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Beyond Theodicy

Jewish and Christian Continental Thinkers Respond to the Holocaust

Sarah K. Pinnock

Publication Year: 2002

Explores the work of post-Holocaust Jewish and Christian thinkers who reject theodicy—arguments explaining why a loving God can permit evil and suffering in the world. Beyond Theodicy analyzes the rising tide of objections to explanations and justifications for why God permits evil and suffering in the world. In response to the Holocaust, striking parallels have emerged between major Jewish and Christian thinkers centering on practical faith approaches that offer meaning within suffering. Author Sarah K. Pinnock focuses on Jewish thinkers Martin Buber and Ernst Bloch and Christian thinkers Gabriel Marcel and Johann Baptist Metz to present two diverse rejections of theodicy, one existential, represented by Buber and Marcel, and one political, represented by Bloch and Metz. Pinnock interweaves the disciplines of philosophy of religion, post-Holocaust thought, and liberation theology to formulate a dynamic vision of religious hope and resistance.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Dissatisfaction with theodicy is the passion driving the production of this book. In contemporary Jewish and Christian thought, the rejection of theodicy and the development of post-Holocaust theology are closely intertwined. The image of Auschwitz represents a drastic rupture in historical consciousness and philosophical methodology in response to evil. After...

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1 TYPES OF APPROACHES TO HOLOCAUST SUFFERING Practical Responses as Alternatives to Theodicy

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pp. 1-21

THE TOPIC OF EVIL has been widely discussed in academic as well as popular venues in North America and Europe over the course of the twentieth century. One reason for sustained attention to evil lies in the social and political circumstances of recent history. Contemporary consciousness of evil centers around actual events of massive death and destruction that are seared into...

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2 EXISTENTIAL ENCOUNTER WITH EVIL Gabriel Marcel’s Response to Suffering as a Trial

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pp. 23-37

EXISTENTIALIST THOUGHT IS A branch of continental philosophy that rose to prominence in the turbulent decades following World War I. Major representatives of the movement are Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Buber, and Albert Camus. Despite the popular characterization of existentialist philosophers as atheists, a number of...

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3 DIALOGICAL FAITH Martin Buber’s I-Thou Response to Suffering and Its Meaning

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pp. 39-54

JEWISH THINKER MARTIN BUBER is well known as an existentialist philosopher, biblical interpreter, and historian of Hasidic Judaism. His impact on contemporary Jewish thought has been significant and enduring. Moreover, Buber’s I-Thou philosophy has widely influenced Protestant Christian thinkers, such as Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and Dorothee Soelle.1 His most...

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4 MARXIST THEORY AND PRACTICE Scientific and Humanist Marxism

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pp. 55-64

THE EXISTENTIALIST THINKERS EXAMINED show predominant concern for relations between individuals, although they do attend to the communal dimension of suffering and its solution at least to some degree. However, they do not frame responses to evil and suffering in terms of political protest, reform, and revolution, as do political and liberation theologians under the...

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5 FAITH AS HOPE IN HISTORY Ernst Bloch and Political Post-Holocaust Theology

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pp. 65-80

ERNST BLOCH IS A SECULAR Jewish philosopher and a major representative of warm stream Marxism. Bloch’s most influential work, the three-volume Principle of Hope, interprets traditional Jewish and Christian hopes as congruent with Marxist ones. He considers religious faith as centrally concerned with the gravity of suffering and injustice. Faith in God is congruent...

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6 SOLIDARITY AND RESISTANCE Johann Baptist Metz’s Theodicy-Sensitive Response to Suffering

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pp. 81-96

BLOCH PRAISES RELIGION FOR its revolutionary potential from the standpoint of humanist Marxist philosophy. Johann Baptist Metz, in contrast, is a Catholic thinker whose work falls under the rubric of political fundamental theology.1 However, Metz’s thought bears strong resemblance to Bloch’s method of interpreting Jewish and Christian faith to expose their political...

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7 PRAGMATICS, EXISTENTIAL AND POLITICAL Comparison, Contrast, and Complementarity

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pp. 97-127

THE EXISTENTIALIST AND POLITICAL methods of approach converge on the insight that a Jewish or Christian response to suffering should include reflection on religious practices. Despite the significant differences in their portrayals of faith, two religious postures emerge as central to both approaches: hope and other-regard, portrayed as I-Thou relation or...

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8 BEYOND THEODICY Evaluating Theodicy From a Practical Perspective

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pp. 129-144

THE CONTEXTUAL APPROACHES to suffering examined in the previous chapter are extensions of the political approach in their attention to social position. But they do not repeat the Marxian fixation on revolutionary resistance found in the work of Bloch and Metz. Instead, a dynamic balance between faith postures of acceptance and resistance emerges. Cumulatively,...


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pp. 145-173

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 175-188


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pp. 189-195

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487808
E-ISBN-10: 0791487806
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791455234
Print-ISBN-10: 0791455238

Page Count: 195
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought
Series Editor Byline: Douglas L. Donkel See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 53956515
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beyond Theodicy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Holocaust (Christian theology).
  • Political science -- Philosophy
  • Theodicy.
  • Holocaust (Jewish theology).
  • Existentialism.
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