Responding to an Atheist (and a Christian)
Common sense tells us that this complex universe that we live in did not come about by accident. So much wisdom and coordination are evident in every detail of the universe that it is impossible to conceive of one detail, let alone the confluence of all of them, happening by chance.
Furthermore; in the universe that we know, every effect has a cause. What then was the first cause that started everything?
One line of reasoning that atheists use to deflect these two arguments is by pointing out that those who believe in God must face these questions as well. If God is so intelligent as to devise such a complex world then this begs the question; how did this intelligent God come about? And how does positing that God is the first cause explain away the need for a first cause; doesn’t God Himself require a first cause. Who created God?
This line of reasoning misses the central point of Judaism. The central pillar of Judaism is the concept that all of nature, including all of its laws and all of its limitations, are but creations of something that is above and beyond nature. The first cause and the intelligence that designed the world cannot be inside of nature.
Both the Jew and the atheist accept that there is a point that cannot be understood by the laws of nature. How did this coordinated world come into being? What was the first cause? The difference between the Jew and the atheist is in where they seek the answer. The atheist insists that the answer must lie somewhere within the confines of nature. The Jew’s answer is that nature doesn’t allow for this point that cannot be understood; rather, it must be something that is outside of nature that is beyond our understanding.
In a certain sense the argument between the atheist and the Jew is not about God but rather about nature and the universe as we see it. The atheist insists that there cannot be anything outside of nature as we know it. In a certain sense the atheist is deifying nature; arguing that everything must be contained within the jurisdiction of nature and her laws. While the Jew argues that nature and all of her laws must be a subject to something outside of it and nature cannot be the ultimate master of all.
We can look at the two questions; the one from intelligent design and the concept of a necessary first cause, as questions about subject and master. The fact that within the realm of nature – complexity doesn’t come about by chance, together with the fact that natural laws require a first cause tell us that nature must be a subject and not a master. The Master must stand outside of nature and all of its laws.
The argument between the Jew and the Christian also centers on the concept of subject and master. The Christian insists that a certain individual who existed within the confines of nature is worthy of our devotion. The Jew points out that the Christian has forgotten that in order to be worthy of devotion one needs to be the Master and cannot be a subject in any way. Since the object of Christian devotion existed within the confines of nature it must have been a subject itself.
The subject; any subject, has no right to demand the devotion that is coming to the Master.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal