'Dark depressing riddle': Germans, Jews, and the meaning of the Volk in the theology of Paul Althaus
Tafilowski, Ryan Paul
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This thesis centers on Lutheran theologian Paul Althaus (1888–1966), one of the most contentious figures of twentieth-century Protestant theology and an architect of the Erlangen Opinion on the Aryan Paragraph. Althaus has been the object of a polarising scholarly debate on account of his ambiguous relationship to National Socialism and his ambivalent views on the so-called ‘Jewish Question.’ The investigation of the latter of these two points is the chief research objective of the thesis. That is, how did Althaus understand the ‘Jewish Question,’ especially in its theological dimension, and what did he envision as its solution? In the following pages, I suggest that Althaus fits together two separate but coherent strands of thought—inclusion and exclusion—into a paradoxical socio-theological vision for the Jews. The predominance of the scholarly literature falters on his theology of Jews and Judaism because it interprets the evidence more or less according to a binary model (philosemitism/antisemitism or inclusion/exclusion). But on this point Althaus resists facile classification because his approach to the ‘Jewish Question’ is dialectical. As such, it requires a dialectical interpretive approach to account for the function of ‘Jews’ within the wider logic of his theological system, including his doctrines of creation, the church, and the state. The study’s ultimate conclusion is that Althaus comes to interpret Jewish existence according to a dialectic of pathology and performance (according to which Jews are both a danger to and an indispensable factor for the life of the German Volk), resulting in an inclusive quarantine of Jewish persons within both civil and ecclesial communities. The argument proceeds along four movements. The first movement considers Althaus’ völkisch writings during the Weimar Republic (1918–1933) in order to uncover the basic categories—pathology and performance—through which Althaus interprets Jewish existence. Movement II surveys Althaus’ attitudes toward the Jews under National Socialism (1933–1945), with special reference to the Erlangen Opinion on the Aryan Paragraph, a document which recommended that Jewish men be restricted from pastoral office in the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche. Movement III demonstrates that, even in the knowledge of the Nazi regime’s crimes against the Jews, Althaus relinquished the dialectic of pathology and performance only gradually and incompletely in the postwar period (1945–Althaus’ death in 1966). The dissertation’s fourth movement approaches Althaus as a case study in the viability of Lutheran social ethics in light of his xenophobic articulation of the doctrine of the orders of creation. Insofar as Althaus brought this doctrine to bear on questions concerning the place of Jews in German society and in the German churches, his example raises broader dogmatic questions for a post-Shoah world. The thesis concludes with a proposal for doctrinal repair with resources found within the Lutheran tradition itself, with particular attention to the theologia crucis.