A MYSTICAL THREAD:
THE SHEKINAH TRADITION IN THE TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY OF JÜRGEN MOLTMANN
by Adam Arn
Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, in his book entitled Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald concentration camps, relates the following poignant and now almost legendary incident:
The SS hanged two Jewish men and a youth in front of the whole camp. The men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour. ‘Where is God? Where is he?’ someone asked behind me. As the youth still hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again, ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice in myself answer: ‘Where is he? He is here. He is hanging there on the gallows.’1
Wiesel’s experience, in addition to inspiring a generation to cultivate a more compassionate and just humanity, has also engaged the imaginations of countless theologians, Jewish and Christian alike. For as this incident so clearly illustrates, post-Holocaust theology has had to revisit the enduring question of theodicy in the face of such massive and intentional human suffering. Furthermore, intrinsic to this question is the larger doctrine of God. If God exists, what can we say about God’s nature? What can we say about God’s being? God’s relationship to history, humanity, and our ostensibly precarious future?
1 As quoted by Jürgen Moltmann in The Crucified God: The Cross as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, trans. R.A. Wilson and J. Bowden (London: SCM Press, 1974), 273-4.
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