Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Review: The Limits of Orthodox Theology, Chapter Two,the Existence and Unity of God

"The first principle declares that God exists, that he is perfect in every way, and that he is the cause of the existence of all things."

This is probably the lesast controversial of all the Principles. This principle includes the belief in the eternality of God and His perfection. The only objection to this is how we should understand God's perfection.

Can God do anything? Most Jewish thinkers (and Christian theologians as well) have limited what God can do to the logically possible. In other words, God cannot do what is logically nonsense because such a thing doesn't mean anything. And that doesn't imply an imperfection in God's nature.

However, Shapiro lists some Jewish thinkers who reject this line of thinking. For example, one rabbi said "I believe God can make a rectangular triangle."

Again, for the most part this principle is not controversial. Nor is it unique to Judaism, as this Principle could be affirmed by Islam or Christianity.

"The Second Principle teaches the absolute unity of God, which is unlike the unity of anything else. No Jewish teacher has openly disputed this."

Now, the second principle is Unitarianism. And since Christianity is Trinitarian, this is usually one of the major theological objections to Christianity.

The only forces that run counter to this principle are kabbalistic, but no kabbalist would say this violates the unity of God. Similarly, Christians affirm monotheism while embracing Trinitarianism.

The kabbalah has a doctrine of the Sefirot, the ten aspects of the God head. Shapiro mentions a rabbi that "whereas the Chistians believe in 'three', the kabbalists believe in 'ten'.

Now, if memory serves, the Greeks believed in the absolute unity of the One. That kept crossing my mind as I read this.

How can we, as believers in Jesus, criticize the kabbalists for ten instead of three (ignoring for the moment vast differences between Sefirot and Persons in the Trinity)?

Whether the source is Jewish tradition, Greek philosophy, kabbalah or Christian theology, we should always test everything against Scripture. Our forbearers in the Messianic faith did not come up with the doctrine of the Trinity on a whim. It was based on careful reflection on Scripture.

Maimonides' Thirteen Principles, the Apostolic Creed, and the kabbalah are not the ultimate authorities for us. Scripture is. And this book can help remind us of that. We shouldn't be basing our views on God's nature on our own idle speculations. That would be idolatry.

But, as a believer in Jesus, idea of the Sefirot arising within Judaism is quite interesting to me. Although I doubt at this point in time the origin of such ideas could be ascertained.

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