God Is a Symbol for God: Paul Tillich and the Contours of Any Possible Radical Theology

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Book Chapter

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Given the title of this chapter, the reader could be forgiven for assuming that my claim here is going to be that Paul Tillich lays out the a priori conditions of the possibility of any radical theology whatsoever. But, of course, that would hardly be in the spirit of the many anti-foundationalist endeavors that go under the heading “radical theology.” My claim instead is a much more modest one—namely, that Tillich does an exemplary job of covering the bases in surveying what God-talk in the contemporary West is all about. Thus, almost any attempt at a radical theology can be discussed in Tillichian terms, or at least played off of Tillich’s perspective, without wholly misunderstanding that theology and in a fashion that provides useful theological insights.1 I identify the heart of Tillich’s mature theology with his claim that “God is [a] symbol for God.”2 Just how that formula illuminates the way in which radical theology is done will be revealed in stages by juxtaposing the formula with various radical theological undertakings.