Naturalism – The Subtle God-Denier
Idolatry, according to the principles with our Gentile Torah Law, is where a person actively worships an entity other than God as if it were a god. Any idolatrous act worthy of death in a Jewish court is also forbidden to all people of the world according to our Creator’s commandments.
It’s good to just go over what is actually commanded, what behaviours we as people of the world, are meant to avoid.
Recently, I’ve had people, even those I would have considered friend, make it appear to me that it is stupid, foolish, mentally redundant, irrational and primitive to take the words of the Torah simply when it comes to the creation of the universe and the flood of Noah. To think that the world was formed less than 10,000 years ago in the course of six days, to imagine that the flood of Noah (or more properly, the mabbul) covered the whole globe of the world, these things are ridiculed.
Now let me make it plain, there is no commandment in the Seven Commandments that dictates that one must accept these concepts as true. In fact there is no commandment that one must accept any other notion about the history and development of the universe. It’s not even a core issue of the Seven Commandments. And that isn’t even the issue of this article.
I went onto a Jewish site where a rabbi called rabbi Slifkin, a rabbi who tries to mesh the naturalistic story of the universe’s and the earth’s history and development with the Torah’s account, attempts to defend himself against rabbis who think differently to him. What this website says is very telling. He attempts to respond to a point by a rabbi Meiselman, signified by the number 3, with the following.
“3. “The Great Flood was understood by all Geonim and Rishonim to be a literal description and record of events that occurred thousands of years ago. The world was indeed flooded.”
Of course the Rishonim understood it that way; they had no reason to think differently.” http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/11/perfect-torah-science-authority-fact-or.html
By “Rishonim” and “Geonim,” they are referring to the earliest rabbis who had a closer connection or larger knowledge of the Torah tradition (to give a rough summary). They were in existence before and during the putting into writing of the oral tradition in the form of books like the Mishnah and the Talmud.
Now, the writer of this blog is fantastic as a hostile witness. A hostile witness is someone who is against your position who ends up giving evidence for your case. What is this writer’s tacit admission? That those rabbis who had more access to the written and oral tradition of Judaism and using those tools accepted the simple meaning of the words in the Torah that the mabbul or “flood” of Noah was worldwide in its extent. This understanding can be stretched across to the age of the earth and the time it took to create the universe, that the early rabbis took the Torah for what it said and that the earth was thousands of years old and that it took 6 days to be made. A document that ably shows this can be found at http://toriah.org/Torah/RZL/RZLdaysOfCreation.pdf or http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/how-days-of-creation-were-understood-by.html.
But then the writer adds that there is now an abundance of information which has led some modern rabbis (interesting, only some, not all) to choose to allegorize the Torah passages to now preach dates and ideas that accord with what the mainstream sect of science practitioners have been saying, that the world is billions of years old and that there was no global flood. [It should be clarified that “mainstream” neither means true or universal, as if all people who adopted the label “scientist” accepts the long age theories.] It should be plain to the common observer that this is in total contradiction to what the early Sages stated.
NB: It’s important to note that this article is not about the veracity of either side of this issue. That’s not the focus. Most of this is just background for what’s to come.
What comes across to me from reading some of what this writer, rabbi Slifkin, says and those I have encountered who also believe as he does to is the obeisance or veneration that is given to what certain people say, people who have adopted the philosophy of naturalism to a religious extent. It is also interesting how a similar sort of naturalism is also inherent in the words of those I have encountered who try to show me my “stupidity” for not accepting something so “amazingly obvious” (to them) as the story that the world is billions of years old (although I’ve still yet to find that date tag of the earth on a piece of rock with any objectivity behind it).
What do I mean by naturalism? It’s the way of thinking that is based on the notion that nature is all there is, that explanations for everything must be based on the routine interplay of matter and energy first and recourse to God must be left aside as much as possible. Now it should be highlighted that naturalism is not the same as science or the same as truth. When you or I find patterns in our day to day lives and can derive rules or explanations of them based on the people we know or the events that we see, then that is simple deduction. As contact with the “supernatural” is not an everyday event for most, nor is it normally directly observable, the normal deduction a person makes is just based on their day to day observations. What adherents to naturalism do is change a limitation of what we can see and impose it on everything that they possibly can. Sometimes, as may be seen where it comes to the creation of the universe and the global flood, they take the limitation of how we perceive the world, and turn it to a limitation on God Himself.
