For Heschel, God is not hidden; God is hiding. God is waiting to be disclosed, to be admitted into our lives. Our task is to open our souls to God, to let God again enter our deeds. Next year, John Dear will undertake a national book tour for his forthcoming book, Lazarus Come Forth! To host John in your church or school for an evening talk and book-signing, send an email through www.
The Light that Brings Us Closer to God
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In this sense, God is like a person — experiencing a range of emotions, often torn between competing allegiances and values. The God of the Bible communicates with people through prophets and is even open to critique.
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Classical rabbinic literature portrays God in a similar way. However, in rabbinic writings, God no longer communicates with people through prophecy, and God is no longer considered a direct legal authority. One of the most radical Jewish descriptions of God can be found in the heikhalot literature, an early corpus of mystical texts, which actually describes the physical dimensions of God.
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Though most early Jewish thinkers did not shy away from depicting God in human terms, Philo, a first-century philosopher, was an exception. He integrated Greek philosophy with Judaism and conceived of God in a more abstract way. The medieval philosophers departed from the non-systematic theology of biblical and rabbinic literature.
Philosophers like Maimonides worked tirelessly to make their philosophical interests coincide with the truths of the Bible. The medieval mystics—or kabbalists —also developed systematic theologies. They posited that God in Himself—known as the Ein Sof , or Infinite—cannot be discussed or described. Secularization and the values of the modern world have created challenges for traditional conceptions of the Jewish God.
Later, existentialists like Martin Buber focused on the experiential relationship between humans and God. Mordecai Kaplan and Richard Rubenstein took the challenges of scientific naturalism and the Holocaust so seriously that they rejected the traditional Jewish God.