Theological Perspectives of the Holocaust


Roger Fredinburg – Host

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program


2-18-1998  Fifteenth Program in Series


Guest: Dr.  Barry R. Leventhal


Topic:  Theological Perspectives of the Holocaust


Roger:   Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen!  It’s a pleasure to be back with our special this week.  We’re running down to our last few guests now, bringing us to a climax.  It’s been a wonderful series!  We’ve met some wonderful people and learned a lot, a whole lot about the holocaust and all the different social and political and moral and spiritual implications.  It’s just mind-boggling that you can learn so much, even when so much has already been taught to us in our lives, there’s so much more to learn!


Our guest this evening is Dr. Barry Leventhal.  He did a doctoral thesis on the Theological Perspectives of the Holocaust.  I don’t know Dr. Leventhal at all; but, what I’ll do is just bring him on and we’ll all meet him together— bring him on and let him introduce himself!  Barry, hello!


Dr. Leventhal:  Hello!  Greetings!


Roger:  It’s a pleasure to have you here, sir!  I guess where I want to start, since I don’t have a copy of your work is to have you to give a little biographical detail of who you are.


Dr. Leventhal:  Well, my doctoral dissertation was a climax of doctoral Phd program at Dallas Theological Seminary.  My degree was granted in 1982.  My dissertation was on the Theological Perspectives of the Holocaust.  Since that time I have spoken and written on it many times and many places around the world.  I’m now serving with Shoresh Ministries out of Jacksonville, Florida.  I also teach at  Southern Evangelical Seminary where I live in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Roger:  Were you with Ariel Ministries for awhile?


Dr. Leventhal:  Yes, many years on their board and I also served as co-director for a few years.


Roger:  With Arnie Fructenbaum over there, right?


Dr. Leventhal:  Yes, right.


Roger:  I guess what I would ask you first is what ever got you started down this path for your doctoral thesis?


Dr. Leventhal:  Ha, ha!  Well, it wasnt’ initially the path I chose.  When I went back to do research—I’d completed my Masters program and was out ministering for many years, then went back to study and to teach —I want interested in another area.  When in to discuss my dissertation work and laid out what I was thinking about, my Doctoral advisor, Dr. Charles Ryrie, said, “I’ll let you do that; but, before we decide I want you to take a couple of weeks to pray about doing something about the holocaust.”  I asked why and he said that there’s no evangelical work on it of any substance; no dissertations, no book books on it from and evangelical position.  He said that he thought I needed to pray about it then if I decided to go in another direction it would be fine.


As I left his office I was convinced there was no way I was going to step into that vast darkness!  I discussed it with my wife, Mary, and we prayed about it.  I went back and got approval to do this work which was finished about 3 or 4 years ago.  It was a challenge from a professor who felt very deeply that we needed something from our perspective to say about it to believers as well as those outside the faith who are struggling about it.


Roger:  Give us all the juicy details, Barry.  What did you discover?  Obviously, you felt compelled to move in this direction.  What was step one and where did it take you?


Dr. Leventhal:  In the First Chapter that was rather lengthy, over 100 pages, I wanted to do a survey of what religious Judaism had to say about the holocaust; meaning by that, Jewish rabbis, theologians and philosophers.  I did not do any research  with lay persons per se.  You have to limit it somewhere; so I spent time at different libraries in the United States, I was in Poland and I spent a summer living in Jerusalem and doing research at Yad Vashem, the International Holocaust Archives Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.


Really, that confirmed to me the awful struggle, the painful struggle within Judaism; no matter whether you’re believing from an ultra-orthodox position, all the way to a reformed or even more liberal position.  There’s just no authoritative answers, no really convincing answers no matter what position you’re coming from!  That was really painful research to do; but, it needed to be done.  It really set the context for what we can say about it from a biblical evangelical position, basically.


Roger:  You were raised in Judaism?  So, what led you to Christianity?


