Gospel & Universe

Abraham's Vice 

❧ This page argues that it's absurd for a certain group of people to believe that they alone understand the Truth about a universal God; it's equally absurd for a second group of people to claim the same exclusive Truth about the same God ❧

The New Chosen People - Singular Peoples

The New Chosen People

Jewish antagonism to the gods of the Middle East was part of their historical and political identity, part of their unique status vis à vis Yaweh, their monotheistic God. Because Jesus was Jewish and because Christianity was based on Judaism, it isn't surprising that Christians reacted negatively to the polytheism of the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Canaanites and Phoenicians (the last two names often referring to the same peoples). It's also not surprising that Christians ended up believing that they're the only ones who have a true understanding of God. In this sense, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

The main problem I see with the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) is that they're Abrahamic and monotheistic at the same time. To be polytheistic and Abrahamic would create less conflict, for you could claim a god for your own people and still leave room for other people to claim their own gods. To be monotheistic and not Abrahamic would also create less conflict, for you could open up your ideas about a universal God to anyone. Christianity has done this to some degree, having created a global religion that's open to all races, nations, and ethnicities. Yet most Christians are still Abrahamic in the sense that they believe that The One True God revealed Himself historically only to Noah and Abraham and their descendants -- certainly not to Utnapishtim or Buddha. They believe that only Abraham, Moses, David, etc. got the real goods from the real God, Yaweh. They resist, for instance, any consideration of whether or not Ahura Mazda, the supreme God of Zoroastrians -- and a major figure in the Classical Middle East -- might be the same universal God as Yahweh. 

Christians claim that the Hebrews got it right up to a point. Christians call them the Chosen People because they were chosen first by Yahweh and because historically they set up the correct monotheistic system. From Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, and from Abraham to Jesus, the Hebrew people had a direct line to God and His Heaven. Yet Christians also believe that the Hebrews lost their ability to choose correctly, while Christians retained this ability. The Jews were chosen to see the Truth of the One True God, yet they weren't chosen to see the Truth of His Only Son, who, according to Christians (but not Jews or Muslims) is the crowning theological reality. In a way, this makes Christians another Chosen People -- or even, de facto, the Chosen People.

The higher Christian Truth of Jesus then gets squeezed -- in what I call Abraham's vice -- between the ancient claims of the Jews and the more recent claims of the Muslims. The latter, starting in the early 7th century AD, see Christ as a prophet but not as the Son of God who alone can give salvation. The three Abrahamic religions share a general belief in One God, yet they deny each other's specific truths. They do this because built into their tradition is the notion that a certain privileged group of believers can possess a Truth that's at once historically-based (Abrahamic) and all-encompassing (monotheistic). These three groups of course splinter into yet more groups -- Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Sunni, Shia, etc. -- each one believing they're guardians of the Truth.

Singular Peoples

Every group of people -- ethnic, cultural, or linguistic -- has the right to feel proud and special, for the group gives a singular yet common meaning to the individual’s brief moment in space and time, in geography and history. But these singular meanings are subject to spatial and temporal verification; to context, history, and science.

The Jews are of singular historic, cultural, artistic, and intellectual achievement. Their religious contribution is nothing short of revolutionary, having overwhelmed the entire polytheistic world west of India for the better part of the last two thousand years. Yet to acknowledge the power of Jewish thought and culture is not the same as to agree with the logic of Abrahamic validation. Many Reformed or Modern Jews retain their cultural background without retaining the religious exclusivism it once entailed -- and which it still entails in the minds of fundamentalist Jews, fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims. Reformed Jews may rightly think they’re special without retaining the notion that God thinks they're the chosen people.

Much of the problem lies of course in the article the. If we started talking of a chosen people, and then another chosen people, this whole problem might start to dissolve.

 

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