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Who is the author of Mitzvah [commandments]? asked Rabbi Herman E Schaalman, in (1). According to some people, he wrote, "the authority of the 'commandment' resides in the people;" they claim that mitzvot are the customs created by our sages. Such an answer would be sufficient, he continues, if "Jews were like any other people." Why is it so? In which way are Jews different? Unfortunately, this question is not answered by the Rabbi, to my satisfaction. He refers to the Hebrew language, with which I am not familiar.

 

But I do know how Spinoza, a 17th century Jewish theologian (2), would answer this question. Spinoza wrote: "By God's direction I mean the fixed and unchanging order of Nature ... so it is the same thing whether we say that all things happen according to Nature's laws or that they are regulated by God's decree and direction." Spinoza would say that people are part of nature, and that desirable ways of behavior, described by sages, were also described by God. Many theological contradictions would disappear if Spinoza's defintion of God were universally accepted. Do you agree?

 

Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia)
 
References

1) "Gates of Mitzvah: A Guide to the Jewish Life Cycle;" edited by Simeon J. Maslin, Central Conference of American Rabbis, New York, 1979

 2) Steven Nadler, "Judging Spinoza," The New York Times, Opinion Pages, May 25 2014.

Also in http://opinionator blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/judging-spinoza/

 

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Many theological contradictions would disappear if Spinoza's defintion of God were universally accepted. Do you agree?

if god were a chair, we could sit on him. if he were an Apple we could program him. If he were a nut, we could screw him onto something. The practice of picking some random definition out of the air, and applying it to an existing word is simply silly. Edited by softwareNerd
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(This may be a repeat of the previous.)

 

Spinoza's claim is a tautology: events happen and results come about because of what made them happen and come about.  If we took his word in the matter, theological contradictions would disappear because theology would disappear.  This is turn is because god, theology's principal subject matter, would disappear.  Causal explanations require god only if she is a particular, non-tautological cause like gravity, the aging process or the pleasure-pain mechanism.

 

The upside for Spinoza is that no one can say he's wrong about this.

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I agree! Besides Spinoza, check out Nietzsche, and a book I just found: The Faith of Reason by John W. Chadwick
 

“The most vital essence of religion is not involved in man’s relation to any theory of the universe, but in his relation to the universe itself. …

 

The essential virtue of religion is not in any theory or definition, but in man’s attitude of reverence and loyalty before this Everlasting Fact we call the Universe. …in the awe which falls upon his mind as he confronts the universal order, and in the voluntary energy of self-surrender to the order which this awe inspires. …

 

Therefore, because we must still somehow speak of him, we call by the most simple name of all, a name which is no definition, but a content for all the awe and reverence and adoration with which our hearts expand… -God.”

 

January 1879

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Spinoza wrote: "By God's direction I mean the fixed and unchanging order of Nature ... so it is the same thing whether we say that all things happen according to Nature's laws or that they are regulated by God's decree and direction." Spinoza would say that people are part of nature, and that desirable ways of behavior, described by sages, were also described by God. Many theological contradictions would disappear if Spinoza's defintion of God were universally accepted. Do you agree?

Yes, in the worst possible way.  Spinoza's definition seems analogous to modern Creationists who, faced with evidence of the evolution of life on Earth, have picked up the notion that evolution itself may have been part of the mechanism of God's creation of Adam and Eve.  This almost reduces the word "God" to being synonymous with nature, with one important distinction: nature does not give a damn about you or I.

If we say that "God created Adam and Eve through billions of years of evolution" then we remove the countless contradictions which have persisted since the Dark Ages, but retain the underlying idea that the universe itself has a vested interest in our affairs.  And that is the idea which poses more danger to its adherents than all of the others combined.

The notion that the universe is aware of you is dangerous because it carries the corollary that one's actions can influence its awareness, which in turn can influence reality without needing oneself to actually interact with it.

 

Picture all of the people who earnestly play the lottery, throwing vast sums of money into an endeavor that is statistically impossible to actually benefit from; flushing years' worth of paychecks (which are years' worth of their own lives) down the toilet, on the premise that it's all a matter of having "good karma".

 

Now ask yourself how many decisions have been made on that basis throughout the course of history, and what their effects have been.  Then ask yourself what consequences come from attempting to validate that idea.

 

You are right that Spinoza's definition is much more consistent than any other definition of "God", but it's nothing more than a sugar coating on top of arsenic.  I don't see what good can come from making it sweeter.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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Dr. Lockitch's presentation Creationism in Camouflage: The "Intelligent Design" Deception presents a case where theology is "evolving" in it's struggle to survive in a hostile environment toward outright mysticism.

 

Spinoza lived in a time when openly advocating an impersonal metaphysical grasp of causality was treated hostilely. By cloaking "the fixed and unchanging order of nature" as "God's direction", Spinoza creates a camouflage for an Aristotelian view of causality to survive in a hostile environment where more reasoned approaches were springing forth.

 

It is interesting to me to note that his elucidations came forth during a time where Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton all made their marks.

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