Dr. Leventhal:  Yes.  My grandparents came from Russia and Hungary around the turn of the century.  They were orthodox Jews looking for a freer and better life, obviously.  My parents were born here.  While my grandmother was alive I would spend many hours with her in an orthodox synagogue.  After she died I was raised and had my bar mitzvah in a conservative synagogue.  I’ve always believed that I was Jewish because I was born that way.  I always believed in God, basically.  I never had any reason to question it.


I went to high school and then off to college at UCLA.  When I was there I was in a Jewish fraternity.  I was there on an athletic scholarship as well, playing football.  Through a series of circumstances, one of my best friends who had been raised as an Episcopalian told me that he had come to know Jesus as the Messiah and his Savior in a personal way.  I said, “What are you talking about, you’re a gentile?  You’re not supposed to believe that Jesus is the Messiah!”


So, through a series of circumstances and discussions with him and other people, just before I graduated in 1966, through a lot of painful thinking and realizing that at that age the reaction of my parents and my Jewish fraternity, nevertheless, as I went through the Hebrew Bible and studied it, I became convinced that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and he must be the Messiah.

As I studied the New Testament for the first time, realizing my own sin and that I couldn’t pay back to God what I needed to pay back, I had to trust in Him even as Abraham did – he believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  I invited Him into my life and thanked Him for being the Messiah and Savior of me personally, as well as all the Jews in the world.  That happened in April, 1966.  It was the beginning of the journey, really!


As I moved out and graduated, I was supposed to go to Grad school and become a teacher.  I ended up on staff of what was called at that time, Athletes in Action  with Campus Crusade for Christ.  I was with them for a couple of years then went to Dallas Seminary the first time from 1968-1972.


I’ve been involved in various works around the United States and Israel, establishing congregations and teaching at the graduate level and so forth.  I have a wonderful wife, Mary, I met through Campus Crusade.  We have four children who are, in theory, grown – two married daughters, and one of my daughters has given us a grandchild!  We have two sons; my oldest son is a first year Dallas Seminary student and my youngest son, Timothy, is working in Blacksburg, Virginia.  That’s summarizing a lot!


Roger:  When you use the term “theological perspectives on the holocaust,” can you expound upon that and define it for us?


Dr. Leventhal:  Sure!  You hit it on the head!  I’m not trying to prove any particular point or say that there’s one particular solution or answer to the holocaust.  My point is, what can we tell from the Bible that would give us theologically to something like the holocaust?


It’s really a particular quest under a much larger philosophical issue that’s been wrestled with for centuries that’s called Theodicy.  In a genuine theodicy you are wrestling with, “How can God be just in light of the evil in the world?”  The holocaust is a particular kind of evil under the theodicy question.


I began by looking at the whole question of the calling of the covenants that God made with Israel, built into them being the fact that Genesis 12:1-3, “Bless Abraham, bless his seed and bless the whole world through his seed.”  In Genesis 12:3 He builds in what some have called an anti-semitic clause where he says, “I will bless those who bless Abraham and his seed and I will curse the one who curses him.”  This whole concept that in some unique eternal way, Israel as a people, as a nation, is set aside for God’s purposes and to tamper with the “Apple of God’s Eye” is to bring on some form of curse or judgment.  So, I dealt with that.


I then dealt with other aspects of the covenants, the Davidic Covenant in 2nd Samuel and also in 1st Chronicles 17 talks about an ultimate son of David who would sit on his throne forever.  This would be a king who would not have to be judged or disciplined by God as His Father, who would be one who would be the rightful eternal heir to the throne.  Up to that time, every king of Israel until this final Messianic King comes, would experience the rod of men against him and also against his people.  Sure enough!  As you trace it through Biblical history, whenever the kings of Israel went away from God and apostasized, they brought upon themselves the judgment of God, through other nations and through dispersion, and upon their people as well.



