The Irrelevance and Relevance of the Radical, Impure Tillich

  • Mike Grimshaw
Part of the Radical Theologies book series (RADT)


My response to Tillich is always mediated through that central trope of the boundary. As Tillich writes of himself: “At almost every point, I have had to stand between alternative possibilities of existence, to be completely at home in neither and to take no definitive stand against either.”1 In a world that often demands singularity, the boundary is a place of impurity: of being between and among options, claims, and possibilities. The modern quest for purity, singularity, and order is challenged by a boundary that notes there is always an alternative. The alternative occurs because purity requires the existence and challenge of that named impure to express its claim. The boundary between such claims signifies the chance and challenge of being not quite one thing or the other. The boundary can also, therefore, be encountered as the sight and site of a radical identity that deviates across and between: as the location where the option of an alternative to “what is” can be encountered. I, therefore, read and respond to Tillich as being on and between several boundaries that serve to express our ongoing hermeneutics as subjects, as moderns, as postmoderns, and as center and edge. These boundaries include being part of, and yet against, empire and part of, yet often against, Christian culture and history and the tensions and possibilities of the secular. In identifying with such boundaries and undertaking a self-engagement with and within them, Tillich and his work are not an end in themselves but rather a means to begin to undertake a variety of responses to these contexts wherein we find ourselves.


Socialist Decision Christian Theology Frankfurt School Socialist Idea Ultimate Concern 
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  1. 2.
    Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, prepared on the basis of the German volume, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (1982) (Cambridge, MA and London: The Belknapp Press/Harvard University Press, 1999/2002), 425.Google Scholar
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© Russell Re Manning 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mike Grimshaw

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