Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thomas Merton [remixed]

Obvious exchange of 'Jews/Jewish' for "xtian", Torah for lhvdl "Gospel"...mixed emphasis his and mine;

"The greatest temptation that assails Jews is that in effect, for most of us, the Torah has ceased to be news. And if it is not news it is not Torah; for the Torah is the proclamation of something absolutely new, everlastingly new, not a message that was once new but is now two [read four...] thousand years old. And yet for many of us the Torah is precisely the announcement of something that is not new: the truths of the Torah are old, deeply-rooted, firmly established, unchanging and in some sense a refuge against all that is disturbing because it is new. . . The message of the Torah when it was first preached was profoundly disturbing to those who wanted to cling to well-established religious patterns, the ancient and accepted ways, the ways that were not dangerous and which contained no surprises.

Repentence is at the same time a complete renewal, a discovery, a new life, and a return to the old, to that which is before everything else that is old. But the old and the new meet in the metanoia, the inner change, that is accomplished by the hearing of God's world and the keeping of it. That which is oldest is newest because it is the beginning [reminds me of Chesterton's counsel that "Obviously, it ought to be the oldest things that are taught to the youngest people]...The new is within the old because it is the perennial beginning of everything, and emerges from the old, transcending it...eternally renewing it's own life. The Torah is handed down from generation to generation but it must reach each one of us brand new, or not at all. If it is merely 'tradition' and not news, it has not been preached or not heard - it is not Torah.

Any word that comes from God is News!

But our ideas of news, the newspapers' idea of news, might lead us to believe that any world except what came from God was news. As if what was said by God had to be so fixed, so determined, so rigid in its set form that it could never be anything new, never unpredictable, never astonishing, never frightening. If there is no risk in revelation, if there is no fear in it, if there is no challenge in it, if it is not a world whicch creates whole worlds, and new beings, if it does not call into existence a new creature, our new self, then religion is dead and God is dead. Those for whom the Torah is old, and old only, have killed it for the rest of men. The life of the Torah is its newness.

Those who preach the Torah as if it were not and could not be news, as if it never could be news again, are saying in their own way, and much more terribly than Nietzsche, that 'God is dead'. They are declaring it officially, they are proclaiming it not just as the paradox of an eccentric, but as the doctrine of their church.

What makes the Torah news? [;]The faith, which is created in us by God and with which we hear it as news. This acceptance of faith, this new birth in the Spirit, opens up a new dimension in which time and eternity meet, in which all things are made new; eternity, time, our own self, the world around us.

But also the news of the Torah is more than a personal subjective discovery, my own individual realisation here and now of a universal message. It is true that what is known to all who have believed becomes known to me also [in Talmud Torah, engaging in dialogue with 'believers' of profound depth of belief and knowledge, etc], in praise [creativity?], in wonder [engagement in the world, the sciences, etc], in the creative light and peace of interior prayer. And my discovery must in some sense enrich the light and the joy of all. But more than that: the Torah looks to a future event that is still not fulfilled...Yet this brings with it another temptation: the false news of those who have too much of a message, too clear a message - 'lo, here is Moshiach [THE derech, etc], precisely here. And we are the ones who have found Him for you'. They have the date and the hour of His coming and they are themselves the main part of the news. A very important part, indeed. The ["second"] coming is their news.

Such news is not to be believed. The Torah itself is much simpler. [Back to Teshuvah...] Now is the judgement of the world, and the newest of all the news, because it is the simple and inscrutable heart of every now, the life and the heartbeat of every history of every man and every race and every nation.

The Torah is the news that, if I will, I can respond now in perfect freedom to the redemptive love of God for man... that I can now rise above the forces of necessity and evil in order to say 'yes' to the mysterious action of Spirit that is transforming the world even in the midst of the violence and confusion and destruction that seem to proclaim His absence and His 'death.'

Let us not underestimate our era, the era of disaster and fulfillment, by calling it 'interesting.'"
Confessions of A Guilty Bystander, p. 126-8

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Light Too Bright

From "A Light Too Bright; The Enlightenment Today", by Paulos Mar Gregorios [emphasis mine]

"But the light of the European Enlightenment today shines so bright that it covers up much more than it reveals. It is like vision during the day and during the clear night; we can see many details of our earth very clearly by sunlight, which we would not see by the light of the stars or of the moon at night. But during that process of seeing by sunlight we give up the possibility of seeing the night sky with its galazies of stars, the other planets, and the moon.