This carries over into, of course, not the kings of Israel; but, this calling on Israel in terms of their calling to be the people of God.  Amos 3:2 says (Amos speaking for God)  “becase I have chosen you from all the nations of the world, I will bring upon you whatever discipline is necessary.”  So, there’s that whole aspect; that the calling brings privilege, it brings awesome responsibility and judgment.  Within the call, the nation as a whole in the Old Testament, in the Hebrew Bible as well as down through history, has pretty much been routinely unfaithful except for what the Hebrew Bible calls the remnant of Israel, a small core of true, faithful Israelites in the Old Testament period, the New Testament period and in the future — who remain faithful to the covenant promises and conditions.


I also try to show there is documentation; from catholic, protestant and jewish historians that were literally thousands of messianic Jews that died in the holocaust; in the ghettos of Europe and the extermination camps.  They were part of the believing remnant that went into the camps with their faith.  Many came to faith within the camps themselves!  One of the all-time books that gives evidence to this,among many others, is Rachmiel Frydland’s book,  “When Being Jewish Was a Crime.”   He’s Jewish himself and is also messianic believer.  Many, many whole families of Messianic Jewish believers from Poland and Romania that he knew personally did not survive.  So, there’s that whole aspect of the remnant.


Then you’ve got the whole issue of why is there such a Satanic and demonic thrust to destroy the Jews?  All the way through the Bible, the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, you’ve got this utter satanic hatred to destroy the Jews.  It’s bound up, among other things, with that if there’s no Jewish people left at the time of the end, the Last Times; then the Messiah cannot come to set his kingdom up because there’s got to be a covenant people, a remnant, who will embrace the covenant promises.  If there is no covenant people, then the Messiah cannot come again!  The enemy of heaven knows he cannot attack the risen Messiah who is sitting on His throne; but, he can attack the people who still have a future with him.  So, it’s all wrapped up in the eschatology of the Bible.  There’s that perspective, as well.


Then there’s some other angles too in terms of the theodicy question that I wrestle a lot with, especially over the last few years when I speak on college campuses.  Why is it worse to reject God in view of the holocaust than to embrace Him with all the struggles there are to embrace Him?  If you read through a book like “Knight,” by the leading storyteller of the holocaust, Elie Wiesel, and you’re convinced that he really became an atheist!  He was a religious Jew before the holocaust.  His family dies, ultimately his father, and he says that his faith went up in the smoke of burning children!  Yet, after the war, in several journal articles and magazines, he makes statements like this, “I can’t accept the holocaust with God, I can’t accept the holocaust without God.”


The question is why isn’t he able to throw off God completely as many other Jewish theologians like Richard Rubenstein did and other Jewish lay persons did?  The answer is simple.  It’s simple in it’s understanding, it’s deeply painful in its outworking, however!  If we throw off God for any reason, in light of the holocaust or any other evil or suffering, then the only other alternative in terms of determining what is law, what is moral, what is ethical….. if there is no God? That leaves it up to the human animal, to human beings, to men!  It means the whole thing is thrown up into the air as relative, there is no absolute moral transcendent law that handed down that we are accountable to.  Therefore, things like majority rule, the elite dictators or party at the top determine what’s right and wrong.

Therefore, if there is no God, the Nazis had every single right to determine for themselves who were the Aryans of the pure race and who were the vermin that needed to be destroyed!  You can’t hold them accountable if there is no God because they had every right to determine for themselves, on a human level, what is right and wrong, what is good, better and best in terms of morals, values and purpose!  And that is exactly what they did!  From the top down, the people, as a majority, were in favor of what took place, even though someone said that on the day the war ended, you couldn’t find anyone anywhere in Germany who said they were a Nazi.


Nevertheless, like our culture today, if you cited the polls for a particular moral issue, whether it’s abortion or euthanasia, the polls would have shown that the majority of Germans were in favor of exterminating the Jews, the gypsies and political dissidents and homosexuals. Because they were vermin, they would do away with them so they wouldn’t infect the Aryan race!  So,  Wiesel knows if you throw God out, then you’re thrown into a whole humanistic determining scales for morals, values and purpose.  That is worse than that God somehow must be involved even though I may not be able to explain it.


