70.02 Moral Intelligibility and Absoluteness (pps.45-47)

hard cover page 45

A pivotal issue in theodicy is whether the interaction between the Divine and man is morally intelligible. Those who posit that it is not leave themselves wide latitude in addressing the classic theodicy dilemma, but detract from the internal elegance and power of Judaism.177 Those who posit in the affirmative,178 the tradition of Abraham, Isaiah, and Mairnonides, set a higher standard for Judaism but a tougher task regarding theodicy.179

We would assert as follows: Exclusive only of one’s personal situation, man does have the right to seek the moral underpinnings of the interaction between man and the Divine. (On our

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177 Philosophical opponents who challenge the rational- morality- of- God line of argument often erroneously cite Isaiah 55 as evidence of an inscrutable morality of God. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” The context of the oft-cited verse reveals no such intention. The succeeding verse explains its proper context.

For as the rain cometh down
and the snow from heaven,
And returneth not thither,
Except it water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
And give seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So shall My word be
that goeth forth out of My mouth;
It shall not return unto Me void
Except it accomplish that which I please,
And make the thing whereto I sent it prosper.

The intention is to convey the super-morality of God, not the supra-morality of God. If anything, reading the verse in context buttresses the rationalists. Isaiah is certainly the wrong prophet to cite in defense of an inscrutable morality of God.

178 Cf. Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 120. “If the moral predicates mean one thing when applied to human beings and something incomprehensibly other when ascribed to God, no ethical universe of dis- course can be said to exist. Not only is a critique of God’s ways impossible, but a critique of man’s conduct is similarly jeopardized. From the vantage point of a supramoral God. who knows whether our moral judgments of our society correspond to His moral criteria? . ..Biblical religion, in contrast to theology, opposes the rupture. ‘I have not spoken in secret, in a place of the land of darkness; I said not unto the seed of Jacob: “Seek ye Me in vain.” I the Lord speak righteousness. I declare things that are right.’ (Isaiah 45: 19).”

179 Cf. Berkovits, Faith after the Holocaust, p. 68. “This questioning of God with the very power of faith stands out at the earliest beginnings of the Jewish way in history. Abraham wrestled with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. We note how the man, who in the humility of his piety sees himself as mere ‘dust and ashes’ yet has the audacity to challenge God with the words: The judge of all the earth shall not do justice?!”


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