John Pawlikowski, "The Holocaust and Contemporary Christology," in E. Schussler-Fiorenza and D. Tracy, eds., The Holocaust as Interruption, Concilium 175: 5, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1984, pp. 43-49.



Abstract by Jerry Darring


After reviewing contemporary developments in Judaic and Christian Holocaust theology, Pawlikowski sets out to propose a model for linking Auschwitz with the Christ Event. The foundations for this approach are these:

1. Nazi ideology represented a recognition of the profound changes taking place in human consciousness. The human race has developed a new sense of freedom, a loosening of the shackles of the God-idea. Pawlikowski thinks that "human autonomy is the principal theological issue to srise out of reflection on the Auschwitz experience" (p. 45).

2. Related to this, then, is the matter of what the Holocaust has done to our notions of God. Pawlikowski feels that the Holocaust has forced to to drop the notion of the "commanding God," the God who imposes on us, and has lead us in the direction of the notion of the "compelling God," to whom we are drawn.

3. In trying to link the Christ Event with the God-problem, some have sought to relate the suffering God of the Holocaust with the suffering Christ of the Cross. Jurgen Moltmann does this in his book, The Crucified God. This approach raises the question of divine and human responsibility in the Holocaust, but it seems to some to be almost blasphemous in view of the role Christians played in the Nazi effort.

Pawlikowski now outlines what he calls "one possible model for linking Auschwitz to the Christ Event." He points out that the Holocaust represents the ultimate expression of human freedom, the sense that the Creator can be supplanted and human beings can become the final arbiters of right and wrong. This makes the Holocaust the ultimate expression of evil, for the rejection of the Creator was shown to be a perversion and not an affirmation of human freedom. We will overcome evil only we develop a sense of our dignity becuase of our connection to God through Christ, as well as a sense of humility in the realization of how destructive we can be when separated from God. This should not, however, be taken to mean that "there is no theological response for believers to the experience of the Holocaust except through Christology" (p. 49).