Roger:  Let me just interject something here.  You can expound on it if you like.  Did the holocaust move forward the cause of God or did it set man back and move him closer to secular humanism?


Dr. Leventhal:   I don’t know how we can even measure…. it’s a good question… I don’t know how we can measure.  I suspect that probably both answers are true.  Anytime that suffering and pain comes in our lives as individuals or as a society, it forces us to come to grips with; who is man, who am I, what is our society, is there a God, if not, why not?   So, those kinds of ultimate questions are good.  It forces us to get out of our comfort zones, our materialism.  In that quest, when we are in pain, many people find God, as the did in the holocaust!  On the other hand, many people lose God in that quest.  They turn against Him and become bitter.  They set themselves up as their own God to determine what is right and what is wrong.


Roger:  Is it a fair question….let’s say you’re a sonderkommando at Auschwitz and you’re sorting through the bodies and pulling gold teeth, do you ask the question; why would God let this happen? — or if there is a God, this wouldn’t happen?


Dr. Leventhal:  Are you talking about the sonderkommando, himself?


Roger:  Yes.


Dr. Leventhal:   Of course, he was already committed by faith to a worldview that said there was no God.  When there’s no God, as Dostoevsky said, everything is permissable.  Their worldview was that man was in charge, that he was the highest value, the highest calling and; therefore, he could do whatever he wanted with no accountability whatsoever.


You’re talking about the perpetrators.


Roger:  Yes.


Dr. Leventhal:  The question often arises, what  would we have to see happen to allow evil to surface in any particular culture?  It doesn’t come out of nowhere.  It’s a result of religious beliefs, values, authority, moral absolutes.  When it disintegrates at the human level it affects what we think is right and true and how we behave.  They were already committed to a worldview.


One of the interesting aspects of this whole thing came from Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi war criminal hunter.  In a book that he wrote called, “Every Day Remembrance Day: A Chronicle of Jewish Martyrdom,” he was asked the question, “what would it take for a holocaust to happen again?”  What were the causes, the factors that fell into place the moved the Nazis into power and eventually allowed them to murder six million Jews, a million and half being children, as well as six million non-Jews.  He came up with an opinion with six major causes of the holocaust.  He said whenever these six factors come together or converge in a country or a culture, another holocaust can occur.  It’s a frightening thing to listen to!  Let me give them to you because our own culture is not far from this.  He said there must be:


  1. Hatred: By that he means bigotry or prejudice.  It could be religious, political or social. Hate propaganda.


  1. Dictatorship: By the one, the few or the many; emperors, kings, bishops, generals, party leaders, bureaucrats that have the power and authority to carry out such bigotry and prejudice.


  1. Bureaucracy: A government rule characterized by a rigid hierarchy of bureaus, chiefs and petty officials leading to massive red tape.  He said also all those who carry out the orders of state, corporate or ecclesiastical institutions, organs, accomplices leading to the attitude we often hear, “my superior” or “my country right or wrong”.


  1. Technology: Technocrats, scientists, researchers, engineers, technicians.  They could never have a holocaust without that.  He says modern technology provides the practical instruments for mass murder.  Progress makes possible the partially successful final solution to the Jewish question and a final solution to the question of mankind.


  1. Crisis: Something like a war.  For example, the economy in pre-WW II Germany led to fear and panic.  Again and again we notice those institutions and personalities who sought to persecute and destroy the Jews bided their time and waited for an opportune moment for acts of this kind.


  1. Scapegoat: There must be a minority as a scapegoat, also a kind of sign as an eye-catching stigma during the fanaticism of religious and political bigots.  He talks about the danger and precarious status of minority groups, the demonization of a minority, ethnic cleansing kinds of things.


