Jewish Approach to God
I’ve been reading Rabbi Neil Gillman’s interesting book, The Jewish Approach to God. My initial impression was that Jews and Christians approached God in much the same way. Jews believe that God is echad, which is a Hebrew word meaning “one” or “unique.” God is, as his name suggests (YHWH, Hebrew for “I AM”), uniquely one. This is definitely similar to the Christian view of God as eternally self-existent.
Here the similarity ends. First, Jews don’t view God as sovereign over the natural world, nor over human free will. Where the Christian view is that God is always in control, even over our free will decisions, the Jewish view is closer to open theism in God having no control or even knowledge of our free will decisions.
This has stunning implications for understanding early Christian philosophy and theology. Were the early Christians open theists? This throws conditional election out the window, since God can’t know the free will decisions of his creatures ahead of time that means that he can’t know who would choose Christ. That means Arminianism is wrong; but stripping God of his sovereignty over human free will decisions means that Calvinism is out as well. That leaves either open theism or Molinism as the two main alternatives.
Second, the Jews don’t view God as omnipotent. They view him as self-limiting. They believe that he has limited himself by not affecting human free will, that he is limited by his “public image,” and that he is bound to his covenants and promises of the past. This is consistent with open theism.
So, what to make of all of this? If I am to stay true to early Christian philosophy, it means that I must renounce Reformed theology and look more seriously at Molinism or open theism. It also means that I may have to finally admit that Beowulf2k8 is right–original sin simply doesn’t exist.
Am I ready to admit that I am wrong about Reformed theology? Well, I have been slowly swayed toward the dark side of Arminianism for some time now, since all of my friends and family are proud Arminians, and my church actually preaches against Calvinism. Let’s just say that, for now, I’m ready to admit the possibility exists that I’ve been dead wrong this whole time, and that much more serious study is required to find out what God has revealed about himself.
In the coming posts, I will attempt to find out just what it is that I believe in a systematic theology. I will attempt to run out the implications of open theism and Molinism in early Christian philosophy and try to arrive at a systematic theology that is true to the original intent of the New Testament writers.
I want debate and interaction with my Reformed readers as well as my Arminian/open theist readers. E-mail me, challenge me, and debate me. I want to learn what God wants me to learn, and I can’t do that without friendly discourse from the people of God.