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Although, as Rodney Stark observes, commitment to the progressive reasoning of God’s will requires Christians to accept that the Bible is not only or always to be understood literally, Christianity nevertheless does depend for its core beliefs upon the literal truth of supernatural events for which there is only fragile supporting evidence, if that. Much more thus devolves onto pure faith, defined as belief unsupported by evidence and unmediated by the conceits of metaphor or symbol. And that is much harder to sustain under the onslaught from materialism.

In Judaism, many Biblical miracles are explained as either natural events or metaphorical allusions. In the 12th century, the great Jewish sage Moses Maimonides wrote his seminal Guide for the Perplexed precisely to explain that there was no contradiction between rationalism and the Hebrew Bible. He argued, for example, that the Torah was full of similes which were not to be taken at face value as the literal truth.

This is not an attempt to demonstrate the truths of Judaism. It is rather an attempt to show that Judaism is above all a religion of reason which makes it less difficult to reconcile with the modern age. Indeed, Talmudic exegesis is all about reasoning to a highly advanced level to understand better the words of the Hebrew Bible and the relationship of God to man. Moreover, the Bible’s enigmatic and poetic text makes little sense if read literally; Genesis is filled with contradictions which demand sophisticated analysis and make a literalist interpretation absurd and indeed anti-religious.

In the 12th century, Maimonides was the classic exponent of the idea that metaphysical truths could only be grasped through the exercise of reason. He held that religion was the highest rung of metaphysical knowledge. Human perfection consisted in “the attainment of rational virtue . . . the conception of ideas which lead to correct opinions of metaphysical matters”. So as Eliezer Berkovits has noted, for Maimonides only someone who had mastered all the disciplines of human knowledge such as logic, mathematics and natural science could attain the knowledge of God. Concentrating the intellect in this way was the highest form of spirituality. Even living according to the law was secondary to the intellectual service of God through contemplation. That is why, even though doing good works and promoting the “repair of the world” are stressed in Judaism as moral imperatives, the very highest calling in Judaism is learning.

Nor has there ever been a problem reconciling Judaism with science. As a non-believer, zoologist Professor Andrew Parker, the lead researcher at London’s Natural History Museum, was astounded by what he found when he studied in detail the first page of Genesis. For he realised that whoever had written it had set out with uncanny accuracy the precise order of events in the development of the universe, facts which those unknown authors thousands of years ago could not possibly have known.
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Gavin Stoffberg
March 14th, 2018
3:03 PM
Thanks for a great article. Loved it!

Madge Hirsch
March 14th, 2018
10:03 AM
It is obvious that Melanie Phillips has never bothered to aquaint herself on any but the sketchiest level with Hinduism. One could argue that the order of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu were an example of evolution just as much as anything to be found in Genesis.I would suggest that the arrested development of science in Hindu India has a lot more to do with the devastation caused by neverending Islamic invasions and the reduction of the Hindu population to dhimmi status rather than cyclical notions of time. As for the tyranny of atheism there was plenty of tyranny around before the 20th century.And just look what that wonderfully vibrant Bible Belt has produced- a great deal of hypocrisy, lots of people who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and Trump for POTUS. As for asserting that the stuff in the OT is more factual than the so called miracles of Christianity because "it happened to us"- pathetic.

Naomi King
March 12th, 2018
7:03 AM
The comments above simply prove that atheism is irrational and stupid.

Elisabeth Holland
March 12th, 2018
2:03 AM
The Hebrew Bible reveals that God is holy/pure/ righteous/just and as such is the true judge of sin. It is very hard for us to comprehend the holiness of God and just how bad sin is. Sin always perverts truth. There are so called Christians who deny the resurrection of Jesus but this is to fail to recognize the nature of God as holy, the creator and redeemer who indeed makes rational the resurrection. The Hebrew Bible points to redemption of our sin-sick sorry world through the unexpected means of the death of Jesus and its story is brought to fruition in the New Testament, but we need to read both books carefully as ask God to reveal himself to us as we do.

Claire Khaw
March 10th, 2018
10:03 PM
Judaism - Thesis Christianity - Antithesis Islam - Synthesis It is disappointing that Melanie Phillips does not mention at all the absurdity of the doctrine of the Trinity which requires all who wish to identify as Christian to say they believe that Christ is the co-equal of God. From this requirement flows cowardice, irrationality and hypocrisy leading to Westerners throwing out the morality of Christianity with the bathwater of the Trinity. explains the irrationality of Christianity rather well, I think. Tertullian’s views are those of a fanatic. But they have not been without influence. A certain strand within Christianity has always applauded this posture, and its echoes continue to be heard down to our own day. We find a similar position, in which Christian faith is taken to be “an absurdity to the understanding,” being advanced in the writings of Kierkegaard, for example: What, then, is the absurd? The absurd is that the eternal truth has come into existence in time, that God has come into existence, has been born, has grown up, etc., has come into existence… as an individual human being…. [in other words,] the absurd is precisely the object of faith, and only that can be believed…. Christianity… has required the inwardness of faith with regard to what is… an absurdity to the understanding. In the same vein, C.S. Lewis speaks of the things that Jesus asks mankind to believe, if judged by human standards, as “asinine fatuity” and “lunacy”: [Y]ou will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips…. asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give…. in the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history…. a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said… would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of Hell. Christian faith requires belief in things that are repugnant to human reason, which permits contemporary commentators to speak of biblical faith as though it purposely stands in opposition to the dictates of human reason.

David MacKenzie
March 10th, 2018
8:03 PM
A fascinating article, and well worth the read. As an evangelical Pastor, I appreciate the Jewish and Torah apologetic. It's interesting to hear arguments from your perspective.

March 10th, 2018
4:03 PM
The more corrupt the character, the more they hate the idea that they will face God for judgement.

David Anon
March 9th, 2018
10:03 PM
I wonder, Laurence, what future generations will make of our enlightened society's attempts to eliminate the likes of ISIS?

Rev., DAvid Morgan
March 9th, 2018
7:03 PM
Excellent and brilliant argument for the fundamental belief in the Holy Scriptures (OT and NT) the source of our 'weltanschauung' and shalom! Thank you Melanie.

March 6th, 2018
6:03 AM
Regarding the Richard Dawkins quote: how exactly is this a "wildly untrue, ignorant and perverse reading of the Hebrew Bible"? Every one of those adjectives can be justified by stories and quotes directly from the Bible. You can't get away with lying about your holy books these days Melanie- we know whats in them!

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