All of those fell into place, in Wiesenthal’s opinion, during the years after WW I, probably going back even centuries before that in certain religious bigotry.  When those six factors came into place, they gave birth to the holocaust.  It seems to me that many countries could pull that off.  In fact, some are doing it right now in terms of ethnic cleansing.  It’s a frightening thing to think about, I think.



Roger:  Yes.  Barry, I’ve got to take a break here.  When we come back from the break, what I’d like you to do is tell me how Jews, religious Jews particularly, differ in their view of the holocaust as compared to evangelicals.  Can you do that for me?


Dr. Leventhal:  Sure.


Roger:  Alright!  Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Barry Leventhal joins us in our Holocaust Special this week as we try to explore the spiritual depths of the holocaust and what it really means.  We’ll be back with that in just a second.




Roger:   Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen!  The Holocaust Special continues.  We will be taking calls.  Our guest tonight is Dr. Barry Leventhal talking about the theological perspectives of the holocaust.


Barry, the reason I asked the question before we went to break is because I’m trying to find out if we really learned any lessons from the holocaust, and if we learned different kinds of lessons, what they are.  So, it’s important for me to know how religious Jews view the holocaust today versus evangelical Christians.


Dr. Leventhal:   Let me preface this with a couple of comments.


First of all, as you well know, Judaism is not monolithic.  There’s not a, “what do Jews believe about any particular subject” per se.   Coming from an orthodox position, their view of God, the nature of God, if there’s an afterlife what it’s like, is one thing.  If you’re coming from the opposite extreme, from a reformed or agnostic Judaism or any other more liberal form, the question of God is up for grabs.  There is no afterlife.  Then, of course, anywhere in between where there’s conservative Judaism or reconstruction, it all depends who you’re talking to in terms of what their view is of the realities of life.  So, that’s an important thing.


To give you an example, let’s take two areas.  Religious Judaism, and I’m talking now more towards the orthodox or conservative wing of religious Judaism; before the holocaust, and basically in their so-called theological statements, they don’t believe that man is instinctively from conception a sinner by nature.  Man is born like a blank slate and he then chooses to do good or evil.  He has two inclinations that are like two barking dogs and he can choose which one he will submit to, the inclination for good or the inclination for evil.  So, that man becomes a sinner because he sins.


The biblical testimony from the Hebrew Bible, like in Psalm 51, all the way through the New Testament says that man is a sinner from conception and by nature; therefore, he sins.  He is not a sinner because he sins.  He sins because he is a sinner!  That was almost universally held, and there’s some real religious question about that by religious Jews since the holocaust.


For example, the famous Jewish historian and political philosopher, Abba Eban, in his work entitled, “My People: The Story of the Jews,” he said, “Until the Nazi holocaust there was an innocent assumption that no man, however depraved, can stand unmoved before the innocence and fragility of childhood.  The human race can no longer allow itself even this consolation.”

To give you one more example of the radical rethinking about the nature of man within religious Judaism, let’s take well known rabbi and author, Bernard Bamberger.  In his work entitled, “The Search for Jewish Theology,” he says, “What Auschwitz teaches, if it  teaches anything, is that we have underestimated man’s capacity for evil.  We have two often assumed that men are guided by self-interest and that their evil deeds are the result of a misguided urge to protect or aggrandize themselves.  We have not recognized that men may be attracted to evil because it is evil, even embrace it in a mad ecstasy!  Our failure to take this fact into account does not mean that never had been known.  An attentive reading of the Bible makes plain the truth that moral evil is sometimes more than mere efficiency.  It can be a dynamic demonic force in human life!”


It seems to me that as he moves back towards the Bible , as the evangelical understands as the ultimate authority, he must comes to grips about the holocaust.  As you move further and further away from the Bible and it’s authority, then it changes your view of God and that ultimately changes your view of man.  So, I don’t think, in a sense, that our culture, and I don’t see per se, where religious Judaism has learned that man is, by nature, potential of any evil whatsoever!


