Tillich’s System [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 29 (2):346-347 (1975)
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Abstract

The author states his thesis in outline form thus: "Tillich’s system, I hold, is composed of three basic elements which, for practical purposes, can be extended to four. These are: the philosophical ontology, the theological phenomenology, the ‘theme’ of union-separation-reunion, and the ‘dialectic’ of the potential-actual-fulfilled. The dialectic is the theme at work. The theme is the dialectic in structural form. Only by radically distinguishing the philosophical ontology from the theological phenomenology, and each from the theme, can a clear view of his use of philosophy and theology be obtained". Although he is not entirely successful in establishing his thesis, Mahan does make a contribution to Tillichian studies by an approach that differs from the usual commentary. The first four chapters of the book are a rearrangement of the Systematic Theology which attempts to present the content in a form more suitable than Tillich’s own method of correlation. Chapter five tries to identify the basic elements that actually, though not explicitly, structure the system as indicated in the outline of his thesis above. In the final chapter, Mahan concludes that the phenomenon of the holy marked by its "dialectic of the destruction and rebirth of the spirit" is the basic motif of the reformulated system and really the source of Tillich’s ultimate optimism. And so he seeks to salvage success for Tillich’s thought precisely because his vision of the sacral quality in all life is too great for his system to embrace.

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