It is only as the daylight fades and the dusk begins to obscure much of the detail we see by day, that the night sky with all its grandeur and splendor comes into view. Our European Enlightenment is something like the daylight, which makes us see many things that we would not have seen without its help; but in that very process of opening up a detailed and clear vision of some things, the daylight, by its very brightness, eclipses the stunningly vast expanse of the billions of galaxies that lie around. It is too bright a light, this European Enlightenment and its critical rationality. If we lived all twenty four hours by sunlight we would miss out on most of reality, which "comes to light" only when the sunlight is dimmed, and when even the moon's reflection of the sunlight is not too forceful." p.187-88.

There's a lot to unpack; this wonderfully enlightening thing, "the" sun - is only one of billions, a small one at that in comparison to stars in the rest of the universe, etc. I'd like to work this in with Rav Kook, Abarbanel and Rav Soloveitchik at some point later.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kellner, Leibowitz & the “contra mysticism”/Academic Orthoprax crowd.
[in progress]
Is part of the Kellner/’rational Torah’ Academic Orthoprax cabals problem that they completely ignore or are unaware of the cognates between Judaism and Primal belief systems/cosmologies – or perhaps thinking them as superfluous, ‘primitive’? “You have to be Lakota to see the Lakota world! There are worlds you cannot see because you are wasichu (i.e., non-covenanted, un-specified...)! If you live with us as us, metaphysical principles of our universe apply to you that did not before (examples from “being changed”; also similar to R. Eiseman and ‘hashgacha-earning individuals”)! Just the kind of conception that the whitebread Yuterian/‘Edah’ “rational universalism”/solidarity crowd disdains when it occurs in Judaism! (Here with the Lakota as exotic ‘Other’, it would probably be lauded by Edah types, maybe seek a chitchat about it).Tribally, one is born into highly experiential, symbolic, specific and contextual – yet radically rational and awesomely complex cosmologies, webs of “exclusive” relationships shared by perhaps little more than a large extended family, etc – at the same time cosmologies that are profoundly, resoundingly covenantal, down to flora, fauna and ephemera (dimensions and spheres of reality militated against by Hellenistic/’philosophical’ “universalisms”). “Family first” is not merely a matter of survival; it is how one relates to the universe. In Torah, Humanity comes out from an even more “exclusive” relationship – two people. Not abstractions and ‘universalisms’, not ‘principles’. Two people, the meaning of the universe comes out from. Tribal, Primal, shamanic, is very likely Pre-Mabul if not pre-Adamic; universalisms, philosophy, idolatry, Nations, etc, flourish after Bavel, in Exile, in non-Redeemed context. Israel was Tribal, profoundly so. To embed it in philosophy, ‘rationalism’, late-in-the-day abstractions (no less than ‘aftermath mysticism’, etc), is to miss this, is to miss the central Pivotal, Axial nature of Covenant. Covenant as a natural instinct of Nefesh/Ruach – where man covenants with natural world and has some cognizance of High God (Rambam). This is tens of thousands of years old. Direct, Tribal similarities are even more profound in the “mystical”,, mythic, symbolic aspects (signs to be interpreted, within a particular language, etc); etz chaim and trees of life, yggrdazil, the world tree…the serpent, etc…(there are more abstracted examples by other world religions that get further from the direct tree/tree correspondence examples; xtian cross/tree, etc).

“Essential Difference” as a basis for inclusion - not exclusion; an example from Catholicism[in progress]

I will initially compare mainline Catholicism with a mainline, popular 'haredi' Orthodox belief regarding meaningful life and salvation (so popular, I don't even bother to give "chapter 'n' verse" to prove it exists). The Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla Salus; "Outside the Church there is no Salvation". The Catholic Church in theDogmatic Constitution on the Church), asserts their conviction in the necessity of faith and baptism (Mk 16:16, Jn 3:5), and the Catholic Church as the body that is thereby entered into (emphasis of course mine); “Hence they could not be saved who, knowing the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through [j.c.], would refuse to enter it, or remain in it…those who have not yet received the gospel are related to the people of God [i.e, the Church, the specific body who are the 'people of God', a status not shared with all humanity] in various ways. There is first the people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which X was born according to the flesh…:in view of the divine choice, they are a people most dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentance (Rom 11:28-29); [left out of the quotation is calling them “enemies of God, which is in v.28]…But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge their Creator, in the first place there are the Moslems: they profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day. Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28 – from Isaiah 42:5), and since the savior [sic] wills all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tim 2:4). Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve salvation.”

