God loving the Jews best and the more general scandal

It is hard to understand how the God of classical theism can become part of His world.  Suppose God wishes to appear to me in a flash of light.  He could certainly create a bright object in front of me, or just the light, or just stimulate my optical nerve.  But when one considers that God continuously creates me and my actions, it becomes hard to say that He is more present in the flash of light than he is in me observing it or in any other object in the universe.  As the first cause of everything, even intelligent beings, it is hard to understand how God can relate to us like another finite being would.  In particular, he is always the active, never the passive (reactive) partner.  In the Thomist-Calvinist system, He can no more be disappointed or upset by one of us than Shakespeare could be angry at Lady Macbeth.  His love is understood not as a reaction to His creatures but as their cause.  The Thomist-Calvinist system is coherent, even beautiful, except for all the convolutions of trying to reconcile it to an incoherent concept of “free will”.

And yet the Christian religion is about God somehow becoming a part of the world, being able to act and react to it as one being among many.  This is, of course, the point of the Incarnation–the Son becomes a man.  However, even in the Old Testament, the leap has somehow already happened, in that God’s love for the Jews is presented as altogether passionate.  One can reinterpret God the jealous and forlorn lover of the Jews in accord with the doctrine of divine impassivity, but is such violence to the text necessary?  We seem to be presented with another instance of “God coming into the world”.  If so, presumably it is grounded in some mysterious way on the pre-eminent “coming into the world”, the Incarnation.  Perhaps by transitive application of Trinitarian relations to the Son’s human nature, so that the Father thereby “enters the world” as the tribal deity of Jesus’ kin, but that’s wild speculation.  If we want a nice symmetry (and who doesn’t?), perhaps the mystery of created grace is that of the Holy Spirit “entering the world”, particularized to a single soul, also somehow made possible by the Incarnation.

I am starting to understand Christian Zionism and philosemitism.  Last week, my daughter Sabrina needed some dental work.  It turned out not to be a big deal, but I was inordinately nervous, and with that and my last post in mind, it occurred to me that God loves the Jews the way I love my girls (and not only in the impassive way that He loves the rest of us), so as a favor to Him, I should abstain from criticizing and, whenever possible, from impeding His beloved people.  This seems to have occurred to most Christians already, aside from those who do it only out of fear of the Jews.

14 Responses

  1. I re-read the story of the Canaanite woman recently, and it struck me that I had misunderstood it by presuming that Jesus was asked her a rhetorical question. “Is it right to give bread intended for the children to the dogs?” There is no reason why we should not take this as a genuine question, or why we should not recast the question this way. “When is it right to give bread intended for the children to the dogs?” The answer to this question is, “when the children refuse to eat it.” The Jews obviously do reject the “bread” (i.e. broken body of Christ), with the consequence that the dogs and not the children are fed. There is no other bread, so the children ever after go without.

    It is easy to be thrown off when the Canaanite woman speaks of “crumbs” that fall to the floor and are licked up by “dogs,” and to take this as a symbol of the spiritual arrangements after the crucifixion, but I would say the “crumbs” are the little blessings the gentiles enjoyed while the Jews were still occupying all the seats at the table.

    I think this reading is supported by the context, since the story of the Canaanite woman almost immediately precedes Jesus prophesy of rejection by the Jews in Matthew 16. Jesus passes “the keys” to Peter when Peter declares him the Son of God, and “the keys” are thereafter possessed by those who answer his question “who do you say I am?” in the same way.

  2. Yes, God loves national Israel. However, please consider that Gentile nations that converted were chosen as well. They were sons of Abraham raised from inanimate stones.

  3. I find your reflections on this topic to be original and (almost embarrasingly!) honest – hence valuable!

    Perhaps the more relevant question here and now is how God feels about lapsed Jews who reject God and do not live by The Law, indeed made no attempt to do so? Or a racially Jewish state that is explicitly secular?

    I live a couple of miles from the largest group of ultra Orthodox Jews outside Israel, and they seem to want nothing more than to be left alone. Apostate Jews, on the other hand, have a very different attitude towards the rest of us.

  4. VERY helpful comment for me from JMSmith

  5. If God loves the Jews as you say He does, it’s hard to understand why He doesn’t just make everyone Jews, or at least make more of them, cf. Matthew 3:9

  6. I should abstain from criticizing and, whenever possible, from impeding His beloved people.

    Even if your thesis is true that God loves the Jews more, I don’t see how this follows. The Bible criticizes the Jews an awful lot. So have many saints throughout the ages. Shouldn’t these sources get the benefit of the doubt over the groveling of modern Americanist Christians?

