BAL TOSIF AND THEOLOGICAL DOGMA (pps.169-171)
Those who stridently insist, as a matter of dogma, on a God who fully and always extends His infinite powers of potential omniscience in all planes of time err in several respects. First of all, they contravene specific text-proofs to the contrary. Secondly, even in the absence of the contravening text-proofs, the proponents of this maximalist line attempt to make the complex unnecessarily simplistic. Third, they are trapped in theodicy. Fourth, they directly contravene rabbinic luminaries, Gersonides and Maimonides in particular.
In an unnecessary attempt to defend God’s powers, the overzealous throw theology into the throes of the theodicy and freedom dilemmas. By the needless overextension of basic doctrine, they set man up for disaster and set up doctrine for ultimate paralysis when it encounters reality and logical analysis.604
A heavenly voice said to him. “Do not be too righteous!”
One can fulfill the imperative of belief in God without believing that God will necessarily always thwart undeserved evil.605 The concept, prevalent in some quarters, as a matter of inviolate dogma of a steady-state, real-time omniscient, continuously intervening Deity has, unfortunately, caused much suffering to the Jewish people. Many sincere believers slackened up ever so slightly on their vigilance and self-reliance, confusing fate in retrospect with fate in prospect. For a sincere believer who is overly reliant on this inviolate dogma, may not quickly enough rise to thwart his looming enemy.606
The damage to the faith of sincere adherents unable to reconcile the common philosophical wisdom with the grossly evil reality defies all calculation. The alienation, as well, of potential adherents is equally beyond measure. A severe price has been paid over the millennia in this regard.
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604 See Tsavoat ha-Rivosh, as cited in Agus, The Evolution of Jewish Thought, p. 338. “Let no man indulge in the multiplication of additional prohibitions.”
605 See Berachot 7a.
606 See Tadeusz Borowski, cited in Fackenheim, God’s Presence in History, p. 104. “It is hope that provokes men to march indifferently to the gas chambers, and keeps them from conceiving of an insurrection . . . . Never has hope provoked so much ill as in this war, as in this camp. We were never taught to rid ourselves of hope, and that is why we are dying in the gas-chambers” (Borowski was a non-Jewish Polish writer and inmate of Auschwitz who committed suicide at age twenty-nine.)
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