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The rebirth of faith

However, one of the most religious Christian countries of our days has been also the result of the Soviet period: Poland. Pope John Paul II’s (1920-2005; papacy 1978-2005) unique spiritual legacy has been the fruit of a historic trial religious faith had to face in his homeland. This legacy indicates that after its crises, faith in God still has inexhaustible resources of survival and rebirth. Traditional forms of belief, such as Judaism and Christianity, may return to a period of resuscitation and flourishing.[1] Today the ‘Death of God’ has already lost its intellectual magnetism and many theorists think now that serious reflection is able to analyze the drama of the twentieth century in sober and theologically satisfying ways.[2] ‘After Auschwitz’ discussions in Jewish communities led to a number of proposals processing, even if not explaining, Auschwitz in spiritual and theological terms, such as it happens in the works of Emil Fackenheim, Ignaz Maybaum, Eliezer Berkovits and others.[3] In Fackenheim’s view, Auschwitz amounts to God’s new revelation calling for a full renewal of our faith in God in accordance with what he calls the 614th commandment.[4] This commandment can be best realized in the State of Israel.

After the period of dry positivism and atheism, a new wave of philosophical arguments has emerged since the 1970s which restructured traditional talk of faith in God in ways meeting rigorous scientific and logical standards. As William Lane Craig declared in 2008, ‘God is not yet dead’. The related article explains the various developments in Anglo-American philosophical theology which expounded convincing arguments for the existence of God. As a result of the thought of Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne, various schools have risen that now pursue serious philosophical theology.[5] Contemporary efforts by atheist philosophers to overcome versions of the new philosophical theology show that the debate between belief and unbelief cannot be considered terminated.[6] Even under the new circumstances of ‘a secular age’, the possibility of new forms of faith has returned. It is now the task of believers to live and express their faith in such a way that the fact of the epochal crisis of faith may receive a theologically and philosophically well- formed meaning. For this latter, we need to understand the history of faith in terms of a process in which new forms of faith become attainable after severe periods of tribulation.

Study questions

  • 1. What are the forms of secularization according to Charles Taylor?
  • 2. Describe the notion of the ‘Death of God’.
  • 3. How would you summarize the experience of ‘Auschwitz’?
  • 4. What is the most important feature of atheistic Communism with respect to faith in God?
  • 5. Is a rebirth of faith possible after the period of the epochal crises of faith?

Further Reading

Breiterman, Zachary, (God) After Auschwitz. Tradition and Change in Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).

Craig, William Lane, Reasonable Faith. Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).

Habermas, Jtirgen et al, An Awareness of What Is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age (Cambridge: Polity, 2010).


  • [1] See the Chapter on John Paul Il’s encyclical Fides et ratio in the present volume.
  • [2] Johann Baptist Metz, Memoria Passionis (Freiburg: Herder, 2006).
  • [3] Steven T. Katz, Shlomo Biderman, and Gershon Greenberg (eds), Wrestling with God: Jewish TheologicalResponses during and after the Holocaust (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • [4] Katz et al., Wrestling with God, p. 434.
  • [5] William Lane Craig and W. Sinnott-Armstrong, God? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). RichardSwinburne, Was Jesus God? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Chad Meister, IntroducingPhilosophy of Religion (London, New York: Routledge, 2009).
  • [6] See, for example, Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (New York:Viking, 2006).
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