I think they still have this humanistic ideal that if we can just create the right climate, the right atmosphere, the right environment, man will move on to perfectability on his own.   So, although there’s been a lot of rethinking among religious Jews about the holocaust, the basic framework, that man is basically good, without any outside transcendent help from God or whatever, he can simply bring in his own utopia.  I don’t think there’s much change in that, per se.


A second area I think is a good example of this, and also surfaces the issue is that we talk about Judaism, when we talk about Biblical Judaism, that is the Jewish scriptures and the Hebrew Bible; then we talk about Rabbinic Judaism , the Judaism of the rabbis.  They are not the same!  They’re not the same in most areas of theology.  They haven’t been for centuries!


Biblical Judaism, for example, recognizes clearly that there is a world to come, that there is an afterlife, that there’s a heaven and there’s a hell.  This also consistently taught in the New Testament as well.  It is affirmed both by the Messiah and His followers.  So, you see, to believe in this afterlife and that there is a place for justice, yet assumes, as biblical faith teaches all the way from Abraham on, that to get to this heaven is a gift of God’s grace, simply based on faith and not on works! If it’s based on works as all of Judaism teaches if they have any concept of an afterlife at all, then it’s up for grabs who can get in!  Hopefully, God grades on the curve—my good works will outweigh my bad works—so I can get in!


As any rabbi will tell you at any Jewish funeral, in the pain and agony of everybody there, I don’t know where this dead person is because only God knows if he has enough good works to outweigh his bad works and that would control whether he got in.  This rabbi doing  the ceremony cannot assure you.  He may hope, he may pray that someday you will see this other person; but, he doesn’t know where the person is, whether they’re in heaven or not.  There’s no assurance whatsoever!  That’s certainly not true in the Hebrew Bible of Abraham and David, in Psalm 16 and Job, “I know my redeemer lives—I will see him in my flesh on the earth!”  This is tremendous!  And, of course, with the resurrected Messiah, this afterlife is completely, completely dominate in terms of this life is just a mere vapor of passing——



But, you see, when you come to the holocaust or any kind of suffering evil like that, if the boundaries of your vision are only temporal; if there’s no eternity, no afterlife where justice will be done, then you can’t handle—emotionally, spiritually, morally— you can’t handle the holocaust!          If all the justice we’re looking for is in this life because there is no afterlife— the Nazis got away with  all kinds of things!   Hitler escaped judgment by suicide!


If you go into our courts today and expect to get justice, you’re going to be very disappointed most of the time.  If you get any kind of a just reward for something you did right, or if you are falsely accused you can count yourself thankful in a culture like ours.   But, if the Bible is true, where it says we will suffer unjustly but we know from Ecclesiastes 12 and all the way through the Bible that one day God will bring all into judgment.  No one gets away with anything!


That changes my whole response pattern to things like the holocaust, whether it’s on a national level or whether it’s on a personal level, whether suffering from cancer or whatever else is going on, because I know that in this brief life which is just a vapor, a cloud, a mere breath, a dry leaf (all these images are in the Bible) is simply passing away.


As the Puritans taught, our task is to prepare men and women to die a good death. Death, to religious Judaism, and I mean all the way from ultra-orthodoxy to agnostic Judaism, death is fearful, death is painful, death is something that is frightening.  If you don’t believe that, just step into a Jewish funeral.


Paul Johnson, one of our great modern historians, lived most of his life as a socialist. Then he became a theist, a believer in God, says, “Perhaps the greatest of all 20th Century follies is the belief that we can ignore death, sweep it under the carpet, as it were.  It is almost a truism to say that in this present age, so brazenly outspoken about the physical realities of sex, recoils in horror at the prospect of mortality and talks of it only in hushed whispers, in euphemisms and circumlocutions or not at all.”  Kind of like Woody Allen, “It’s not that I’m afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens!”


So, those two areas; the whole issue of the nature of sin and the whole rejection of, or at best, questioning the reality of an afterlife, a world to come, a future judgment based on God’s just and righteous attributes, is simply lost.  Therefore, it’s not surprising—-since the rabbis have been teaching this for centuries, it’s not surprising that religious Judaism and non-religious Judaism cannot handle the holocaust!  It poses one of the greatest dilemmas of all because we know that 6,000,000 Jews were killed— 1,500,000 being children!  And, no one except a few of the “so-called leaders” who went to their execution in the war tribunals without ever facing up to it, except perhaps one, died in an unrepentant attitude.  I mean, how fair is that?  How just is that?  So, I don’t see how any individual, be he Jewish or non-Jewish, religious or non-religious, can handle any kind of evil and suffering like the holocaust, or even on a personal level, without some awareness and assurance as the Bible teaches it.  Only the Bible!  It’s the only place in the whole world; not all the religions, all the cults, and frankly, even in midst of much of Christendom.


It says there is a heaven, there is a hell and entrance into heaven is a free gift of God and it must be received by faith.  God is absolute!  He can’t grade on the curve because He’s holy and righteous and just!  He cannot accept sin; therefore, He sent the Messiah to solve the sin problem.  He raised Him from the dead to validate that His death solved the sin problem because He bore our sins on Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  We don’t have to work for it!  We simply have to accept the fact that He died for us and embrace him as our substitute!


Without that kind of very unique portrayal or worldview, there no possible way that anybody could handle something like the holocaust.


Roger:  Yes.


Dr. Leventhal:  Those are at least two major areas.


Roger:  I’m finding, fifty years after-the-fact, that this is one of the most difficult things in the world to accept.  I mean, reading the stories, talking to the people.  It just amazes me that mankind can be that evil which brings me, I think, to believe that mankind may not be responsible for it at all.  We’ll talk about that in just a second.   Dr. Barry Leventhal is with us, ladies and gentlemen.  We’ll be right back.




Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen!  Dr. Barry Leventhal is our guest, talking about the theological perspectives of the holocaust.   Barry, do the Jews blame anyone in particular for the holocaust?


Dr. Leventhal:  Well again, when you say “the Jews,” you are looking at a broad spectrum.  There is no one view on anything about “the Jews.”


Some Jews, of course, blame God.  Richard Rubenstein has written very articulately about being a Jewish atheist since the holocaust.  So, some blame God!


Some, obviously, blame the Nazis, as they should!  And, Hitler!


Some, it’s painful to say but it’s in Jewish writings, some blame the Jews themselves, who walked passively into this and did not fight back!  As if these Jews from Europe and the ghettos of Europe were trained as soldiers.  They didn’t know anything about fighting!  They had no weapons!  But, some blame the Jews themselves for taking that kind of……  And, therefore, by the way, they see  modern Israel retreating from this religious passivism and fighting back against their enemies.


Some would say that there was a demonic force cut loose in it.


Roger:  Don’t the Jews blame Christianity?


Dr. Leventhal:  Well, of course, there’s a sense where….


Roger:  I mean, isn’t anti-semitism rooted in Christianity and….


Dr. Leventhal:  Well, it’s not rooted in Christianity, it’s rooted in Christians!  Some Christians!  Another question:  is the New Testament inherently anti-semitic?  I don’t think so; but, there has certainly been, going back to the Patristic period, to the church fathers from the 2nd to the 5th Century,  there were some —not all— there were some church fathers that were anti-semitic to the core.  Martin Luther, in his old age, said some very evil things about the Jews, of which Hitler picked up and quoted in his work “Mein Kampf.


So there was, and is even to this day, some sense of religious Christianity, “Christians” having anti-semitic feelings.  Certainly, as you said, some Jews would blame it there!


But, you have to also recognize that there were true believers, what we call true christians – born again people — believers in the messiahship of Jesus, who on the authority of their Bible, gave their lives for Jews, who actually went to the camps with them!  You can think of the Ten Booms and others like that!


