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NONFICTION : THE ESSENTIAL TILLICH: AN ANTHOLOGY OF THE WRITINGS OF PAUL TILLICH, edited with a preface by F. Forrester Church (Macmillan: $19.95; 288 pp.).

November 22, 1987|John K. Roth

Opposed to Nazism, Paul Tillich (1886-1965) left his native Germany for the United States in 1933. His philosophical theology decisively influenced mainline American Protestantism during its heyday in the middle third of this century.

"God," wrote Tillich, "is the answer to the question implied in man's finitude; He is the name for that which concerns man ultimately." Tillich explored the uncertainties of human existence and, in spite of those conditions, helped people to discern the God who provides the courage to be.

This book's editor, F. Forrester Church, senior minister at the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, correctly observes that "the religious situation has changed dramatically" since Tillich's death. Impatience with ambiguity and skepticism pushed his approach "into the shadows," but therefore, Church argues, Tillich's insights are needed more than ever "to liberate us from the tyrannies of our times."

Finding Tillich essential, Church offers the essential Tillich. The anthology's eight chapters draw from his sermons as well as from his major books. Its judicious selections allow Tillich to explain, interpret, and amplify his own themes.

In the book's forward, Tillich's daughter, Mutie Tillich Farris, provides an apt evaluation when she commends Church for making her father's thought newly accessible to "any serious reader who has ever asked an existential question."

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