Proving God, Part III
You’d think more people would appreciate the message:
Life is real, life has purpose. We exist by God’s will. He scrutinizes all our doings and recalls them. There is no forgetting with God - so we all share, at least in that respect, in His infinity and His eternity. He Who sustains every particle of existence despises oppression and injustice, loves kindness, mercy and love, embodies holiness, and guarantees the earth and the human race a bright future.
Alas, most people reject it. As we’re just seeing, the most highly educated Jewish people, for instance, don’t buy it. “American Jews with the highest level of education are the least religious,” a Pew Research Center study published last week (Wednesday, April 26, 2017 -Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5777) finds. The more years of schooling the less belief in God. Only about a quarter of Jewish college graduates believe in God. (JTA, 4/26/17).
Even so, the evidence is overwhelming that the message is true. We’ve talked before about “proving” the reality of the God of Abraham – beyond “do you think the Universe and all existence just happened, by accident?” and the genuinely spectacular record of promises fulfilled in the Hebrew Scripture – let us briefly focus on what to us, anyway, is irresistable: the plainly holy laws and the plainly holy structure of Hebrew Revelation.
The basic story is simple enough. Starting with the first true men, a school of thought and righteous living developed among the better ones – including the Bible’s Seth, Enoch, Noach, Shem, and Ever - until it reached Abraham.
Abraham, a great prophet and religious innovator, lived and glorified what he advanced as the Way of God or the derech HaShem. God recognized, validated, and assisted him and the religious movement associated with his family, which came to be called Israel.
His follower and descendant Moses, in the Sinai wilderness, codified the religion, writing it down and teaching it by living it, by show and tell, and every way he possibly could. And the people of Israel, who became known as Jews, took it up.
That is the Way of God, the Biblical system, in a nutshell.
The Jews were the only ones whose sacred Scriptures were held in ever greater veneration as they became better known.
– Archbishop Jacques Bossuet, Paris, 1681
Why doesn’t everyone follow it? Because people have the system so confused.
To have bound this New Testament, so completely rococo in taste, with the Old Testament into one book, as the Bible, is perhaps the greatest audacity and “sin against the Holy Spirit” which literary Europe has on its conscience.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, 1885
Biblical literacy has declined. After generations of assaults on Hebrew Revelation in the name, supposedly, of science, most people don’t regard it as any more special than other old works like the Iliad or Odyssey or the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Even though that’s nonsense. Again, citing Nietzsche, the supposed atheist:
In the Old Testament of the Jews, the book of Divine righteousness, there are men, events and words so great that there is nothing in Greek or Indian literature to compare with it.
(“Beyond Good and Evil,” 1885, Sec. 52)
Beyond that, people mistake its structure. If they think of the Law of God at all they think it’s all about the Ten Commandments – which, one soon discovers, entails all the detailed ordinances and statutes that command only Israel, or only the High Priests of Israel (and then, often, just to further increase their obscurity, only in Messianic times). So… since what they believe to be Scripture’s prescription for them, including things like the Jews’ national laws against eating meat and milk, and pork, is clearly not appropriate for them, they reject “the message of Scripture.”
As if that were the message of Scripture!
Speak of the double system of laws that’s really the Scriptural system, the laws that apply to all the nations of humankind, versus the laws that only compel the Jews – that is, the seven precepts of the Noahide Law, on the one hand, versus the Ten Commandments Code and its 613 laws, on the other – and hardly anybody knows what you’re talking about.
If the Pew Center were to ask all those non-believing, God-rejecting Jewish college graduates what they know of the Bible’s First Covenant and the Seven Laws of Noach, the answer would come back, we bet, overwhelmingly: “Nothing.” The non-Jews wouldn’t be any more enlightened.
This is crippling. To mischaracterize His system – the basic structure of God’s Way - and make it out as infinitely less than it really is, diminishes God’s Name and damages the person making the mistake. It detracts from the incredibly powerful proof, which He Himself provides, of the wondrous message of Hebrew Scripture and the beauty of His Ceation.
We’ve said before, this is a beautiful system: the Hebrew Law, on the one hand, and the Noachide on the other.
No one else is saying this very clearly but we must. The Noachide system, every bit as much as the Ten Commandments, surpasses “extraordinary.” Seventeen Hebrew syllables encapsulating a complete criminal law code and standard for human morality and government and ethics, applying justly and equitably to all people at all times … that is some achievement!
This is a system that “bears Divinity on its face” (quoting from J. H. Hertz, in his commentary in his famous Hertz chumash - Soncino’s Penateuch and Haftorahs - on the Ten Commandments). The Bible of Israel – the stories of Israel, in the larger system of Hebrew history - together with the Law of Israel, add context and breadth to it all, including unerring guidance as to what God loves and what He hates, and how to serve Him consciously. Yet, just on its own, the Noahide law is perfect and complete. Even if, God forbid, one has never heard of Moses, Israel nor the Bible.
It doesn’t take away from God or the Law at all to recall that the whole Noachide system follows logically, directly, from “God made man in His image” – that is, from the sacredness of the individual human being AND the fact that, as the Bible insists, God has put us all on notice; that this is a truth which has been universally revealed.
Put it this way: God made man in His image and both the Golden Rule and the Seven Noachide Law follow from that fact, that God did so and that He imputes that knowledge to all of us.
This is extraordinary. We have the whole Bible and the stories of Israel and the laws of the Torah but, beyond that, even if God had never taken Israel out of Egypt, even if He never revealed the Law of Sinai, in other words, He still expects us – all mankind - to keep His “logical laws,” the Seven Noachide precepts, His “social laws,” AND administer them justly.
We’d like to celebrate the Noachide Law’s glories – how, for instance, the Noachide precept against “eating a limb torn from a living animal” helps contextualize the Torah’s laws against mixing milk and meat, and not eating pork, for instance; about how the pain of animals is real, despite countless pagan teachings to the contrary, in a world that is real. We’d love to talk more about how God forbids us from treating our fellow creatures, the dumb animals, oppressively or cruelly.
We could go on and on about the meaning of the commandment of “Din,” the anti-anarchy comandment… Or, say, the Law’s strictures against theft, forbidding both rape and copyright infringement, kidnapping, and selling stolen goods. There is a profound and wonderful philosophy and detailed moral guidance in the Seven Laws!
This is gorgeous system. But even after all we’ve written over all these many years, how many people know anything about it?
By Michael Dallen