I am continuing to read the archive at Dialogue, this week Louis Midgley's article “Religion and Ultimate Concern: An Encounter with Paul Tillich's Theology," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 1 No. 2 (1966): 63-79. [The table of contents for the issue allows downloads of pdf files for every article.] Midgley applauds Tillich's attempt to highlight the religious dimension of culture and institutions through his concept of "ultimate concern," which Midgley terms a "genuinely useful concept." Properly, God should be our ultimate concern, but too often individuals, as well as institutions and states, are ultimately concerned with other goals (which constitutes a form of idolatry or false religion).
But Midgley understandably parts company with Tillich when he categorically rejects a literal reading of supernatural events like the Resurrection in favor of a purely symbolic reading. Midgley comments:
Mormons employ some language about God that they believe is literally true and, therefore, not merely symbolic. They believe and their scriptures assert, for example, that God is a finite being with spatio-temporal existence. This makes a Mormon diety merely a finite, existing "thing" in Tillich's language. What he always maintained was that such a God was not God at all but merely a "god" and, therefore, an idol or perhaps even a demon. It should be clear that what Mormons say about God will fly in the face of Tillich's "God"; the Mormon dieties are merely, in Tillich's language, "gods" and not genuine objects of ultimate concern. Now if God is as Tillich claims, Mormons are grossly idolatrous. This represents the radical challenge of his theology.
Radical challenge, indeed. A more manageable challenge, when reading Tillich or any other theologian, is determining which concepts enlighten or productively complement an LDS doctrine or idea, and which concepts are simply irreconcilable with core LDS doctrines or ideas.