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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Symbol and kairos, Paul Tillich in encounter with world religions Eggen, William M. G.,


The purpose of this study is to investigate the elements in the theology of Tillich which would have enabled him to enter into the intensive encounter with data from the history of Religion, which encounter he thought offered the only acceptable hope for the future of theology and of Religions as such. Tillich conceives religion as man's concern for ultimate meaning fulfillment. It forms the true substance of all culture, because all cultural activities are essentially responses to the immanence of the Ultimate Ground of reality which breaks through the concrete forms as a revelatory demand on man to transcend the concrete meaning structures. Revelation and man's self-transcending responses to it are universally present, but the latter are ambiguous as they are embodied in concrete, limited forms, which tend to absolutize themselves. As symbols, however, these forms have the power to mediate man's relation to the Ground of being and as such be life-giving. Symbolic mediation, in Tillich's opinion, must be related to the historical setting of a concrete community. It is effective to the extent that it enables man to live in the paradox of accepting concrete forms and moments {Kaivoi) as the representatives of what concerns him ultimately. Our approach to religious symbols, then, must be that of a double hermeneutics. We must be radically critical lest any contingent form claims ultimacy and at the same time we must be entirely committed to accepting the tradition as the source of meaning fulfillments.. We have related Tillich to the two major hermeneutical approaches of our time and we found that his own position not only accomodates any scientific study of Religions but also illustrates how a different tradition can become an integral part of a community's hermeneutical horizon. Tillich proposed the ideal of a unifying theonomy, as the alternative to heteronomy and absolutism on the one hand, and autonomous secularism and relativism on the other. He rehabilitates myths and symbols as indispensable parts of all religion. By this system, we think, Tillich created sound theological conditions for the required dialogue, even though he did not develop an adequate heuristic tool for the analysis of non-Western Religions and failed to emphasize the need of intensive practical contacts.

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