When I said that “anyone should be free to read what they like into religious stories,” I meant we should all have an equal opportunity to do so, not that our interpretations are all equally valid. Especially with the more obviously fanciful and poetic portions, we should treat the religious text as poetic not as a scientific textbook or historical record.

For example, the standard literary or nontheological interpretation I gave of Exod.3:14 is superior to the theological and allegorical stretches you supplied, to the ones having to do with immutability and so forth. The issue in the biblical passage is only about God’s unwillingness to tell his name. The idea was to build up God’s majesty and power, by suggesting that even God’s name is too mighty to be spoken by mere mortals. In the same way, God could show only his rear end to Moses, not his face. That interpretation is better than the farfetched Christian ones.

Likewise, the Christian attempts to prove that Jesus fulfilled Jewish expectations of the messiah, by their finding prophecies in the Old Testament, are quite inferior to the Jewish and secular interpretations of those texts. Indeed, your claim that “the Jews rejected the God of the OT when they rejected Christ” is preposterous as well as odious. You support your claim that the two religions didn’t split from each other, by presenting only the partisan Christian view of the matter, according to which “Christianity is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament.” Obviously, Jews never saw it that way. Hence the split and the growing demonization of Jews in the Gospels, from Mark to John.

Coming from a Jewish family, I can see that you seem to have imbibed the infamous anti-Judaism of Martin Luther, by way of your belonging specifically to the Lutheran Church. Allow me to state the obvious: mature Judaism is monotheistic (although it started with the Canaanite pantheon), whereas mature Christianity is polytheistic (Christians worship multiple divine persons, such as the Father and the Son). Also, Jews live by the law and religious customs which they protected for many centuries despite their having been persecuted for doing so. By contrast, Pauline Christianity abrogated those customs and laid claim to Judaism without winning over the consent of most Jews. To compensate for the frauds and spurious theology to which they had to resort to provide the appearance of harmony between the two religions, Christians demonized the Jews, blaming them for Jesus’s death whereas history indicates that the Romans would have been to blame. That scapegoating of the Jews and whitewashing of Roman culpability which is evident from the Gospels bubbled up in Luther’s resentment when he failed to convert Jews to his form of Christianity. His notorious anti-Semitism (e.g. from On the Jews and Their Lies: the Jews are full of the “devil’s feces…which they wallow in like swine”) informed the evil of Nazism.

By suggesting that Jews rejected their own God when they rejected Christian idolatry, when the Christian attempts to read Christian polytheism into the OT are very feeble and easily improved on by any rabbi or unbiased historian, you’re tapping into that appalling history.

Metaphysics isn’t the same as theology, since the former is philosophical. Rather like how Judaism and Christianity went their own ways, philosophy departed from folk religion. In the West, this happened foundationally in ancient Greece. Metaphysics is a protoscientific or at least subversively-rational attempt to answer the general questions of ontology. Judaism is much more theological than philosophical, whereas early Buddhism, for example, is arguably at least as much philosophical as it theological. Philo was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher so much of his philosophical content comes from the Greeks, such as from the Stoics.

I don’t know what you have in mind when you say there’s metaphysics in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discussing ultimate matters isn’t sufficient for doing metaphysics. The difference is in the way the issues are discussed. Is the discussion protoscientific or rigorous, science-centered, and progressive in that it threatens the dogmas that sustain the social order? Indeed, Western philosophy is methodologically naturalistic. True, some famous Western philosophers believed in God, but they were deists or else they sought to naturalize God, which is what makes their writings on God philosophical rather than theological. Hence the difference between the God of the philosophers and the God of folk religion: the former ends in atheism or in mysticism which is consistent with atheism, while the latter is mired in naïve theism.

That takes me to the nature of your abstract “God.” Your God isn’t really a person, is he? He’s a person only analogically, you say, and he’s just as much comparable to a reptile and a stone. The analogies are based on the derivation of all natural properties from God, from “subsistent existence.” As you said, “Our traits of will, intellect, etc. all derive from God, and yes, so do concepts of being a reptile.” That means God isn’t more like a person than he is like a stone. The same can’t be said for an actual person such as an ordinary human. Therefore your God isn’t actually a person. Therefore, you’re not a theist. I don’t know if that makes you a pantheist exactly, despite the similarities between some of your statements and Spinoza’s pantheism. But what I can say is that your mystical metaphysics is bound to be consistent with atheism.

Let’s take just one example of the conflict between your metaphysics and the literalism of folk Christianity. Take John 3:16 and ask whether God’s love of the world is real or only metaphorical and subjective. If God is metaphysically simple, how can he literally have an emotion like love? If he’s immutable, how can he shift from one emotion to the next, such as from anger to love? You want to say with the mystics that all such descriptions are analogical, since God is beyond our comprehension. If God is transcendent in that sense, theism itself must be only metaphorical. God wouldn’t literally be a personal creator and ruler of the universe. Theists like William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga reject this mysticism precisely because they say it undermines theistic beliefs. That’s not to say the latters’ literalistic theism is defensible or respectable. I’m just trying to clarify where we actually stand.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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