Paul Tillich – excerpts from “The Courage to Be”

The decisive event which underlies the search for meaning and the despair of it in the 20th century is the loss of God in the 19th century. Feuerbach explained God away in terms of the infinite desire of the human heart; Marx explained him away in terms of an ideological attempt to rise above the given reality; Nietzsche as a weakening of the will to live . . .

The result is the pronouncement “God is dead,” and with him the whole system of values and meanings in which one lived. This is felt both as a loss and as a liberation. It drives one either to nihilism or to the courage which takes nonbeing into itself.
The anxiety of meaninglessness is anxiety about the loss of an ultimate concern, of a meaning which gives meaning . . . This anxiety is aroused by the loss of a spiritual center, of an answer, however symbolic and indirect, to the question of the meaning of existence . . .

Everything is tried and nothing satisfies.
The contents of the tradition, however excellent, however praised, however loved once, lose their power to give content today. And present culture is even less able to provide the content.
Anxiously one turns away from all concrete contents and looks for an ultimate meaning, only to discover that it was precisely the loss of a spiritual center which took away the meaning from the special contents of the spiritual life.
ut a spiritual center cannot be produced intentionally, and the attempt to produce it only produces deeper anxiety.
The anxiety of emptiness drives us to the abyss of meaninglessness.
The question then is this: Is there a courage which can conquer the anxiety of meaninglessness and doubt?

The courage to be . . . conquers the threat of meaninglessness by courageous action . . .

Faith is the basis of the courage to be . . .

Is there a kind of faith which can exist together with doubt and meaninglessness?

The act of accepting meaninglessness is in itself a meaningful act. It is an act of faith. . .
The faith which creates the courage to take them into itself has no special content.
It is simply faith, undirected, absolute.
It is undefinable, since everything defined is dissolved by doubt and meaninglessness . . .

The content of absolute faith is the “God above God.”

Only if the God of theism is transcended can the anxiety of doubt and meaninglessness be taken into the courage to be . . .

The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt . . .

Excerpts from:
Tillich, Paul. The Courage to Be. Yale University Press. 1952.