Daily Archives: December 2, 2008

Religious Illiteracy

I’ve been reading the book Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero. It is truly an eye-opener. It has made me realize how much I don’t know about the world religions. I’m ignorant of even our closest neighbor, Judaism.

With a ministry such as mine, I should understand more about other world religions. It will help me deal with questions from people of other faiths.

So I thought I would start with Judaism. To this end, I have obtained two books, The Jewish Approach to God by Rabbi Neil Gillman and An Introduction to Judaism by Nicholas de Lange.

Gillman’s book, as well as other exchanges recently, have started me thinking about Reformed theology. In the introduction to The Jewish Approach to God, Gillman says:

In Christian thinking, that human failure is inherent in human nature, one of the results of human sin, Adam’s rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis 3. That blemish is transmitted from one generation to another to all of humanity through the sexual act. Jesus’ vicarious death on the Cross then represents God’s gracious gift, which erases original sin and grants salvation to the believer who accepts Jesus’ saving act.

But in Jewish sources, the very fact that the prophets urge the people of Israel to unblock their hearts, to open their eyes, to remove the obstacles that get in the way of their relation to God suggests that this is more a matter of will, not at all inherent in human nature. The Jewish claim, then, is that their is no inherent epistemological obstacle to recognizing God’s presence in the world. [p. x]

Since Christianity originated from the Jewish religion, Jewish thought plays a prominent role in early Christian philosophy and theology. The very reason that I started with Judaism was that, as our forerunner, I thought that Jewish theology would help me understand where the New Testament writers were coming from. If Gillman is correct in his assertion here, then that means that the New Testament writers were never teaching original sin, and that my recent opponent was correct in stating original sin is false doctrine.

However, I already know the answer to this dilemma. Scripture contains progressive revelation, which means that the New supersedes the Old. Original sin is taught in the New Testament, especially in Romans 5. That, then, takes the place of the Jewish philosophy of sin in someone’s life being a matter of will rather than a matter of nature.

In any case, I pray that God use this book to bring me to a closer understanding of him. As I learn more, I’ll post some additional thoughts.