Born in Starzeddel, Germany, Tillich studied at a number of German universities—those of Berlin, Tubingen, Halle, and Breslau—before finally obtaining a degree. Shortly thereafter, in 1912, he was ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and soon took up a career as professor. He moved around to a number of universities throughout Germany over the next two decades, teaching theology at the universities of Berlin, Marburg, Dresden, and Leipzig, and philosophy at Frankfurt. However, his opposition to the Nazis cost him his job: he was fired in 1933. Finding himself thus barred from German universities, he accepted an invitation from Reinhold Niebuhr to teach at the Union Theological Seminary in the United States, to which country he immigrated later in that year.
It is at the Union Theological Seminary that Tillich earned his reputation, publishing a series of books that outlined his particular synthesis of Protestant Christian theology with existentialist philosophy (drawing on research in psychology in the process). A 1952 work outlining many of his views on the subject, The Courage to Be, proved popular even outside philosophical and religious circles, earning him considerable acclaim and influence. This led to a prestigious appointment at Harvard University in 1954, where he wrote another popularly acclaimed book, Dynamics of Faith (1957). In 1962, he moved to the University of Chicago, where he continued until his death in Chicago in 1965.