In our earlier treatment ..., the basic point was that Christological symbols are the way in which the historical fact, called Jesus of Nazareth, has been received by those who consider him to be the Christ. These symbols must be understood as symbols, as they lose their meaning if taken literally. In dealing with the Christological symbols, we were engaged not is a "demythologization" but in a "deliteralization". We tried to affirm and intercept them as symbols. "Demythologization" can mean two things...: It can mean the fight against a literalistic distortion of symbols and myths. This is a necessary task of Christian theology. It keeps Christianity from falling into a wave of superstitious "objectivations" of the holy. But demythologization can also mean the removal of myth as a vehicle of religious expression and the substitution of science and morals. In this sense demythologization must be strongly rejected. It would deprive religion of its language; it would silence the experience of the holy.Tillich understood his own theology to be a search for a third way beyond liberal and conservative. We see this here: Tillich rejects the conservative tendency to take biblical and theological text literally, since they distort the message, they do not allow the symbols to speak; but he also rejects the liberal tendency to remove symbols and try to extract ethical teaching from them, because then religion ceases to be religion.
Systematic Theology II, 152
I've been reading St. Ephrem the Syrian lately, and I'm struck by how similar his theological attitude is to Tillich's. Ephrem speaks only in symbols, he makes no attempt to turn them in to legal or dogmatic propositions. He would whole-heartedly agree with Tillich's belief that the only way to speak about the holy is with symbols. As soon as we stop talking in symbols, we either fool ourselves or create idols.