The Courage to Be
Few thinkers, let alone theologians, have managed to inspire the popular imagination as Paul Tillich did in the mid-twentieth century. As a public intellectual, he has been compared to Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose writings also gained mass appeal and whose lectures attracted large audiences in the 19th century. One of Tillich’s landmark works, The Courage to Be, was originally conceived under the auspices of The Terry Lecture Series at Yale University between 1950–1951. Though the work was published over fifty years ago, it has become a staple in college curricula. His work was relevant in the 1950s as the U.S. enjoyed a postwar boom but suffered from Cold War anxiety; half a century later, it is just as applicable in today as we deal with new and wholly different anxieties that stem from economic turbulence and the global War on Terror. But rather than explore these external anxieties caused by current events, Tillich examines our collective internal anxiety, that of our own existence, which is tied to issues of fate, guilt, and death. This book deals with existentialism and the many lines of flight that derive from this charged term. Tillich explores the idea of anxiety from a variety of religious and secular perspectives. But he ultimately seeks to encourage us—to inspire us with courage—to develop an absolute faith, a state of mind that transcends religious, divine, or mystical connotations. This absolute faith is the ultimate manifestation of courage, a self-affirmation of being in spite of non-being.
The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.
As our world changes, so does the way we lead our lives in it. But Tillich provides a clear and sage commentary that applies to all generations on the existential challenges we face and how we can develop an honest but hopeful response to the challenges brought forth by anxiety and nonbeing, our lifelong companions. The Courage to Be is available from Yale University Press as part of the Terry Lectures Series publications.