A Theology of the Jewish Christian Reality Summary

Paul M. van Buren


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Discerning the Way, the first volume in Paul M. van Buren’s ambitious theological work A Theology of the Jewish Christian Reality, is intended to portray both Christianity and Judaism as legitimate ways to God. In the author’s view, Christianity has not superceded or replaced Judaism as a way to God. Instead, he sees the Jewish people as the elder siblings of the Christians, establishing the path that the latter should follow. He discusses how Christians and Jews should walk together along this path and considers the identity of Christians, as Gentiles who worship the God of Israel, in terms of the path they walk together with the Jews. He looks at theology as a conversation about God, which must recognize that Christians converse about the God of Israel. In this conversation, Christians are responsible to God and to the saints and to all of those who have walked the way. Van Buren examines the nature and attributes of God, the Bible and the Church, and the authority of the Bible in terms of the tradition of the God of Israel. He discusses the revelation of Christianity as a historical phenomenon and considers how the Christian redemption is related to Israel’s hope for creation.

The second volume, A Christian Theology of the People of Israel, attempts to establish a Christian theology of Israel. This is both difficult and necessary, according to van Buren, because Christianity has a long anti-Judaic tradition that culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust. It is also difficult because it is a theology of other people. Van Buren maintains that his theology cannot simply be a report of Jewish teaching nor can it be a Jewish theology. Instead, this theology should ask about the duty and the ability of the Christian Church to hear the testimony of the Jewish people to God.

Van Buren...

(The entire section is 751 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Haynes, Stephen R. Prospects for Post-Holocaust Theology. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1991. An examination of Christian theology in the years following the Holocaust that considers how theologians Karl Barth, Jürgen Moltmann, and van Buren have attempted to reexamine Christianity and Christian theological views of Judaism.

Haynes, Stephen R., and John K. Roth, eds. The Death of God Movement and the Holocaust: Radical Theology Encounters the Shoah. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. A collection of essays on responses to the Holocaust among the radical theologians of the 1960’s, with whom van Buren is often associated. Essays by John K. Roth and John J. Carey, in particular, provide consideration of van Buren’s early thinking and affiliation with radical theologians. The book also contains an essay by van Buren that describes his movement away from a secular reading of the Scriptures and discusses how his discovery of Judaism led him to give such a prominent place to the Jewish people in his theology.

Lindsay, Mark R. Covenanted Solidarity: The Theological Basis of Karl Barth’s Opposition to Nazi Antisemitism and the Holocaust. New York: Peter Lang, 2001. A study of the theology of Karl Barth, a thinker who greatly influenced van Buren, and how this theology led Barth to stand against Nazi policies during World War II.

Ogletree, Thomas W. The Death of God Controversy. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1966. An account of theologians associated with the so-called Death of God movement during the 1960’s. Ogletree looks at van Buren, along with others associated with this movement, such as Thomas J. J. Altizer. Van Buren distanced himself from the Death of God label and from the secularizing tendencies of his early thought.