Before Auschwitz: What Christian Theology Must Learn from the Rise of Nazism

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9781620321034: Before Auschwitz: What Christian Theology Must Learn from the Rise of Nazism

What can Christian theology in North America learn from the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s?

This book explores an explosion of scholarship in recent decades that has reopened questions once thought to be settled about the relationships between Nazism, Liberalism, and Christianity. In the process of criticizing the retrospective fallacy and urging a properly hermeneutical historiography, its method in historical theology causes us to reflect back upon our tacit commitments, suggesting that we are closer to fascism than we are aware and that, although the devil never shows its face twice in exactly the same way, the particular hubris of grasping after ''final solutions'' along biopolitical lines--that is, the ''racially scientific'' version of fascism that was Nazism--is and remains near at hand today, within our horizon of possibilities unrecognized in just the ways that it was unrecognized by Germans before Auschwitz.

The book takes a fresh look at the theology of Adolf Hitler and finds themes that are disturbingly familiar. It summons to the renewal of Christian theology after Christendom in the form of critical dogmatics, where the motif of the Beloved Community replaces the fallen idol descended from Charlemagne.

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About the Author:

Paul R. Hinlicky is the Tise Professor of Lutheran Studies at Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia, a Docent of the Protestant Theological Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava, and a Professor of Systematic Theology at the Institute of Lutheran Theology. He is the author of Paths Not Taken (2009), Luther and the Beloved Community (2010), Divine Complexity (2010), and with Brent Adkins, Rethinking Philosophy and Theology with Deleuze (2013).


Historians find in early twentieth-century Germany a compelling backdrop for questions of politics, culture, and everyday life. Theologians recognize it as a time of nearly unrivaled creativity and productivity. But few historians register theological nuance, and few theologians attend to historical context. Before Auschwitz is exciting for being the rare book that does both. Hinlicky asks how theology was at work in this history and what this history means for contemporary theology.
--Michael P. DeJonge, author of Bonhoeffer's Theological Formation: Berlin, Barth, and Protestant Theology

Paul Hinlicky's interest is not merely to shed light on how it could happen that highly cultured and sophisticated German Christians could support the evil actions of Nazi anti-Semitism, but to suggest we have no guarantee that something similar could not happen within American Christianity.
--Carl E. Braaten, Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology, Lutheran School of Theology

Hinlicky is making the best of his American and European roots and transcends many bounds in the realm of societal theology. His honest, personal, and courageous book is not just about the history of theology. It thinks basic theological positions over and presents theology that makes history.
--L'ubomír Batka, Dean of Lutheran Theological Faculty, Comenius University --Wipf and Stock Publishers

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