Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Tradition in the Public Square: A David Novak Reader

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Tradition in the Public Square: A David Novak Reader

Article excerpt

TRADITION IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE: A DAVID NOVAK READER edited BY RANDI L. RASHKOVER and MARTIN KAVKA Eerdmans, 372 pages, $42

This reader provides a companion volume to Novak's Talking with Christians (2005), which emphasized Novak's dialogic gifts, as befits a thinker whose first major book was Jewish-Christian Dialogue (pubUshed the year that he entered academia after two decades as a full-time rabbi).

The collection highlights another side of Novak: his work as a naturallaw theoretician and ethicist. Two-thirds focuses on natural law and contemporary moral issues. Novak integrates traditional Jewish sources with philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Rosenzweig, all for the purpose of actually doing Jewish ediics rather than simply offering historical or comparative reflections. The result is an exemplification both of what ediics should be in the academy, and of how theological ressourcement should be practiced.

Novak's greatest contribution consists in his critical retrieval of the Maimonidean tradition- what the editors call the "Jewish rationalist tradition" -which lost its theological bearings in the hands of anthropocentric thinkers such as Moses Mendelssohn and Hermann Cohen. …

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