Paul Johannes Tillich’s subjective search for ultimates ended last month. The world-renowned theologian succumbed to a heart ailment in a Chicago hospital at age seventy-nine.

Did he ever define death? Probably not, but he once said it “has become powerful in our time, in individual human beings, in families, in nations.… But death is given no power over love. Love is stronger. It creates something new out of the destruction caused by death.”

If that observation was ambiguous, it was not untypical. Tillich was quoted by many more people than understood him. The terms most associated with his thought—“ground of being,” “the unconditioned,” “ultimate concern”—promise to be part of the language for a long time. (See the editorial on page 30.)

The career of Tillich was rather evenly divided between the Old World and the New. His life in Germany was dramatic. It ranged from chaplain service for four years in the Kaiser’s army and a little-known wartime marriage that ended in divorce, to a confrontation with the Hitler regime in the thirties. By contrast, his life in the United States was quiet and rather colorless, though it was in this period that he gained most of his theological prestige.

He was forty-seven when he came to America, an age when most men are at the height of their careers. He knew only a smattering of English then, but was to write fifteen books in his new language. Perhaps because of this late start, Encyclopaedia Britannica included no article on him until the year of his death.

Tillich was doubtless one of the most influential religious minds of modern times, but that influence is hard to capsulize. He was a philosopher among theologians, a theologian among philosophers. He stressed the need to talk to modern listeners, but most were not equipped to listen.

Tillich was sometimes called “the thinking man’s theologian,” but he had such an influence on society in general that he was chosen to give the main address at Time’s fortieth-anniversary banquet two years ago. In typical style, he told the glittering array that “religion … is the state in which we are grasped by the infinite seriousness of the question of the meaning of our life and our readiness to receive answers and to act according to them.”

Similarly, when asked about the resurgence of religion in America, Tillich said it was reflected not in increasing church membership or in crowds flocking to hear evangelists but in young people who were asking “the right question.”

Tillich was born in Starzeddel, Prussia, the son of a Lutheran minister. He studied at several German universities, including the one at Halle where he received his licentiate in theology. He earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Breslau and in 1912 was ordained a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.In America, Tillich belonged to the Evangelical and Reformed Church, and the subsequent United Church of Christ.

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The years as chaplain exposed Tillich to the horrors of war and apparently caused him to remold his theological thought. During these difficult years he married for the first time. A divorce soon followed.

While teaching at the University of Berlin after the war, Tillich met Hannah Werner at an art students’ ball. He married her in 1924, when he was thirty-eight. Both she and his former wife survive him, as do the two children of the second marriage: a daughter, Mrs. Erdmuthe Farris, of New York, and a son, Rene Stephen, of Berkeley. California.

Tillich was exiled from Germany in 1933 because of his outspoken criticism of the Nazis. Years later he told the New York Post, “I had the great honor and luck to be about the first non-Jewish professor to be dismissed from a German university.”

Tillich had a friendship of four decades’ standing with another refugee from Germany, Karl Barth. While the two theologians’ beliefs differed, Tillich claimed there was “underground cooperation between us.”

Another theologian and friend, Reinhold Niebuhr, found a professorial home for Tillich at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, where he spent more than twenty years. In 1955 he was given a special scholar’s status at Harvard Divinity School. Seven years later, he was made John Nuveen professor of theology at the University of Chicago. He was to have left Chicago to join the New School for Social Research in New York in February, 1966.

Tillich was stricken with a heart attack on October 13, and died ten days later. After a simple private funeral service attended by the family and close associates, the body was cremated and the ashes buried in the family plot at East Hampton, Long Island. Tillich willed his brain to the University of Chicago Medical School for study.

Rhodesia: Rumors Of War

In a week during which Christine Keeler was married, Wales beat Russia at soccer, hanging was abolished, and a macabre search went on for more murdered bodies on a Yorkshire moor, the Archbishop of Canterbury stole the British headlines.

Speaking in Aberdeen at a meeting of the British Council of Churches (of which he is president), Dr. Michael Ramsey declared that “as Christians we have to say that it will be right to use force” against the Rhodesian government if it makes a unilateral declaration of independence. The primate drew an analogy with Britain’s obligation to Poland in 1939. He claimed, moreover, to speak for “a large body of Christian opinion.”

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The latter is as obvious as the snows of yesteryear if the national dailies faithfully reflect public reaction. Even that pillar of the establishment, The Times, published one morning ten letters on the subject, only one of them supporting Dr. Ramsey (and that with qualifications). One reader remarked, “Last time we used force in answer to a unilateral declaration of independence we were defeated, and the result was the United States of America.”

Only five of twenty-eight diocesan bishops questioned by another paper agreed with the archbishop—a remarkable fact to those acquainted with the Church of England. A Church of Scotland synod that same week declared its unanimous opposition. On the other side, thirty-five members of parliament (one in eighteen) welcomed the speech.

There is no doubt but that the government was acutely embarrassed at a time when delicate negotiations were proceeding, and the Rhodesian government called the statement “inflammatory.”

Three days after Dr. Ramsey’s speech Canterbury Cathedral was desecrated in what might have been a protest against Dr. Ramsey’s stand. The high altar, the marble throne, and the tomb of the Black Prince were sprayed with paint, and tapestries were daubed with the word “Peace.” The next day, similar vandalism occurred at York Cathedral, where Dr. Ramsey was archbishop before coming to Canterbury.

