Paul Ricoeur passed away Friday at the age of 92. He was one of the greatest philosophers of all time.
I read Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil in the summer of 1983 as I was preparing a prospectus for my doctoral dissertation. That was the first book by Ricoeur that I had read. It completely reoriented my research on the theology of love and pointed to a way of thinking that always seems to provide fresh glimpses of the inexhaustible depths of God's love and grace.
The title of my doctoral dissertation is The Symbolism of Love and in it I tried to show that woven into Ricouer's text on The Symbolism of Evil and throughout his other writings there is a theology of love that is deeper and more profound than can be found in the writings of contemporary theologians.
In my mind, Martin Buber's I and Thou and Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil are the two theological works from the 20th Century that will have the most lasting influence. The only other book that could compete is Ricoeur's Oneself as Another which combines the best insights of both works.
For those who would like a taste of Ricoeur's thought without the philosophy, the descriptions of sin that I gave in my recent speech On the Ethics of Evangelism are all simplifications of themes in Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil.