Expressing the Ineffable: Theopoetics of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dorothee Soelle

Ashley Elizabeth Theuring
Theology, Xavier University
May, 2011
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Ashley Theuring grew up Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended the University of Dayton were she received her BA in Religious Studies and Psychology and immediately went into her master’s program at Xavier University in Theology. She worked a number of years at a rape, crisis, and abuse center, Women Helping Women of Hamilton County, as an advocate and educator. She began her doctoral studies in the Practical Theology at the Boston University School of Theology with a concentration in Church and Society. She hopes to connect her research with her experience working with trauma survivors and their developing religious identities and practices.


My research investigates the use of theopoetics as theological language after World War Two as exemplified by two theologians, the Jewish Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Lutheran Dorothee Soelle. The goal is to discover the practical use of poetics as a viable theological language for contemplating the mysteries of religion without reductionism or simplification.
This paper advances that in a context of violence and disconnection from the ineffable, theopoetics can act a bridge between action and contemplation by providing the language necessary to reconnect the world with God. Theopoetics opens up our contemplation to a prophetic call to action. The paper opens with a brief history of theopoetics as a field of study. Central is an investigation of the specific uses of poetics by both authors to describe their traumatic circumstances and discuss theological themes in a postmodern era. The paper compares the poems and writings of Abraham Joshua Heschel within his pieces "The Ineffable Name of God: Man" and "Man is Not Alone" to Dorothee Soelle’s writings within "Revolutionary Patience" and "The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance." Themes both authors share strongly, such as social action and the divine pathos, will be discussed. Finally, the discussion is brought to the present by applying poetics to our current world.

ISSN: 2374-4103