Chaim Potok is a small, quick man—filled with intellectual intensity. His four novels—The Chosen, The Promise, My Name Is Asher Lev, and In the Beginning—are not just popular; they are well written and deal with the problems of faith in a secular society. (His latest book, Wanderings: Chaim Potok’s History of the Jews has just been published by Knopf.) Even though the faith Potok writes of is orthodox or Hasidic Judaism, evangelical readers (and there are many) find themselves understanding and empathizing with the conflicts he presents. Evangelicals and Jews both live in what Potok calls a religious subculture, one that holds a firm belief in God, in the supernatural, in miracles, and in a way of living that contradicts everything contemporary society appreciates and approves. And we live under that secular umbrella.
Potok’s books do something more. They explain Jewish tradition and religion. As Harold O. J. Brown said in the August 18 issue, Jews and Christians are bound together. We need to understand each other. Potok, who was raised a Hasidic Jew and attended a yeshiva (Jewish school), brings us closer to that goal. He recently spoke at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Soon after that, assistant editor Cheryl Forbes interviewed him at his home in Philadelphia. The following is an edited version of the interview. We hope that after reading it the reader will better understand Judaism and its history (and how it has changed since biblical times) and will have a greater understanding not only of Potok and of the Semitic perspective, but also of yourself and of evangelicalism.
Forbes. Some evangelicals who have read your novels have found little theology in them. Do you agree with this?
Potok: There is theology in ...1
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