    And criticism is not opposed to love, anyway. St. Paul seemed to have loved his ancestral people, but was not above criticizing them.

  7. Interesting. So you think thomism is just kind of monism?

    Such God seems to be incapable to create anything because his creations always end up as himself. Especially not beings created to his image. He is so absolute in every aspect that no other mode or level of existence is even possible. I know very little of thomism but it does not sound like what they say. Does this follow from their premises?

    Just because my computer can’t do anything without electricity it does not mean it is mere electricity. This is probably not a very good analogy of how God can create our actions without actually acting them.

    In the same fashion, He, as person, can be present in one object more than in another.

  8. For what it’s worth, it would help me if I knew what the definition of Jew is as used in this and other posts.

  9. There are, of course, two basic meanings, one ethnological and the other theological. They are not disconnected, but neither are they identical. In its ethnological meaning, the word Jew denotes the miscellaneous and frequently augmented tribe that traces its roots to the people of ancient Judea. In its theological meaning, it denotes the members of this group who rejected Christ and persecuted his disciples until those disciples became too numerous to persecute (but who thereafter retained a decided animus against Christ, Christians and Christianity).

    If God bears a special love towards the former, we must suppose that providence has driven those miscellaneous and frequent augmentations, and that he is indifferent to what Christians understand as works or faith. If God bears a special love towards the later, we must suppose that Jesus was the fraud Jews said he was, or that God as a masochistic personality that gets a kick out of rejection and persecution.

    Any one of these propositions may be true, but all three are incommensurable with Christian faith. Jesus obviously hated hereditary religion, and so cannot be God if God loves hereditary religion. If Jesus was a fraud, then the Church he founded must also be a fraud. And if God does not care how an individual answers the question “who do you say I am,” then Christian theology is just gibberish founded on a primal error.

    I am not saying that God does not love the Jews in exactly the way they say he does, only that no sane man can believe this and go on professing Christianity. If God loves the Jews in exactly the way they say he does, he must feel an especially vigorous wrath for Christians. He must certainly hate us more than he hates a mere Hindu or devotee of Baal. This a Christian who accepts this proposition must immediately renounce his Christianity and as to become the latest augmentation to the miscellaneous tribe of Judah.

  10. Thank you JMSmith. As usual, your writing helps clarify my thinking.

  11. your girls have not gone astray like the Jews are… and i am sure you would impede them from sin…
    please don’t hang with Calvinists, Bonald.

    i long for the day when Jews and Muslims and Christians are allowed to peacefully live in… Christian Palestine.

  12. I have been reading Dom Prosper Gueranger’s Liturgical Year daily since February. Not a week goes by when the friend of Pius IX does not talk about the Diecide race, as he calls them. It is not God’s hatred for the Jews, it is their hatred for Him, and hatred for those who love Him

  13. This is a very interesting and engaging post!

    But…I feel the discussion could be more fruitful if its terms were more carefully defined. It’s important to make distinctions here.

    Who is a Jew? Who is a Hebrew? Who is an Israelite? Who is “of The People [of God]?” …and, in what sense?

    Oh, and let’s not forget the frustrating term “semite” and the associated term “antisemitism,” which often gets used to classify the hatred of Arab Muslims for Jews in spite of the fact that Arabs, themselves, are “semitic” peoples (i.e. held to be descendants of Shem as opposed to Ham or Japheth).

    Are all Israelites (descendants of Israel, i.e. of Jacob) also Hebrews? All Hebrews Israelites? How do we handle those of other lineages who joined The People during the Exodus and Conquest (e.g. Rahab, Ruth)?

    “Jews” during the period of the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel were those in Judah, i.e., associated with the Davidic King and the worship of YHWH at the temple established by the Son of David. “Jews” were thus of various tribes (chiefly Judah, Benjamin, Levi) but were distinct from the rest of the “Israelites” whose kingdom in the north centered around Samaria and Damascus, and who blended in among the Goyim after the Assyrian Conquest. So, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews.