It seems to me that anybody that is a true believer in Jesus as the Messiah, Savior, Lord and King who is an evangelical that submits their whole life under the authority of the Bible — I’ve never run into anyone under that particular description who hated the Jews, was anti-semitic, who was for Hitler or against the modern state of Israel.  The most supportive of the modern state of Israel are those who are evangelicals, who have a future belief in some continuing work of God within the Jewish people.


Roger:  Because of the remnant?


Dr. Leventhal:  Right!  Sure!


Roger:  And who is the remnant?


Dr. Leventhal:  Well, the remnant concept is always, in whatever particular time you are looking at; past, present or future; is the believing core or remnant within the total Jewish population, the Jewish nation, that hold to the covenant promises.


Like Daniel, they may suffer along with the Jewish nation in judgment.  Daniel was a righteous man and his friends were.  They were taken in captivity, the judgment for the nation.  They prayed for the nation.  They preached to them.  They spoke of the promises that they should embrace.  They kept calling the nation back to God.


Today the present remnant would be the messianic believers, those are Jews who believe in the messiahship of Jesus.  They’re called different terms; Hebrew Christians, Jewish Christians, Messianic Believers, or whatever.


There’s going to be a future, just before the return of the Messiah, a future remnant as well that will believe according to Zechariah 12-14, who will embrace the promises as well.


God only accepts people who will embrace Him and His promises by faith.  Just because we are born one way or the other, Jew or non-Jew, does not mean we have a shoe-in into heaven or the kingdom.  God only accepts faith!  People that are people of faith, believe Him and His Word.  That’s the remnant idea as well.



The Bible is clear from Psalm 51 and Psalm 58 and numerous statements; Ephesians 2:1-3,

Romans 2 and 3, that we have really underestimated — I think we, as evangelical believers also have underestimated, the potential evil that lies within the human heart.


Roger:  Alright, wait.  Stop there!  What is…. because we confront our enemy, we can then, hopefully, be victorious, win over the enemy ….what is the source of that evil?  How do we confront it?


Dr. Leventhal:  Well, the source of evil in humanity, in all of us, is the fact that we are sinners from conception—in the very core of our being, in our hearts, in our center cores— and eventually it will express itself in thought, word and deed!


God, being absolutely holy and righteous, cannot accept that sin.  Therefore, it spills over…


Roger:  What is the source of sin?


Dr. Leventhal:  Sin is breaking the law.  It’s rebellion against God.


It may be passive rebellion: “God, I don’t want to do that.  I don’t care anything about you.”


It may be active rebellion:  “God, kiss off ! Get out of my life!”


So, it’s active or passive rebellion.  It’s breaking His law.  The Book of James say that if we break the law at one point, we’re guilty of breaking the whole law!  God does not grade on the curve.  He’d have to jettison His own character, being holy and righteous!


Roger:  But, if we’re blaming God for the holocaust when we should be blaming Satan, haven’t we missed the point?


Dr. Leventhal:   Of course we have!  By the way, God is not embarrassed to hear our arguments with Him.  In fact, just read through some of the Psalms!  The psalmists went into the closet with God and really had a fit about suffering he went through, that it was unjust, either individually or as a nation.  I think that’s the best place to deal with it because God who knows our hearts anyway; but, when we hear ourselves out and we pray it to God, it basically moves into the fact that we’re trying to call the shots!  We think we’re in charge.  It doesn’t go our way and eventually moves us to recognize in His Lordship and, therefore, to confession and repentance.


We are responsible!  Satan has a place!  Man has a place in it!  God permits it!  When we kiss off God, that creates a vacuum and allows our sin nature to express itself.  It also allows for demonic influence to rush into the vacuum to move us towards evil as well.


Roger:  Dr. Barry Leventhal, I want to thank you very much for participating in our holocaust series.  I wish you all well and God bless, my friend!


Dr. Leventhal:  Thank you, very much!




Roger:  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us once again for a holocaust special.  We have several guests left; but, we’re winding this down.  I hope you enjoyed it!  I hope you are learning something from it.




Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology.  Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)