opens his locked drawers. 'All the girls’ photos fell out, letters and poems, passionate appeal and disgust. Beside the drawers, which were supposed to contain his spiritual harvest, the books he had written and the unpublished manuscripts all lay in unprotected confusion. I was tempted to place between the sacred pages of his highly esteemed lifework those obscene signs of the real life that he had transformed into the gold of abstraction –King Midas of the spirit.' "

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