A Top Ten Book for Parish Ministry from the Academy of Parish Clergy
Who—or what—is God? Is God like a person? Does God have a gender? Does God have a special relationship with the Jewish people? Does God intervene in our lives? Is God good—and, if yes, why does evil persist in the world? In investigating how Jewish thinkers have approached these and other questions, Rabbi Kari H. Tuling elucidates many compelling—and contrasting—ways of thinking about God in Jewish tradition.
Thinking about God addresses the genuinely intertextual nature of evolving Jewish God concepts. Just as in Jewish thought the Bible and other historical texts are living documents, still present and relevant to the conversation unfolding now, and just as a Jewish theologian examining a core concept responds to the full tapestry of Jewish thought on the subject all at once, this book is organized topically, covers Jewish sources (including liturgy) from the biblical to the postmodern era, and highlights the interplay between texts over time, up through our own era.
A highly accessible resource for introductory students, Thinking about God also makes important yet challenging theological texts understandable. By breaking down each selected text into its core components, Tuling helps the reader absorb it both on its own terms and in the context of essential theological questions of the ages. Readers of all backgrounds will discover new ways to contemplate God.
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Rabbi Tuling analyzes a range of Jewish thought on major theological questions throughout history in her sharp debut. To explain the "many diverse, often contradictory, and entirely sophisticated ways to think about God" in the Jewish tradition, she divides the broad topic into four major categories asking whether God is the creator of everything (including evil), whether God has a personality, whether God will redeem humanity, and whether God is a covenantal partner and lawgiver. Tuling starts with biblical takes on the issue, before reviewing how the question is addressed in liturgy, at various stages in Jewish history, and the state of current theology. For instance, when considering Jewish thinking on God's gender, Tuling explains how both masculine and feminine nouns related to God are used in the Torah, how a view of God "as the patriarchal head of the household" has prevailed since Greco-Roman times, and how recent feminist critiques have led to changes in Reform prayer books. Not everyone will find all of the rabbi's views persuasive; for example, she states that "what we call evil is the suffering that is either caused by natural events or is the natural outcome of our free will." Nonetheless, Tuling does a superior job unpacking the eclectic and evolving range of Jewish beliefs about God.