THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GOD: A Divine Mystery by Richard Elliott Friedman


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Friedman (Hebrew and Comp. Lit./Univ. of Calif., San Diego; Who Wrote the Bible?, 1987) traces the theme of God's disappearance in the Hebrew Bible and in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and proposes a new religious outlook based on a synthesis of the Big Bang theory and Kabbalah. Dramatic interventions of God in human affairs, like the parting of the Red Sea, are found in the earlier books of the Bible and gradually diminish, according to Friedman, as the human race learns to take responsibility for its own destiny, above all with the institution of rabbinic Judaism, in which men hand down decisions concerning God's law. Friedman offers a stimulating analysis of Nietzsche's Zarathustra and the Superman, with parallels from Dostoevsky, arguing that both writers experienced the full weight of the disappearance of God and man's consequent loneliness. Finally, he speculates that science, which had seemed to strip the world of its religious meaning, is now reuniting us with God as we learn about cosmic background radiation from the explosion that gave birth to the universe. The ""singularity,"" he suggests, from which the universe is expanding vindicates the Kabbalah's mystical theory that the visible universe emanated from a single, unknowable point. He argues--without much evidence--that, in a world where God seems absent, we will surely find a basis for morality in the idea of loyalty to the human species. Friedman exaggerates the importance of the short-lived Death of God theology of the '60s, and in his ideal of a cosmic and somewhat pantheistic deity, he seems to equate the notion of a personal God with anthropomorphism. And many readers will dispute Friedman's dismissal of Dostoevsky's religiosity and of the present-day openness to contemplative awareness of God's presence. A nontheological approach to a profoundly theological question that is both exciting and inevitably limited.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1995
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"