Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1886-1965) German-born Protestant theologian known for his theology of culture, his political theology, and a theological method of sociocultural analysis. Tillich received his Ph.D. from Breslau (1911) and licentiate in theology from Halle (1912).

After serving as a chaplain in World War I, Tillich grew increasingly interested in political theory and the cultural situation in the Weimar Republic. He soon became an active part of the Independent Social Democrats, the more radical of the socialist forums. In 1923, his essay "Basic Principles of Religious Socialism" (Grundinien des religiosen Sozialismus) became foundational for the growing religious socialist movement. The Religious Situation (Die religiose Lage der Gegenwart ) in 1926 (Holt 1932), drawing heavily on Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch, pointed out the estrangement prevalent in European society. While teaching at the University of Frankfurt, he was a member of the Institut für Sozialforschung, which was dedicated to social research and the development of a critical theory of society. His work in Germany culminated in The Socialist Decision (University Press of America 1983 [1932]), a religious socialist manifesto. Tillich emigrated to America to escape the Nazi threat in 1933 and joined Reinhold Niebuhr at Union Theological Seminary.

Tillich's method changed the way the relationship between religion and culture was considered in theological studies. The method defined "theology" as the reflection of answers to questions of ultimate concern raised out of the human experience (the religious dimension), and "culture" as the practical reflection of the religious dimension of a people. He developed this method further in such works as Theology of Culture (Oxford University Press 1959), a theological analysis of culture using the method to define the religion-culture relationship in integrative terms ("religion is the substance of culture, culture is the form of religion"); Dynamics of Faith (Harper 1957), a phenomenological study of religious faith as the universal human experience of being ultimately concerned; and the three volumes of Systematic Theology (University of Chicago Press 1951, 1957, 1963). Following his death in 1965, he was the focus of his friend Rollo May's psychoanalysis in Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship (Harper 1973) and his wife Hannah's personal account of life with Tillich, From Time to Time (Stein and Day 1973).

Gary Mann


R. H. Stone, Paul Tillich's Radical Social Thought (Atlanta: Knox, 1980)

P. Tillich, "The Church and Communism," Religion in Life 6(1937):347-357

P. Tillich, "Protestantism in the Present World Situation," American Journal of Sociology 43(1938):236-248

P. Tillich, "Man and Society in Religious Socialism," Christianity and Society 8, 4(1943):10-21

P. Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice (London: Oxford University Press, 1954)

P. Tillich, "The Philosophy of Social Work," Social Science Review 36(1962):13-16.

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