Johann-Baptist Metz, "Facing the Jews: Christian Theology after Auschwitz," in E. Schussler-Fiorenza and D. Tracy, eds., The Holocaust as Interruption, Concilium 175: 5, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1984, pp. 26-33

Abstract by Jerry Darring


Metz presents his thoughts in four theses.

Thesis 1: The principle that Christians can only form and understand their identity in the face of the Jews should guide Christian theology after Auschwitz. For this to happen, there needs to be not just a revision of Christian theology with regard to Judaism, but a revision of Christian theology itself. Auschwitz should challenge my personal and theological reflections as well as my religious practice. "There is no truth for me which I could defend with my back turned toward Auschwitz. There is no sense for me which I could save with my back turned toward Auschwitz. And for me there is no God to whom I could pray with my back turned toward Auschwitz" (p. 28).

Thesis 2: Christian identity can only be protected in front of and together with the history of the beliefs of the Jews. The renewal of Christian Jewish relations should take place in four stages: the phase of a diffuse affection; a theological discussion of passing from mission to dialogue; a theological rethinking that results in recognizing the lasting messianic dignity of Israel; and finally, "the recognition on the part of Christians of their concrete faith-historical dependence on the Jews" (p. 29).

What can be said of God in the face of Auschwitz? The only person who has a right to answer the question "Where is God" is "the Jew threatened by death with all the children of Auschwitz," and the 'identification' of God "can be done only by the Jew imprisoned together with his God in the abyss" (p. 29). Christians try to avoid facing these truths by either denying that Christianity had anything to do with causing the Holocaust, or making Auschwitz a symbol for all kinds of other catastrophes, or dealing with the Holocaust as a Jewish "and Christian" catastrophe.

Thesis 3: The Jewish dimension in Christian beliefs must be stressed, and we must stop blocking out the Jewish heritage within Christianity.

Thesis 4: In their ecumenical efforts following Auschwitz, Christians must regain biblical-messianic concepts.