Monday, January 07, 2008

On Christianity

In response to Nina's comment yesterday:

I'd love to know which discrepancies you feel were never adequately explained. Will you let me know what they are?

The New Testament (NT from here on out) goes to great lengths to link itself to the Tanach (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim, the Jewish Bible,) frequently drawing on quotes and prophecy in Tanach which would seem to predict events in the NT. However, close analysis shows that virtually all of these quotes are taken out of context, mistranslated, or misunderstood. I have read books in which scholars have parsed through the NT and it's supposed references, followed up the links, and conclusively refuted the supposed link. For a brief sampling, see here. For a more overall explanation as to how it's impossible for Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah, see here. I can't help let out a little gigle when someone asks me, "But how do you explain Isaiah 54!?"

On an emotional level, I do feel that being in the presence of Christians had a positive effect on me. I grew up in a liberal (Reform-Conservative) environment, where Judaism was essentially reduced to doing acts of kindness such as caring for the poor, doing social justice, opposing intolerance, and generally being a "nice" person, not a Jewish person. God was occasionally mentioned, but only in passing, and he certainly didn't have any expectations of us. It wasn't until I was exposed to Christian acquaintences who saw God everywhere, providing them with income, health, and upliftment, that I began to see the hollowness of the Judaism I was raised with, and which sent me looking for something more genuine.

At the same time, Christianity itself didn't make sense. If God gave the Torah to the Jewish people as Christians believe, and in that Torah promises that God will never abandon his relationship with the Jewish people, why then would he turn around, break his word, and then send all the people who actually do what he commands, who keep the Torah, straight to hell? If Christians believe in a God who lies, then how to they know Muhammed wasn't right? Perhaps God lied to the Christians as they believe he lied to the Jews, and we all missed out on stage 3 revelation called Islam.

God tells us that he sets before us two choices, life, and death, so chose life that you may live. Not, "I set before you two mutually exclusive choices, and if you choose the wrong one I'm going to torture you for all eternity, and I won't tell you which one is correct, so flip a coin and good luck!"

I, and I think most Jews, view the development of Christianity, at least in the less violent form it has taken in developed nations during the last few centuries, as a positive thing. Idol worship, which the contemporary European nations practiced before they adopted Christianity, is all about getting what I need right now. If I need rain, then I pray to the rain god. If I need healing, then I pray to the god of healing. It's a very selfish form of existance. Judaism teaches of acting L'shma, for the sake of Heaven, to fulfill our part of this world, to experience the pleasure of self-nullification. Christianity seems to be focused mostly on how to get to heaven. I do good because if not, I'm going to hell. Life is lived for gratification, but at least it's a postponed sort of gratification, which leads to righteous action in this world. The Christian concept of Messiah, that God has a baby and this baby comes down to forgive you of your sins, is completley different from the Jewish concept of Moshiach as a righteous king who rebuilds the Jewish nation in its own land, but at least it gets the world ready for the concept of Moshiach when it comes along. So, my feelings are mixed.

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