Now in digging into said Rabbi, I learn he had an interesting educational history (law degree at the U. of Buenos Aires, ordination from the Seminario Latinamericano, as well as a doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America), and that his attorneys are pleading "bipolar disorder". None of which get him much in the way of a vote for an AH-Crap from me. But then, as I continue to peruse for interesting tidbits (like the one guy he pulled over was Peter Moses- can you see the BBC? "Rabbi arrests Moses"), I found the headline of his last posted sermon:
Goodbye Perfect God; Goodbye
Which, being me, I found amusing... but then I read the piece.
Basically, after a round-about set-up, he gets to this point:
There are two common misconceptions which are mainly responsible for our separation from God; two misconceptions that unfortunately have been sealed in our souls and minds since childhood; two misconceptions I hope to end today: (i)God created the world out of nothing; and (ii) God is perfect.
After admitting that this is about as much a WTH moment for his congregation as it was for me, he explains point #1 by saying that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is better translated "When God began to create”, thus giving you the chance to envisage God with a pre-created ball of goo He's working with.
This leads Him to the second point.
Is God perfect? Not really. Just randomly open any page of the Torah and you will encounter a jealous God, a God who wants, learns, and regrets. That’s certainly not a perfect being. Then where did we get the idea that God is perfect? We owe it mostly to Maimonides, the most famous of the Jewish philosophers. Influenced by the discovery of Greek philosophy in the Middle Ages, Maimonides explains that as a perfect being, God cannot change. And on this he is right! If you are perfect why should you change?
I had to scratch my head at this misconception of God. Where does God learn? What does God regret (other than picking out so stubborn a people as Israel to be the Chosen)? If God is perfect, then why wouldn't He be jealous of His creations worshipping false Gods? But the good rabbi's misconception runs deeper, and like the atheists, it comes down to man assuming he should be able to understand a perfect God.
Perfection precludes change. You cannot grow out of perfection.
I think that is a flawed statement, and here's why. God is perfect, why does He feel the need to surround Himself with imperfect beings? Because, His plan is to refine these imperfect beings to make them perfect, thus growing the perfection of His Glory. If you assume a perfect God, as I do, his entire argument is derailed here.
He then goes on to say that his previous posit means that by believing He is perfect, that He is then in control of, and ergo at fault for, everything bad that happens- a theory I hope I thoroughly debunked yesterday in my Sunday Message- and thus, by seeing God as an imperfect though divine being,
"...an artisan shaping a mass of clay that was always there... (imposing order) over that shapeless matter... but the matter constantly fights back against stability, seeking to reverse to its original formless state..."
then you can alleviate God of the blame for the world's disasters and diseases, since he is imperfect.
He then moves to the next level:
A perfect God generates an unbridgeable abyss between us and the Divine. Faced by a perfect God our imperfections become a constant source of failure and inadequacy. A perfect God renders our modest struggles and limitations unholy.
Unless, of course, you believe in a perfect God who fulfills the prophecy we saw in Isaiah Sunday by sending a perfect Savior to BRIDGE that gap. Moving on:
But even worse, when we confuse God with perfection, God suddenly becomes the source of our suffering. If God created the world out of nothing exactly as God wished without any constrains and if God is perfect and all powerful, we deserve all the pain that happens to us.
And here he goes on to list a series of tragedies from the Banda Aceh tsunami to a car bombing that killed his best friend, and says that to believe in a perfect God, you have to believe in a cruel God who moves all of those people into those exact places only to be swept away for some inscrutable reason. From such logic the atheists claim God is a monster.
But in making his assumptions, the good rabbis not proving "an imperfect God is a just God" like he's trying, but instead he is doing two other things:
a) Disregarding the Fall of Man, and thus man's responsibility for the fallen, corrupt state of the world (it's either God's fault because he's perfect, or nobody's fault because He's not);
b) By disregarding that, he's denying he NEEDS a savior, thus freeing the Messiah to be the purely political leader he wants, rather than the suffering sacrifice of Psalms 22:12-18, Daniel 9:26, or Zechariah 9:9. All very convenient- a "god" man can conceive of, much like Zeus or Odin.
And then he concludes with some points that by sheer dumb luck I can agree with, such as, "But if God doesn't give cancer, why should I pray for a cure? I don't believe in magic, but I believe that prayer is part of the process that ignites the Divine within and among us." However, I think he steps a step too far with this:
My friends, once we understand that creation is not finished, and recognize that creation is an ongoing process, our lives can be infused with the sacred instead of blame and guilt. God is still fighting against chaos and we participate in that struggle. The doctor brings healing to the chaos of illness, the teacher knowledge to ignorance, the garbage collector cleanliness to our daily lives, and the mailman connects us…all of us part of a network of Divine partnership. All of us involved in the process of Genesis 1:1.
And thus, we do not need God so much as God needs us to take the play-doh of cosmic existence and make it behave. Remove the fault from man, make God just a really powerful man, and presto, we're all fighters against a mess that's nobody's fault. So tell me then, Rabbi, just why do you need a God?
I believe in a God, as I've said, that made the tiniest quark and the vastest galaxy, and everything between. I believe in a God that invented time, and refines me into something I could never be on my own. I believe in a God who makes my imperfections perfect and my unholiness holy. And I believe that I shall pray that this man's bipolar is healed. I don't think it's funny anymore what has happened to him. And I hope someday his meditations bring him to a God that doesn't have to be pinioned by man's limitations.