The death of God in the thought of Richard L Rubenstein

Date
2015-06-24
Authors
Hellig, Jocelyn Louise
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Abstract
No contemporary Jewish theology can be meaningful i f i t ignores the two d e c isiv e w atershed events fo r tw entieth century Ju d a ier, namely, the H olocaust and the re-estab lish m en t o f the S ta te of I s r a e l. Richard L. R ubeustein'a theology is rooted in th ese two k a iro i. In addition to th is , h is theology is highly su b jectiv e and the o rig in s of traumas in h is own l i f e are seen to be re fle c te d in those of the l i f e o f h is people For th is reason, d e ta ils of h is l i f e and work are presented in the in tro d u c tio n to t h is th e s is . With th e Holocaust as h is focus and point of d ep artu re, Rubenstein has declared the death o f the God-who—a c ts -in -h is to ry . He was unable to rec o n cile the Nazi attem pt a t Judenvevnichtung with the existence of the tr a d itio n a l God of theism who chose I s r a e l and who a cts purposefully in h is to ry . His m ajor statem ent of the nineteen s ix tie s was se t out in A fte r A ueohvits. D espite the death of the tra d itio n a l God of theism,*he in s is te d on observance of tra d itio n a l Jewish r i t u a l , p a rtic u la rly p r ie s tly r i t u a l , fo r the attainm ent of au th en tic Jewish selfhood. Two c e n tra l m otivations fo r both the re je c tio n of the tra d itio n a l God of theism and fo r the re te n tio n of r i t u a l , were h is in siste n c e on the capacity of the ir r a tio n a l to move men, and the b e lie f in the c e n tra lity of g u i lt fe e lin g s in men. L ife was seen as bracketed between two o b liv io n s. His theology was devoid o f e sch ato lo g ical hope. A God-concept remained in th e form of Holy Nothingness o r the cannibal Earth Mother. Je was deeply influenced by Freud and the E x is te n t ia li s ts . Great s tr e s s was placed on the ir r a tio n a l aspect of the Holocaust, and C h ris tia n ity ’ s mythic stru c tu re which designated the Jew as d e ic id e , was seen as one of the potent causative fa c to rs fo r anti-Sem itism . R ubenstein's c u rre n t thought has moved beyond the confines of the Jewish im plications of the Holocaust to probe i t s wider im plicstiona for the world. He now views the Holocaust in terms of 'c a lc u la tin g r a tio n a lity ' as the culm ination of a ra d ic a l se c u la ris a tio n of consciousness which he secs as having o rig in a te * in the B ible. His concern is w ith a fu n c tio n a lly 'godless* world in which a Holocaust could take p lac e. The Holocaust and other la rg e -sc a le massacres are perceived in terms of b u re a u c ra tic a lly organised population riddance in the face of th e in tra c ta b le problem of global population redundancy. The aim of th is th e s is i s to examin e and r e f le c t the progression of Rubenetein* s thought from the nineteen s ix tie s to the present and to evaluate h is theology as a v iab le way of l i f e fo r modern se c u la risin g Jews. Section One c o n s titu te s an attem pt to present Rubenetein's th eo lo g ical and i n te lle c tu a l development. Chapters I I , IV, V and VI deal with various asp ects o f h is thought such as h is views on s e c u la ris a tio n , on man and r e lig io n , on God, eechatology and h is to ry , and on power. Chapter I deals w ith the ro o ts o f s e c u la ris a tio n and the a th e is tic tren d in modern th e o lo g ic a l thinking as a backdrop to R ubenstain's theology. An excursus in to the psychoanalytic th eo ries of Freud was undertaken in Chapter I I I because of the immense influence of Freud on Rubenetein's e arly thought. Section Two c o n s titu te s a c ritiq u e of R ubenetein's views in re la tio n to o th er th e o lo g ic a l responses to the H olocaust. I t also examines the v ia b ility of h is th e o lo g ica l proposals for a meaningful Jewish lif e a fte r the H olocaust. The conclusion of th is th e s is is th a t although the normative Jewish theology of h is to ry shows the most au th en tic path fo r Jews to follow , R ubenstein's views of the nineteen s ix tie s c o n s titu te a meaningful option fo r Jews who, a f t e r the Holocaust, are unable to re ta in b e lie f in the th e i s t ic God of h is to ry . This was made p o ssib le by R ubenstein's emphasis on the need fo r ongoing Jewish p ra c tic e . His cu rren t theology is too p e ssim istic to o ffe r any r e a l is ti c options fo r continuing Jewish l i f e . I t s main c o n trib u tio n is th a t i t gives us in sig h t in to the possible causes of our w o rld 's m alaise in an attem pt to contain man's d e stru ctiv e n ess.
Description
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Johannesburg 1982
Keywords
Judaism , Doctrines , Holocaust , Death , God
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