Contrast all that with a popular, doctrinaire 'haredi' version of Rambam; the ‘finality’ of the 13 Principles, the common conviction that “a heretic, is still a heretic” (regarding even unknowing transgression of certain of the ikkarim), etc. From the ‘haredi’ perspective, being Doctrinally correct in thought and deed is synonymous with salvation (many of them believe - but don’t articulate - that it’s synonymous with being Jewish); "it's the thought that counts" or "good intentions" or even "good works" are irrelevant. A haredi person who holds this belief might ask,“If the catholics are honest (by haredi conception of ”honesty”), how can they not believe that all are lost - in this world and the next - except catholics?" Because to be Catholic is to abide by church doctrine – and church doctrine does not teach assured eternal damnation (or eternal non-existence – a common haredi folk doctrine regarding goyim) for non-Catholics!
Kiruv contexts abound with the aforementioned belief, and it’s taught as if it were universal christian doctrine. Regarding the Catholic church, it is precisely the opposite - other historical, mainline denominations share such open salvific doctrines (see Marc B. Shapiro's interesting piece here). Another example of how we look like fools before those who know our error, and when if we aren't telling the truth, we're telling lies to teach Torah. On top of which, the mainline 'haredi' perspective on non-Jews, on the other 999% of humanity, is that if anything, their lives are mere backdrops to Israel and in death they simply cease to exist. How low are we, how far we’ve taken ourselves and Torah by our behavior that the goyim can look at us and our way of life and say that God-Given Yahadut is surpassed in mercy and decency by l’hvdl manmade institutions!!
Whats left to do? Criticize haredi essentialist cosmology? But to be consistant mandates criticizing essentialism as such – which is what Kellner et al suggest we do. Their basis is often a moral one; that teaches of "essential difference" between Jews and non-Jews leads only to ethnocentrism, which leads to racism, mass murder, stealing candy from goyishe babies, etc.
I would rather answer this charge of the consequences of "jewish essentialism" by addressing general essentialism; returning to the Catholic example; “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus”; “outside the church there is no salvation”; sanctification in this life and salvation in the next requires the benefit of the sacraments and divinely-given grace. To actually even cognate the defining differences between true and false regarding the evidences of the Church, etc, one must have received these “Church Militant”[def]-administered transcendental means and Yeshka-Given divine grace, i.e., be Catholic, be fundamentally distinct and transformed in essence (you can’t know without experiencing); therefore in the absence of this essentially metaphysical grace - one is not necessarily culpable; salvation outside the church is by Mercy, which is over all His works, not based on participation in the particular, essentially distinct Relationship shared only by “The People of God”; the excerpts above evidence just this, as one is associated through them and through a general mercy.

Mesorah of Experience; R. Berkovits, Roy Clouser & Kelly Clark [in progress]

When I asked you to talk with me about how any educated person in this scientific age could still believe in God, I expected you to start our discussions with arguments for God’s existence. Instead you start by talking about religious experience! Does that mean you’re kissing off the proofs for God’s existence? Are you conceding right away that none of them work?

Yes. I’m skipping the arguments for God’s existence, first, because in my opinion none of them succeed [GMH, p.12-15, 61-64, 69-] . Let me hasten to add that I don’t believe their failure matters much.[;] I totally reject the view that belief in God is justified only if proven and that otherwise it’s blind faith (Ref. Ep, Plantinga, Clark, et al). Proving is actually an inferior way of coming to know something [contra Aish/R. Weinberg’s “five finger proofs”, my very doubting of which constitutes a denial of “rabbinic authority” in some circles…], a way we resort to when we can’t directly experience what we want to know [also I, II, III. We're in era post Nevuah, etc, where even mesorah of Bat Kol, "lower prophecies" fragmentary and/or lost to Israel]. That’s why proving is standard procedure in philosophy and the sciences. Both seek information we can’t get directly from experience.[GMH p.13-50 poss. Kuzari]. So we make hypotheses [educated guesses] and then construct arguments and weigh evidence to prove or disprove them. But genuine belief in God doesn’t regard God as a hypothesis, [but not every belief that disregards hypotheses can be similarly valid] and it doesn’t need proof [though it may be nice; also are very individualized, etc; among other reasons being that for those who thoroughly hold it, it’s what you prove from, not what you prove to; if your presuppositions aren’t "religious" or "scientific", depending…what are you privileging with the ‘measuring stick’ role? ]. It’s a belief that is both acquired and justified by experience. (Roy Clouser, “Knowing With the Heart”, p.11)

R. Berkovits on Encounter as the grounds for true religion – not ‘reason’ as the grounds for religion (not because reason is considered unreliable – an issue for reason, but not religion - but because HKBH Spoke to us...). You don’t have relationships or ‘encounters’ with abstract universalisms! You covenant with others, with Other; Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!!! (p.16-)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

We're Sorry..

...but Yesterday has been discontinued. Users will no longer be able to access Yesterday. If you have found Yesterday useful, you may enjoy the new feature, Tomorrow, which is accessible using the Today module.

-Brought to you by the Year 2006 and KMFDM's "Today" (might minimize the window).

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>