In America, the World Order Conference of the National Council of Churches said Rhodesia should be independent only with effective guarantees of Africans’ part in national life. A majority called for economic sanctions if Rhodesia rebels. Evangelist Billy Graham wired Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith on the eve of his meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Wilson and said, “Thousands of Christians throughout the world join me in praying that peace will prevail. May God grant you and the leaders of both races in Southern Rhodesia his wisdom in this fateful hour.”


Conservative Kudos For King

The intellectually vibrant Free University of Amsterdam, at age 85, is the foremost conservative Protestant university on the Continent. Last month it celebrated its anniversary with glitter and some breaks with tradition.

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Since 1880, the school had granted only thirteen honorary degrees. During the celebration, it quickly added six to the list.

Doctorates have usually gone to Calvinists, but this time one recipient was a liberal Baptist, the Rev. Martin Luther King. However, he was honored for his civil rights achievements, not his theology.

The university also recognized two giants on its own faculty, Drs. Herman Dooyeweerd, 71, and G. C. Berkouwer, 62.

King overslept and missed his flight from England, and was running a fever because of a cold. But when it was over, he said the F.U. visit was one of the most important events of his life.

Some were less than happy that F.U. had become the first conservative Christian college anywhere to honor King. Critics included students from South Africa, bastion of racial segregation, and moderates who think integration must be gradual.

But the independent Protestant daily, Trouw, said F.U.’s stand on civil rights is wholly in line with the wishes of the university’s founder, Abraham Kuyper, who was once Dutch prime minister.

Kuyper led a great movement from the state Dutch Reformed Church, joined the secessionist Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, and founded the university whose name symbolizes its independence from both church and state. At the end of his life, Kuyper expressed dissatisfaction with his group’s limited achievements in social justice.

His separated university now draws nine-tenths of its income from the national government, and its international student body numbers 5,000. It is one of the Netherlands’ two private universities (the other is Catholic).

Dooyeweerd is retiring from the faculty after thirty-nine years. His impact is shown in reactions from Roman Catholics, and in the comment from G. B. Langemeer, professor and prosecutor of the Dutch Supreme Court, who disagrees with Dooyeweerd but calls him Holland’s most original philosopher, not excepting Spinoza.

Berkouwer, like his retiring colleague, has nine children, and this year is his twenty-fifth at F.U. His anniversary attracted most Dutch theological leaders, Catholic as well as Protestant, for his writings have established new points of contact between the two camps. In his remarks, Berkouwer, a contributing editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, acknowledged his evolving view of Catholicism but said this does not imply relativism. Karl Barth and Hans Küng wrote special essays on Berkouwer’s work for the anniversary.

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Among other persons granted doctorates were Paul C. Hoffman, United Nations specialist in underdeveloped countries, and His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard, who was praised for improving Holland’s economic relations abroad.

The presence of the Dutch royal family and other dignitaries at the anniversary assured front-page coverage in the national press.


Two Educators, Two Views

A clash of ideas enlivened the eighth National Conference on Religion in Education, sponsored by the 68-year-old Council for Religion in Independent Schools and held last month at Washington’s Shoreham Hotel.

Two of the main speakers, Dr. Charles Malik of Lebanon, former president of the U. N. General Assembly, and the Rev. William Sloan Coffin, Jr., chaplain of Yale University, presented their contrasting views to about 300 delegates representing America’s leading independent preparatory schools.

After saying that Malik had been one of the heroes of his youth, Coffin referred to Malik’s forthright and detailed confession of his orthodox Christian faith in the opening conference address as “an American Legion and back-to-God” plea. Coffin also said conference seminars on such subjects as “Parental Equivocation and Student Moral Standards” represented preoccupation with “micro-ethics” at the expense of involvement in today’s great social issues.

Malik, who clearly recognized the social dimensions of faith, bore witness to the claims of Christ and asserted that “countless decent people, sane people, responsible people have believed these claims. Genuine theology is the science that humbly tries to explain them and does it by believing them first.… Nothing is more authentic than what we ultimately believe.”

Coffin said the personal appeal in the old biblical terms of commitment of the individual to Christ has no relevance for students today. His was an impassioned advocacy of nonconformity and a religion steeped in the social struggle.

Malik said that to talk about how to communicate is to miss the real problem: “Intelligibility to students is not a criterion of truth.” The divergence of opinion was aptly put in Malik’s retort to a reference by Coffin to his concern for “earthen vessels.” Said Malik, “But I am concerned with the treasure.”

What’S In A Name?

Biblical Seminary in New York will be renamed New York Theological Seminary, if the New York Regents approve. Trustees acted October 1, and a press release twelve days later said the change emphasizes the school’s involvement with New York City.

Another reason cited: the present label implied a Bible institute, rather than a graduate seminary. The board stressed that the school will continue its tradition of intensive Bible study.

There are other changes beside the name. Retirements and more visiting professors in the past two years have altered the faculty greatly. The seminary plans to house MUST, an interchurch urban service training center to be headed by the Rev. George W. Weber of East Harlem Protestant Parish.

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