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God Interrupted:
Heresy and the European Imagination between the World Wars
Benjamin Lazier

Winner of the 2008 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise
Co-Winner of the 2008 Best First Book in the History of Religions, American Academy of Religion

Paperback | 2012 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691155418
272 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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Could the best thing about religion be the heresies it spawns? Leading intellectuals in interwar Europe thought so. They believed that they lived in a world made derelict by God's absence and the interruption of his call. In response, they helped resurrect gnosticism and pantheism, the two most potent challenges to the monotheistic tradition. In God Interrupted, Benjamin Lazier tracks the ensuing debates about the divine across confessions and disciplines. He also traces the surprising afterlives of these debates in postwar arguments about the environment, neoconservative politics, and heretical forms of Jewish identity. In lively, elegant prose, the book reorients the intellectual history of the era.

God Interrupted also provides novel accounts of three German-Jewish thinkers whose ideas, seminal to fields typically regarded as wildly unrelated, had common origins in debates about heresy between the wars. Hans Jonas developed a philosophy of biology that inspired European Greens and bioethicists the world over. Leo Strauss became one of the most important and controversial political theorists of the twentieth century. Gershom Scholem, the eminent scholar of religion, radically recast what it means to be a Jew. Together they help us see how talk about God was adapted for talk about nature, politics, technology, and art. They alert us to the abiding salience of the divine to Europeans between the wars and beyond--even among those for whom God was long missing or dead.


"Elegant. . . . Heresies, Lazier argues, represented an object of interest and inspiration. Yet his finely wrought analyses demonstrate that while all his subjects were indeed fascinated by the issues these heresies raised, they were less a source of inspiration than challenges in need of resistance, reworking, and overcoming."--Steven E. Aschheim, Times Literary Supplement

"God Interrupted is intellectual history of a high order: eye-opening, skillfully wrought, rich in implication and touched with literary flair. . . . [I]n writing of a pivotal moment in modern theology's history and its reverberations, he has not only made his case for its wide historical significance but also crafted a book that provoke those still struggling to determine the amplitude and frequency of the God's oft-interrupted call."--Robert Westbrook, Christian Century

"[W]onderful, erudite, and beautifully written . . . "--Anna Yeatman, H-Net

"The brilliant scholar Benjamin Lazier makes a convincing case that two religious heresies exerted far-reaching influence on Weimar-era thought well beyond the confines of religion. . . . Lazier navigates the eddies and tributaries of these intellectual currents with astonishing clarity, erudition, confidence, and wit. This book is a landmark, a tour de force of both synthesis and original thought."--Jewish Book World

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Table of Contents:

Preface and Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1

Part One: Overcoming Gnosticism

Chapter One: The Gnostic Return 27
Chapter Two: Romans in Weimar 37
Chapter Three: Overcoming Gnosticism 49
Chapter Four: After Auschwitz, Earth 60

Part Two: The Pantheism Controversy

Chapter Five: Pantheism Revisited 73
Chapter Six: The Pantheism Controversy 93
Chapter Seven: From God to Nature 111
Chapter Eight: Natural Right and Judaism 127

Part Three: Redemption through Sin

Chapter Nine: Redemption through Sin 139
Chapter Ten: Jewish Gnosticism 146
Chapter Eleven: Raising Pantheism 161
Chapter Twelve: From Nihilism to Nothingness 172
Chapter Thirteen: Scholem's Golem 191

Epilogue 201
Notes 205
Index 245

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