You see, although experience can teach us facts about what we see in this present time in the solid sense, science cannot give us facts in the definitive sense of the word. When I look at the limitations of the discipline of science and its results, for me it is a logical conclusion that science cannot give us facts, only probable and tentative statements and explanations, explanations that must be kept in doubt because of our limited perception and the fact that there can be evidence around that can falsify a scientific claim. This is a totally different realm than that of Torah where we have a Divine and Objective point of reference giving absolute truths, not the doubtful or probabilistic or tentative statements of humans who label themselves “scientists”. The Torah is the revelation of a Being that is above nature whereas humans are stuck in nature and when using their mechanistic tool of science can only look for mechanistic and matter-energy causes and effects. [Also it is important to highlight that although science can include rational deductions, a person can make logical and rational deductions that may not be classed as modern science, e.g., they can deduce that a miracle happened or that God exists.]
Now a complaint I see from those who have accepted the tentative statements of people who have embraced naturalism to whatever extent is that, for example, the global flood could not have happened. Normally when such views are expressed, it is on the basis of two things: firstly that it is believed that there is no naturalistic (meaning purely matter and energy bereft of divine intervention) means of making or maintaining such a deluge; and secondly those people who have embraced naturalism who are labelled “scientists” say there is no evidence of such a thing. And the complaints that I’ve seen against an earth that is thousands of years old that was made in a six-day or seven-day period is that those people who have embraced naturalism and who are labelled “scientists” have made statements that because matter-energy experiments they have done in the present (they aren’t Time Lords to go into a time machine and actually observe these billions of years) they strongly believe that the universe is much older.
It should be stated that it wasn’t God who said he couldn’t do such things as supernaturally (that means “above or beyond nature” – that’s an important concept) create the world in seven days. And it should also be stated that it was not God who said that he could not create a deluge of epic worldwide proportions supernaturally. It was adherents of naturalism who, based on their propensity to impose their philosophical limitation on as many things as possible including God and including the non-naturalistic creation of the universe and earth and the non-naturalistic deluge which happened in Noah’s day, stated that matter and energy have been observed today doing so and so, and therefore only so and so is possible. And unfortunately, those who choose to take up the book of Torah with its supernatural originator and origin choose to also take up the statements of such acolytes of religio-philosophical naturalism or use the philosophy themselves and mix such thinking with a supernatural book and tradition. Maybe the contradiction isn’t so obvious to them.
You see, the issue isn’t so much whether God took billions of years to create or several days thousands of years ago. The issue isn’t so much whether God caused a worldwide flood or that it was some local phenomenon. The issue is that acolytes of naturalism have said nature can only do “x” and therefore we’ll only consider what is in the realm of “x” as realistic. And then some Torah observant Jew or Gentile who has most likely been either bent by years or decades of the godless and faltering, nigh-retarding “education” (actually, indoctrinating) system in so many countries or drawn into the societal veneration of the naturalistic and vocal sect amongst those who are labelled “scientist” (LOL, I was just learning about the seduction used to draw the Israelites into the worship of Baal-Peor – how ironic) starts telling the world how certain parts of the Torah – the non-naturalistic creation of the universe or world and the non-naturalistic deluge – must be understood and re-imagined naturalistically, only based on the current understanding that materialists have perceived about the relationship between matter and energy. The correlations between the current veneration of the “scientist,” the indoctrination system of the secular schools, and the rise of “modern rabbis” and Torah-cognizant Jews and Gentiles who walk mostly hand-in-hand with the acolytes of naturalism aren’t too surprising.
Considering the fact that Torah deals with absolute facts and science deals with probables and tentatives, it should also not be surprising that not one of those people who are comfortable in letting me know that the refashioning of the words of Torah – distinct and different to the understanding of the Rishonim according to our hostile witness, may I add – is so intrinsic in Judaism and Torah, not one of them have offered me a single fact that would make it inevitable for me to consider such a refashioning not as a “refashioning” but as a natural interpretation. No one has said that some fact shows that the universe or the world was so old, or that a global flood was impossible or that man came from primates. And as arrogant as some of the more vocal advocates of Torah-naturalism meshing may appear, their belief in their conclusions doesn’t change the nature of their claims and evidences; their belief is not as simple as 1+1=2 or not as simple as opening one’s eyes and seeing that the sun isn’t green or the sky isn’t orange with purple Pokka dots; it’s not even as simple as someone slamming a door and the resultant sound coming from the door. It is not even as simple as knowing that things tend to fall to the ground when not empowered to overcome the downward force that accompanies the earth.