    Is a person a Jew if they merely have a Jewish mother? Yes, if hereditary Jewishness is in view. But Scripture speaks of distinguishing between those who are circumcised in heart and those only circumcised in the flesh, but whose hearts are uncircumcised. Heredity is apparently not the only Jewishness worthy of discussion.

    What about if they’re Jewish in heredity and “self-identify” as Jewish by matching some known localized culture associated with Jewishness (e.g. knowing a little Yiddish, feeling some personal horror over the Shoah, practicing an upper-middle-class profession requiring study, enjoying bagels and Woody Allen movies, and voting for Democrats under the influence of some vague dedication to tikkun olam)?

    Is practice of the religion revealed through Moses a sine qua non for being a Jew? If so, what if a person, through no fault of their own, sincerely but incorrectly concludes that they should follow a modern form of that religion which (unbeknownst to them) isn’t the correct heir to the divinely-revealed religion? Can they still qualify as a Jew if they aren’t a Hebrew Catholic? Is being a Messianic (Protestant) Jew close enough? Is being a non-Christian “Orthodox” Jew (a Hasid, or some other variation) sufficient, or is faith in the Messiah critical for Jewishness? Do “Reform” Jews, if they minimally believe in YHWH in some propositional sense, have any plausible claim on Jewishness? What about if they don’t believe in YHWH, but still show up for the family Seder out of some vague cultural or historical allegiance?

    It seems to me that the answer to each of these questions is “Yes, that person counts as a Jew for some purposes; but, No, that person doesn’t count as a Jew for other purposes.”

    It’s a bit frustrating, and pedantry is never winsome, but I fear that some strict definitions-of-terms ought to be given before one tries to state and defend an assertion like, “God loves Jews the way [a father loves his children]” or “[We] should abstain from criticizing and, whenever possible, from impeding His beloved people.”

    I am not criticizing those assertions; indeed, I feel confident they’re true. I’ll go so far as to say that nations who deal cruelly with “the Jews” will wind up bringing God’s curses upon themselves. But I think we need to carefully define what “Jew” means for the purposes of such claims, so that we can know precisely what we’re saying.

    One more thing….

    I don’t remember ever having been afraid of a Jew per se, so I’m unsure precisely what’s meant by “those who do it only out of fear of the Jews.” In fact, the more Jewish (in one sense; i.e., circumcised-in-heart, faithful to the God of Jacob) a hereditary-Jew is, the less I fear him and the more I love him and want to help him. The same thing is true of a very-Catholic Catholic: I love the saints. I find my heart automatically warm towards Dr. Larry Feingold, a Hebrew Catholic.

    But the higher a thing is, the nastier it is when it is fallen. A good ant isn’t distinguishable from a bad; but a good dog is a very good thing and a bad dog is very bad. A good wife is amazing and a joy; but “better to live on a corner of the roof than under that roof with a contentious woman.” A good angel is St. Michael; a bad is the devil of hell.

    Correspondingly, it seems that there are few things worse than a fallen Jew or a fallen Catholic…AND, that we ought not blame their Jewish ancestry or Catholic upbringing. Nancy Pelosi is a nasty piece of work and many innocent babies are slaughtered on her account; Ted McCarrick is a horror to mankind, but Catholicism is not to blame, in either case. So too with atheist “Jews” like Saul Alinsky and Karl Marx: There is a particular horror when The People of God (in any sense) rebel against God, shaking their fists at heaven and bringing diabolical misery on earth. But their association with The People is not what causes this evil; it only makes their impact on humanity that much more of a diabolical parody of The People’s “irrevocable calling.”

  14. Bonald, maybe you remember that there’s a prayer I’ve heard at the Traditional Latin Mass where the priest uses the phrase “once Thy chosen people,” I wonder what, if anything, that suggests about how much God loves today’s Jews. From what I can tell, today’s Judaism is not the Judaism that Christ practiced. To me, the Bible, especially the Book of Hebrews, suggests that the New Covenant replaces the Mosaic one.

    For me, another good question is why Vatican II distinguishes between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church when Pope Pius XII teaches that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. Does the dogma that that there’s salvation in only the Catholic Church mean that Jews can be instead in the Church of Christ to reach heaven? Another friend of mine, who knows much more theology than I ever will, believes that Vatican II makes the distinction between those Churches because if non-Catholics are in the Church of Christ in the council’s sense of that phrase, they won’t need to join the Catholic Church.

    Your friend,
    Bill McEnaney

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