Voegelin's Israel and Revelation: An Interdisciplinary Debate and Anthology

By Eric Voegelin; William M. Thompson et al. | Go to book overview

THE MOVEMENT TOWARD PERSONALISM IN Israel and Revelation AND EMMANUEL LEVINAS' ETHICS OF RESPONSIBILITY: TOWARD A POST-HOLOCAUST SPIRITUALITY?

Marie L. Baird


INTRODUCTION

Eric Voegelin's understanding of personalism as the attunement to divine being such that the personal soul becomes the principle upon which society will be symbolically ordered is an important, if in his estimation not altogether attained, phenomenon in Israelite experience as recounted in Israel and Revelation. Certainly, the theme of personal attunement to divine being is also central to the development of Christian spirituality giving rise, with the passage of the centuries, to many "schools" of spirituality. Such schools constitute, in part, different "styles" by means of which the soul's attunement to and personal love of God is experienced and expressed in and through various forms of apophatic and/or kataphatic spiritual belief and praxis. 1 It has often been remarked in the literature of these schools that one of the most notable outcomes of the sustained praxis within which the personal love of God is expressed will be a merciful and compassionate turning toward the world, culminating in genuine acts of sustenance and care toward one's neighbor.

The relentless recurrence of genocide in this century alone has prompted many scholars in the realm of spiritual theology to examine anew the foundations undergirding the Christian spiritual tradition and praxis. My own efforts in this regard continue to be focused on the possibility of constructing a post-Holocaust Christian spirituality that is rooted in, not merely compatible with, the body's own efforts to stay alive in conditions of extremity. The work of Emmanuel Levinas has been instrumental in helping to provide a philosophical basis for the formulation of such a new Christian spirituality. Specifically, his characterization of an ethics of responsibility as "first

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