The fact is that it doesn’t matter what evidences they give, there are always certain baseline doctrines of faith, or assumptions that must be smuggled in for the evidence to seem as if they are of some worth. Be it the evidence from starlight and today’s speed of light, the layers of rock in the ground, the interpretations of ratios of parent and daughter radioactive substances (they call it “radiometric dating”), the fossils and the way people arrange them, the extrapolations and esteem granted to today’s natural selection and mutation, homologies, etc, etc, there are always those sneaky “take-it-on-faith” statements that are comfortably swept under the rug. One such assumption that is quite interesting – otherwise known as uniformitarianism – can be understood as this: pretend that natural laws and processes have always acted in the same way. Or in other words, pretend/assume God never intervened in creation in any major way. (Maybe he, like the deist god, did some big expansive splurge of energy at the beginning, programmed the principles into the particles and waves and let things tick over ever since.) Without such a statement of faith like that, there is absolutely no strength to the logical edifice that the advocates of the Torah-naturalism meshing attempt to construct. It would just be seen for what it is: extrapolating outside of known limits, outside of what has been humanly experienced, to make up stories about a past no human can see or verify, based on assumptions (axioms, statements of faith). That doesn’t make their stories “history”: it makes them a belief system.
You see, the proofs aren’t simply “hey, look at this rock – doesn’t it look old?” It’s always “assume the Torah or at least the first 11 chapters of Bereshis (Genesis) has nothing authoritative to say about the physical realm.” Then add some other naturalistic assumptions that have to be taken for granted. In the space and void left, sure, humans can dream up a lot. But the dreams ain’t worth much when it comes to truth as they are in essence only mental games. Shift the rules, play with the maths, hey presto, we got a new outcome. Just don’t add the plain words of Torah for fear of looking silly to the “intellectuals” or the general public. Just don’t be surprised when it’s the Torah that ends up on the chopping table! Chop off this; allegorize that; and it’s still Torah, right? (Yeah, right …)
In a book that I enjoy but where the author still has taken on the naturalistic fables (it’s still a great book, highly recommended), it states the following:
“The idea that the worship of man will be the last idolatry before the advent of the Mashiach is cited in the name of the Vilna Gaon … in putting forth this concept, Rabbi S. R. Hirsch of course had in mind the modern age, in which man and his reason and judgment have become the supreme arbiter and authority in the world. Secularism, naturalism and scientism (the belief that science and only science can furnish the answer to all questions) are some of the approaches that have replaced mankind’s seeking of God’s guidance. The failure of the twentieth century to solve any of the basic problems of humanity—achievement of international peace, agreement on accepted standards of morality and interpersonal relations, mental health requirements, alleviation of poverty and famine, protection of our environment, etc.—certainly justifies the author’s remark about ‘the havoc wrought by human violence and human folly.’ Ultimately, the ‘worship of man’ is disastrous, because man’s insight cannot arrive at a clear knowledge of moral law.” (Elias, Nineteen Letters, 101. – quoted on page 415 footnote 3 of Secular By Design, A Philosophy of Noahide Laws and Observances, by Alan W. Cecil)
Naturalism is the subtle thought that denies or limits God, contradicts tradition and is seated in high places in our current society, enthroned next to scientism. And taking its stories as if it were truth is putting some man-made philosophy in front of God, above God. The same reason why man on his own cannot arrive at a clear knowledge of moral law is in the reason why man cannot come at a clear or true understanding of his history: because it is possible for a man to rationalize many different scenarios if he changes the standard he is using. As Sherlock Holmes said:
“Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing,” answered Holmes thoughtfully. “It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different.” (“The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, page 204)
And that’s all these people deal with; circumstantial evidence, evidence that doesn’t speak for itself, but is arranged in many ways in the minds of men based on personal preference, not based on some objective standard. I find it difficult to understand how people can so ardently put forward the veracity of such probables and tentatives or hold such things as truth in their lives when these things can never be truth.
What is most obvious to me is what I said before: the acolyte of naturalism (or scientism – the belief that only science can give answers) will say that only “x” is possible and therefore will only consider x. Unfortunately people who are supposed to uphold Torah take the conclusion of these people as the true truth. Maybe God, who is above nature, has other ideas. Just maybe.
There are those who I greatly respect who I even see as my teachers in other things who hold onto the naturalistic stories or the long time scales. They may quote a rabbi like Ramban to show that somehow their view is somehow the essence and the epitome of Judaism or Torah exegesis. They may say “Hey, Rambam says you should not take the account of creation literally in all points!” [NB. Rambam says “all points” not “any point”!] They are entitled to their own opinion. It’s not like this is the legal part of the Seven Commandments and I must condemn them as idolators. A person can accept the naturalistic stories and still be faithful to the Seven Commandments. A person can reject those stories and be faithful to the Seven Commandments. Each can be decent individuals. I still respect those people highly for the good they do and teach.
But as a wise person told me, when it comes to my own relationship with God’s truth, I can’t rely on teachers or respected colleagues. I’m accountable for myself and my actions and my thoughts. And I prefer to let God speak of his own limits, rather than imposing the limits of a man-made philosophy onto him.