Berkovits & Cohen: The Free Will Defense

The deviant use of human freedom, not God, is the source of evil and suffering.

Print this page Print this page

That is, “if we begin to see God less as an interferer whose insertion is welcome (when it accords with our needs) and more as the immensity whose reality is our prefiguration…we shall have won a sense of God whom we may love and honor, but whom we no longer fear and from whom we no longer demand” (p. 97).

This redescription of God, coupled with a form of the “Free Will Defense,” made all the more plausible because God is now not a direct causal agent in human affairs, resolves much of the tension created by the tremendum [the inexpressible evil of the Holocaust].

The difficulty, however, lies in the price paid for this success. This deconstruction of classical theism fails to deal adequately with the problem of God’s attributes. Is “God” still God if he is no longer the providential agency in history? Is “God” still God if he lacks the power to enter history vertically to perform the miraculous? Is such a “dipolar” God [i.e. one who is both absolute and dynamic]still the God to whom one prays, the God of salvation?

Put the other way round, it certainly does not appear to be the God of the covenant, nor again the God of Exodus‑Sinai, nor yet again the God of the prophets and the destructions of the First and Second Temples.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Dr. Steven T. Katz

Dr. Steven T. Katz is the director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University. He is the author of The Holocaust in Historical Context.