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Paperback Theologians Under Hitler Book

ISBN: 0300038895

ISBN13: 9780300038897

Theologians Under Hitler

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Book Overview

What led so many German Protestant theologians to welcome the Nazi regime and its policies of racism and anti-Semitism? In this provocative book, Robert P. Ericksen examines the work and attitudes of three distinguished, scholarly, and influential theologians who greeted the rise of Hitler with enthusiasm and support. In so doing, he shows how National Socialism could appeal to well-meaning and intelligent people in Germany and why the German university...

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The Perils of Existential Theology

This is an in depth study of the work of three Protestant theologians who were supportive of the Nazi regime. The author contrasts them with Karl Barth, Rudolph Bultmann, Paul Tillich, and Dietrich Bonhoffer, all of whom opposed Hitler. The introductory chapter entitled "The Crisis" is particularly valuable. It places the thought of all of these German theologians in the intellectual stream of Luther, the Enlightenment, German idealism, theories of history, and especially existentialism (Kierkegaard) and dialectical theology with its stress on the infinite distance between God and humans. This latter teaching creates a problem in conceptualizing how God's actions intersect with human history. Ericksen highlights the irrational element in the prevailing intellectual cllimate of the time and documents the powerful influence of the concept of the German "Volk," especially in the theology of Hirsch.Although the author agrees that in hindsight and on the basis of their actions we can distinguish between these three theologians and their counterparts who opposed Nazism, he is not certain that their theology alone accounts for for their welcoming of the Third Reich. It is just too similar to the theology of those who opposed Hitler. Nor is the author certain that this kind of theology could prevent a recurrance of the phenomenon of theologians supporting a totalitarian or dictatorial regime in some future time of crisis."The connecting link between the broader intellectual crisis of the twentieth century and the circumstances of modern theology is that both secular and religious intellectuals in this age must ultimately rely upon an existential leap of faith. This was the fate of Croce, Durkheim and Weber as well as Barth, Bultmann and Tillich. In terms of value judgments, the problem with existentialism is that it is morally neutral. A leap of faith towards Hitler is no less valid than a leap of faith away from him." (p. 24)All in all, Ericksen paints a thoughtful portrait of three brilliant and enigmatic theologians. He also gives us reason to question whether current theologians would do any better when faced with a similar crisis.
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