Brown deals here with the Jewish objection that contrasts the rationality of Judaism with the irrationality of Christianity. Brown goes on to say that Christianity encourages thought and education (I imagine that Brown would label the Church’s history of opposition to education as an invalid expression of Christianity – “they were not real Christians”). Brown continues his argument with the point that there are many concepts in Judaism that seem to be irrational, such as the miracles recorded in the Jewish Scriptures. Brown concludes his response to this Jewish objection with a quote from Isaiah 55:8,9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts”.
Brown has missed the thrust of the Jewish objection and he has completely misunderstood Isaiah.
The thrust of the Jewish objection is not focused on rational versus irrational, it is focused on honest versus dishonest. In order to teach Israel who it is that they are to worship, God went out of His way to satisfy the human sensitivity to truth. Remember; the concept that there is a Supreme Being who is above and beyond all of nature, is a concept that the philosophers and thinkers of most cultures affirm through the process of human reason – but God did not rely on that. He had to turn the Nile into blood for seven days (- try to imagine the Amazon, the Mississippi, the Rhine, or the Volga turning into blood for seven days!). That wasn’t enough, He brought the frogs, the lice, the wild animals, the pestilence, the boils, the hail, the locusts, and three days of darkness on the entirety of Egypt; still not enough. The first born of Egypt, every last one of them, die at midnight; still not enough. A pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, the sea splitting and the Egyptian army drowning, bread from heaven, and water from a rock; still not enough. God was not satisfied until He introduced Himself to the entire nation of Israel in an unprecedented and never-repeated collective national revelation; then and only then was God satisfied that Israel is convinced that they owe their worship to the One Supreme Being who holds their breath in His hand. Contrast this with the Jesus of Christianity, who was condemning those who doubted the truth of his claims – according to Brown these include that he, a human being, is somehow deserving of worship – to the eternal fires of hell – even before his alleged resurrection! Is there a comparison?
The foundations of the Jewish faith are rooted in two pieces of information that God imparted directly to the nation as a whole. These are: Israel’s perception of God (Deuteronomy 4:35), and the knowledge that Moses is truly God’s prophet (Exodus 19:9). God ensured that our sense of honesty is completely satisfied before demanding that we accept these two principles. All the rest of Judaism’s beliefs rest upon these two pillars. We do not claim to understand every detail, but as long as we are sure that they came from the God who we encountered at Sinai and were taught by the one man who merited that God attest to the validity of his mission on a national level – we accept it. Our sense of honesty requires this of us. Contrast this with the teachings of Christianity. What do they stand on? On the flimsy claims of a few individuals, who never saw that Jesus is god, but came to that conclusion on the basis of their human analysis, or on the basis of the books of Christian Scriptures, whose authenticity is still the subject of scholarly debate. How does this compare to the testimony of Judaism that was in the hands of a nation from its inception?
The God of Judaism went out of His way to appeal to our sensitivity to truth, the god of Christianity did not.
Brown’s quotation from Isaiah is an appalling misuse of Scripture. Isaiah is not talking about who it is that we are to worship or about the teaching of the trinity. Isaiah is talking about the efficacy of repentance. If one appreciates the magnitude of a sin, a rebellion against the sovereignty of God, then it is difficult if not impossible to fathom how repentance can wipe the slate clean. Indeed, many people, Brown included, have presented various logical and semi-logical arguments in an effort to negate the efficacy of repentance. But Isaiah teaches us – don’t try to understand it. As long as your sense of honesty is satisfied that it is God who has spoken, it is not for you to doubt. God’s ways are not our ways nor are our thoughts His thoughts. And Judaism takes God on His word. If You, God, say that repentance works (Isaiah 55:7), then we accept Your word and we trust in Your abundant mercy. Christianity on the other hand is built upon a rejection of Isaiah’s message in these very verse that Brown has quoted. Since the wages of sin is death, Christianity argues in a semi-logical fashion, there can be no forgiveness for sin without the shedding of blood. Isaiah’s appeal to put our logic aside for this issue is ignored by Brown and the theologians of Christianity.
When it comes to the object of our worship, on the other hand, Scripture appeals directly to human logic and even to human humor to make its point. Isaiah points to the futility of trusting in a man that needs a constant supply of oxygen in order to function properly (Isaiah 2:22). Jeremiah points to the absurdity that is inherent in worshiping an inhabitant of this earth (Jeremiah 10:11). Daniel rebukes the Babylonian king for directing worship to an entity other than the One who holds his breath in His hand (Daniel 5:23).
When it comes to the issue of directing our worship, the Scriptures teach us to follow our logic and our conscience. If it is abhorrent to you to direct worship to a human being that lived and breathed like yourself, as it should be, then don’t do it. Don’t fall for the arguments of the apologists that encourage you to put your sensitivity to truth aside on this matter. If they quote Isaiah 55:8,9 to you to support their argument, that is only God’s way of demonstrating to you just how irresponsible and unreliable these apologists and their arguments are.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal