AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Remaining intimate with God in times of loss is discussed through the lens of two post-Holocaust theologians, Abraham Heschel and Jurgen Moltmann. Within this context "spiritual grieving" is explicated. This entails: 1) questioning God's presence in times of trial, 2) mourning the "lost God", 3) encountering the "God of Pathos", 4) learning to love God and ourselves unconditionally. Therapeutically, it proposes authenticity with God in grief can be a means to heal early attachment injury.
God in Loss
Sufferers facing trauma often experience an intense aloneness and feel spiritually deserted. The Holocaust provides the fiercest arena to pose the question of relationship with God in times of loss, because it can be called the "ultimate abandonment." The very term "Holocaust" is derived from the Greek holokauston, which means a sacrifice consumed by fire or "burnt whole" (Dictionary.com, 2008). The Septuagint, the Greek translation of Jewish Scriptures, uses holkaustos for the Hebrew olah, which means "what is brought up" but refers in the biblical context to a burnt offering. This unfortunately perfectly describes Auschwitz and Buchenwald where nearly a whole people were offered up to fiery death. "l-his was the first time that total annihilation of any people was seen as the universal solution to the predicament of humanity (Bauer, 1989).
One of the far-reaching consequences of the Holocaust was that now a whole culture was forced to grapple with the fact that science and technology, the twin idols of modernity, produced state-of-the-art death camps. What remained was the truth that the humanistic celebration of independence from God and nature at its very core sustained an unprecedented capacity for death and demonic evil (Greenberg, 1999). Therefore, the unique catastrophe of the Holocaust did not just impact the Jewish people, but was a pivotal feature of the Twentieth century and a defining force in theological studies. The Nazis endeavored to eliminate, not only the Jews, but also the last vestiges of the fear and awe of God from the human conscience (Berkowitz, 1999).
Post-Holocaust Theology and Suffering
By posing the question, "Where was God in the Holocaust?" one encapsulates the problem of pain versus a concept of a just and good God. Rabbi Aaron Laytner (1992) suggests that one reason attendance at synagogue services are in decline and many Jews assimilate is because coming to grips with God over the trauma of the Holocaust is not being faced. It is a repressed wound that brings with it numbness and renders God irrelevant. But face it we must, even though it leaves us trembling on the edge of mystery.
Among those who struggled with the question of God's presence and suffering are two scholars from opposite ends of the spectrum. One was a German soldier in Hitler's army and the other, a Jew who fled from that army to safety. Both of these theologians, although worlds apart, shared many similarities: their theologies were shaped by the Holocaust, they both placed humanity's suffering in the context of a suffering God, both adhered to biblical authority, and both supported social activisum (Jaeger, 1997).
Jurgen Moltmann and Abraham Heschel
The German was Jurgen Moltmann who spent 1945-1948 as a prisoner of war in a Scottish camp. He was won to Christianity by the kindness and forgiveness of believers that regularly visited the camp. The Jewish scholar is Abraham Heschel. Heschel was not only a great thinker; he was a great rabbi. He was forced to flee Poland because of the invading Nazis. The theology of both Moltmann and Heschel, are embedded in the trauma of the Holocaust.
For Moltmann (1974) the question of God and suffering is the main problem of Christianity. The God we meet in scripture is profoundly affected by our suffering. Therefore, Moltmann addresses the …