Monday, October 18, 2010

Toward a Jewish Theology of Religious Pluralism

"Toward a Jewish Theology of Religious Pluralism" was the public lecture of Jewish Theological Seminary chancellor, Arnold Eisen.  He is the third annual honoree of the Thering Fellow award given by the Lubar Institute for Abrahamaic Studies.  On October 12, 2010, Chancellor Eisen spoke at the UW-Madison Grainger Hall to a full audience.


Chancellor Arnold Esien in Mordridge Auditorium, UW-Madison
October 12, 2010
photos by Teresa Paprock et al - layout by JBP
 Chancellor Eisen quoted Rabbi Heschel in his introduction "No religion is an island."  He then outlined three reasons to develop a theology for religious pluralism:

1. The energy for dialogue and interaction between faiths is usually promoted by a crisis, a necessity, or an urgency.  We no longer can wait for negative occurrences before developing a theology of religious pluralism.

2. The purpose of such a theology is not to achieve sameness, but to bridge differences for there is a need to overcome problematic differences, but no need to come to the lowest common denominator. "Pluralism is a requirement of covenant."

3. Such a theology must work up from each religious tradition. It must come from an organic thread within the religious traditions, especially from the scriptures.

He then spoke about Jewish theology and how an effective theology of religious pluralism must not start with Moses; not start with Abraham. It must start with Adam, the ancestry of all humans.

Chancellor Eisen spoke about Torah and covenant, about God and human fallibility.  He led his concluding statements by quoting and then paraphrasing Deuteronomy: "The hidden things belong to the Lord. The revealed things belong to us."  He compared this to the great commandment: "to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself."

"Space for pluralism is carved out by the certain humility that comes from the human inadequacy in the knowledge of God."
 
He concluded with his hopes for interfaith dialogue within the theological institutions and in the community.

"We need to make maximum use of what is revealed to figure out what we are suppose to do."

The event was recorded by LISAR.

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