Supplement to Responding to an Atheist (and to a Christian)
The following question was posed in the context of my article “Responding to an Atheist”. This question articulates something that weighs deeply on the hearts of many Christians. The Jewish testimony that lifts God above all of nature seems to push God far away. The Christian philosophy which has God humble Himself and participate in the experience of His creations makes God so much more accessible and loving.
Here then is the question: “…what is wrong with the Christian belief that God might humble Himself and be known as part of creation, even though He still deserves our worship… and even more so because of such a gift?”
Annelise puts the question in context: “I understand that there’s no way within Judaism of testing that someone/something that seems like part of nature actually is an incarnation of God and deserves our worship. But I’ve never understood the idea that categorically God could not do this; that He *could not* make His person known in a human person, who had just a breath of air in his nostrils, if that were in His wisdom and kindness.”
In other words; it would be one thing for Judaism to say that we are not satisfied with evidence presented to “prove” that Jesus is this “incarnation” of God, but Judaism goes further than that. Judaism asserts that it cannot be. It is impossible.
What is the basis for this assertion? How can Jews be confident that God cannot humble Himself in this way?
As a member of the witness nation I see it as my duty to respond to this question and I pray that my words add clarity to the matter and not confusion.
There are different types of opposites in this world. We have light and dark, tall and short as well as many others. We can imagine a compromise between most of these opposites. You can have a room that is only partially illuminated and that would be seen as a compromise between light and dark. You can have something that is tall when compared to an average person but would be considered short when compared to a mountain. This then could be a “compromise” between tall and short.
The qualities of truth and falsehood are more difficult to reconcile with each other. Generally we say that a given statement is either true or false. However we could still imagine compromise in a situation where a statement is true in one context but false in another. That would be good and fine for a statement that only possesses truth or falsehood as descriptive qualities. But the raw concepts of truth and falsehood can never be reconciled. By definition truth is not falsehood and falsehood is not truth. We can then say that truth and falsehood are “more opposite” than light and dark.
Truth and falsehood are still not the most opposite entities. Truth is not truth because falsehood is falsehood. If falsehood would be impossible to conceive of truth would still be truth (although in a world where falsehood does not exist we would not appreciate truth as truth).
In the context of worship of the divine the titles Master and subject are more opposite than truth and falsehood. It is not that the word “master” is an intrinsic opposite of “subject” in a way that no compromise is possible. A person can be a master of one person and a subject of another – but that compromise can only take place outside of the context of worship of the divine.
In the context of worship of the divine the words “Master” and “subject” carry a different connotation. The fact that God is the Master, the Creator of all existence, the One who constantly sustains all life and the fact that His creation is subject and completely dependent upon Him for its very existence every second – these facts form the heart of worship. If there would only be a Master and no subjects then there would be no worship. And by definition subjects cannot exist without a Master.
The entire concept of worship is rooted in the recognition that all are subject to, dependent upon and completely helpless before the Master. By definition the subject is the one FROM whom all worship is due and by definition the Master is the One TO whom all worship is due.
In the context of worship of the divine there can be no compromise between Master and subject.
After everything is said and done, Judaism does affirm that God made Himself known within creation. He gave us His Law, which reveals His will as it pertains to every aspect of creation. He chose a place within creation; namely Jerusalem; that He calls: “His home”. He formed a covenant with a living nation and He breathed His truth into the nostrils of every human being. God made Himself accessible to us so that we can have a deep and meaningful relationship with Him. But the foundation of the relationship will always remain that as His subjects we owe all worship to Him.
The devotion that Christianity demands towards Jesus is rooted in a lack of appreciation for the concept of divine worship. The testimony of Israel declares that everything that exists within the confines of nature, between heaven and earth, are completely subject to the One Master to whom all devotion is due. By pointing to one inhabitant of this earth and setting him up as an object of worship, Christianity is in effect blurring the lines between subject and Master – the most important definitions in the context of worship. By pointing to someone who shared our dependence on the One Master and exalting him as an object of devotion, Christianity is in effect denying that the dependence upon God that is intrinsic to our nature is the root of our worship.
The entire concept of worship of the divine is rooted in a deep appreciation of the definitions of “Master” and “subject”. The sincerity of the worship is directly related to the depth of appreciation of these two opposing concepts: “Master” and “subject”. Any attempt at blurring the lines between these two is a contradiction to the worship encouraged by the Jewish Bible. By establishing a theology that compromises between Master and subject the Church has set itself up against the worship of God.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal