Tag Archives: opinion

Why We Need to Disagree (at least occasionally)

ben shapiro
Ben Shapiro – Found at DailyWire.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about disagreements recently. I’m no saint. I’ve participated in all kinds of arguments lately regarding folks I disagree with. I’ve disagreed with a Massachusetts elementary school librarian who took exception to the First Lady donating Dr. Seuss books to her school. I’ve disagreed with a former CBS Vice President who didn’t seem to mind that the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting were (apparently) country and western fans and thus Republicans, and owners of firearms. I’ve disagreed with lots of people in the past and probably will continue to do so.

I don’t doubt there are a lot of folks who disagree with me about my stance on certain issues. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t particularly like it. But that doesn’t mean disagreement is a bad thing. Actually, the ability to express disagreement is a good thing. We need to keep doing it.

Why do I believe disagreement is good you ask?

Read the rest at Powered by Robots.

No, this isn’t really on a “religious” topic, but since people in the realm of theological blogging are often in disagreement, I thought this audience might be interested.

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Viewing the Truth Through a Dirty Window

Truth is simple, it has no clothes, no neat little box to contain it.

But we cannot grasp the something that has no box. We cannot perceive truth without clothing.

So Truth dresses up for us, in a story, in sage advice, in a blueprint of the cosmos—in clothes woven from the fabric of truth itself.

And then, before we can imagine that we have grasped Truth, it switches clothes. It tells us another story—entirely at odds with the first. It tells us new advice—to go in a different direction. It provides another model of how things are—in which each thing has changed its place.

The fool is confused. He exclaims, “Truth has lied!”

The wise person sees within and finds harmony between all the stories, all the advice, every model we are told.

For the Torah is a simple, pure light, a truth no box can contain.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Raw Truth”
Based on the Letters and Talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Depending on our philosophical or theological orientation, we like to think we have a pretty good grasp of “the truth.” This includes the truth of who we are as human beings and, if we’re religious, the truth about the nature of God, Creation, and everything.

But as Rabbi Freeman points out, human beings cannot apprehend “raw truth”. If we could, if we could see truth the way we see the color “red” or hear a particular musical note, maybe we would all perceive “truth” (more or less) in the same way. Humanity wouldn’t be so conflicted. We would all “know truth”.

But we aren’t there, not yet. We don’t perceive raw truth anymore than we can see X-rays with the unaided eye.

So we “clothe” truth with interpretation and tradition. A number of recent conversations have re-enforced the fact (as opposed to truth) that all human beings, and particularly human beings who believe the Bible is the source of truth, are oriented by specific traditional methods of interpretation to believe the Bible says certain things. The problem comes in when we encounter people who have different traditions that tell them different things about the Bible than what our traditions tell us.

While I agree that there is probably a supernal Torah in Heaven that no box can contain, in order to “package” the Torah, or for that matter, the entire Bible in order to deliver it to humanity, it gets put in a box. It has to be clothed. It is a book written (originally) in several languages over thousands of years. The completed “product” is now many thousands of years old and has been translated into innumerable languages. Just in English, there are hundreds if not thousands of translations of the Bible.

And over those thousands of years, both in Christianity (in all its forms) and in Judaism (in all its forms), many traditions have sprung up to tell many different variant religious populations what the Bible is saying. When a tradition persists long enough, it ceases to be perceived as a tradition and it is commonly understood to be the truth…

…whether it is from God’s point of view or not.

suitThey say “the clothes don’t make the man” and “never judge a book by its cover,” but quite frankly, we have no other way of understanding the Bible. We can’t access its “raw truth” and so we have interpretation by tradition. This is stated rather plainly in (especially) Orthodox Judaism. The local Chabad Rabbi told my wife that the Torah can only be understood through tradition. My experiences studying in various churches over the years tells me that Christians interpret the Bible based on traditions too. We just don’t talk about it. We like to think we can read the plain meaning of the text, especially in English, and know just what it is saying. However, the reality of the situation is that we understand, for instance, the letters of the Apostle Paul based on the traditional interpretation of those letters, not necessarily what Paul was actually trying to communicate.

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

-Dr. Leo Buscaglia

I’ve been told I’m a competent writer, talented, occasionally brilliant. I guess I better be since it’s my “day job”. It’s also a joy for me to write. I really get a lot of pleasure crafting a message in text. I usually enjoy talking about what I write, but periodically the joy gets sucked right out of the experience when all people seem to want to do is argue about what I write.

The point of my writing isn’t for me to tell you what the truth is necessarily. I write this blog to chronicle my process in the pursuit of truth. If you read all of my blog posts chronologically, I would hope you’d see a development or evolution in my comprehension of the Bible from a particular point of view (which may not be your point of view). It’s the progression of my traditional interpretive matrix. I’m tailoring the clothing in which to dress the truth of the Bible.

You probably dress the Bible in different clothing and then we argue about what sort of suit “truth” is dressed in this morning. The “Emperor” always wears clothes, and our debate is only over which sort of clothing he’s put on (or rather, what we’ve put on him).

Only God sees the Emperor without clothes.

They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord…

Jeremiah 31:34 (NASB)

We aren’t there yet. This is a prophesy about the coming Messianic age. From my point of view, Yeshua (Jesus) initiated the very beginning of this age into our world, but it will not reach fruition until his return when each of us will have such a filling of the Spirit of God, that we will apprehend Hashem in a manner greater than the prophets of old. We will literally “know God”. We will see the truth unclothed, the raw truth…

…but only then.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

This is how we see the truth right now, just as a dim reflection, a faint image, hardly perceptible, open to interpretation as to what is really being viewed. Paul knew this truth and preserved it for us but we don’t believe him. We don’t want to believe him, because believing we can know the truth in absolute terms now gives us emotional security. We don’t like a world that is suspended in dynamic tension between seemingly inconsistent and opposing thoughts, beliefs, and faiths. It’s unsettling.

But like it or not, that’s where we are. I’m sure I’ve got a lot of things wrong. I don’t always answer the questions posed to me because I don’t always have even an opinion on the answers. I’m not “the Bible Answer Man.” I don’t always know.

I wrote a completely different “morning meditation” that I had planned to publish today at the usual time (4 a.m. Mountain Time), but I pulled it out of the queue because it was more of the same and I anticipated more of the same comments and responses.

Who wants more of that?

MirrorI used to actually learn a lot from the comments and the insights of the people conversing with me and each other, but now I’m not sure I’m learning so much. Now I feel like we’re just going around and around in circles and the expectation is that I must change my mind and either think and believe like a more traditional Christian, or think and believe like how an Orthodox Jew views a Noahide.

But I’m not those types of people and that’s not how I experience the Bible’s “clothing,” so to speak.

I also feel like there might not always be an interest in me and what I think but rather, that my blog is being used as a pulpit for someone else’s idea, as a platform to convince my readers to take on a different theological point of view. Certainly some people reading my blog could be undecided about Christianity or Judaism. Did I create this blog to promote viewpoints I don’t endorse?

There’s a fine line as to just how much debate and disagreement to tolerate for the sake of learning. How much of it should I allow and where’s the cut off line? How “fair” should I be before exercising my administrative control as the blog owner? I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been pretty liberal in my policy on comments compared to some others. I rarely edit or delete comments (although I did delete a comment just yesterday).

You don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to agree with you. That doesn’t make any of us either right or wrong. It just means we’re attempting to discuss what clothes the Emperor might be wearing today. It’s like viewing the truth through a dirty window. None of us see it very well. The problem is when we believe we see truth all too clearly.

Tasty Chazir

Plane FoodEach person is responsible to interpret and apply the Scriptures to their own lives.

No person standing before God will get a pass because he was just following the [big religious group X] interpretation of Scripture.

That isn’t being prideful toward either Jewish or Catholic traditions. Rather, it’s being responsible for your own walk before God.

Judah Gabriel Himango
from one of his comments on his blog post
A Warnng to Those Who Follow Yeshua
Kineti L’Tziyon

There’s a rather spirited debate going on over at Judah’s blog considering whether or not studying Talmud and other Jewish texts leads Christians and “Messianics” away from faith in Jesus. The Jewish texts are taking a rather heavy beating from some of the commenters (as I write this, there are 105 comments and growing) but a few defenders of Talmud study are weighing in, including me.

I’ve already commented on a number of occasions, but the question of authority has come up. While I agree that we, as individuals, are responsible to God for our behavior and how we have sanctified or desecrated His Name, I also believe we are not expected to be solely responsible for understanding God or His Bible. It’s OK to have teachers and authorities that we agree to follow and it’s OK to let ourselves learn from these teachers.

I found the following commentary on a Daf I was studying and I thought it was an appropriate illustration of the dynamic between an individual’s interpretation of the Bible (in this case, a Torah mitzvah) and a Rabbinic ruling that modifies the person’s beliefs. As a bonus, the story shows a typically human response to this new information, even after agreeing that we’ve changed our opinion.

Enjoy today’s “extra” meditation.

On today’s daf we find that even pork was permitted during the seven-year conquest of Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Shabsi Yudelevitz recounted that on one plane trip he was seated next to a well-known Israeli zoologist. While the two spoke, the airline meal came and the professor began to partake of his bacon with obvious relish.

Rav Yudelovitz painfully remarked, “How could you eat that? Aren’t you a Jew?”

The professor was nonplussed. “Why does what Moshe said four thousand years ago obligate me?”

Rav Yudelevitz was not impressed, however, with this answer. “Rasha! God said what is written in the Torah, and He is alive and well!”

The professor tried to mollify the offended rabbi. “Rebbi, don’t get upset. If you can prove that God said what meat to eat, I will do teshuvah. But I must say that I had an argument with a certain rav for four hours and he failed to convince me of anything.”

“Four hours? I only need about four minutes,” was Rav Yudelevitz’s confident reply.

The professor opened his eyes wide and said, “Four minutes? Really?”

“Yes. Just listen. The Torah tells us that there are only four species that have one sign of kashrus but not the other: they all either have split hooves or chew their cud, but not both. The Gemara in Chulin 60 wonders how Moshe could have possibly known this. It’s not as though he was a hunter or zoologist! He never went hunting and how could any human at that time possibly know all the many species of animals, even on the savannah of Africa? So how would he dare say that there are only four such anomalies unless God told him so?”

The professor turned white.

But a moment later he said, “I will just finish eating and then I will do teshuvah…”

Rav Yudelevitz commented later about the incident. “What a pity. The professor simply cannot wean himself away from his tasty chazir. He is convinced of the truth but will just wait to finish eating. Sadly, by then it is already too late…”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories off the Daf
“Logical Inconsistency”
Chullin 17