"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On *God* Having To Learn Justice and Morality

I'm currently read Joseph's Bones by a - I think - Jewish guy, Jerome M. Segal. He doesn't say "I am Jewish," but he teaches Torah to children and young people.  Anyway, this book deals with the Torah from a different perspective: as the Bible being written not as God's words, but "a perception of...humanity's message to itself."    Thus far we have Abraham teaching God lessons. Like justice.  Not punishing the good with the evil in the event of Sodom. And holding people individualistically accountable rather than the whole of society suffering for the sins of individuals.  The author brags on Joseph and how his morality seems to be more "firmly lodged in his self-identity" than in God's self-identity.  (pg. 66)

Because of Eve eating the fruit, mankind now has the ability to know good and evil. Thus Eve is "vindicated" -- she is part of the "human process that, if successful, will result in a world of justice, a world achieved by transforming God."  (pg. 72)

Yes, God is the one needed to be overhauled and taught morality and justice.  Perhaps this was the reason God created man. I'll have to keep reading to find out.

Now I'm on a section about the Tower of Babel as recorded in Genesis 11.  Read it and tell me what stands out to you and/or what your understanding of it is symbolically or literally or in harmony with religious tradition and holy books. I am curious. 

 1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
 5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Thoughts?  What do you think of the idea presented about the Bible's message and God needing to be taught by His creation how to be just and merciful and moral?

Don't forget to share your Tower of Babel interpretations.  :)


sanil said...

Interesting! A shiny new book for my wishlist! :)

I think that it's an interesting perspective...I think I see more of a middle ground (at least the way I'm understanding his view from your post, I could have misread)...like always. :D I'm kinda wishy-washy, huh?

God learns from people in the Torah, in that they can change his mind and also he doesn't seem to know the future in the sense people tend to think of God today, so he learns as things happen. But people also learn from God, and they learn from each other, and God learns from his own actions...there's a lot of cooperation and a lot of growth in general. It seems to be more community-driven and seeing God as part of the way the world works and intimately involved in the process, rather than as either an overlord or a child who must be taught.

Babel...It tends to be read as God separating them because he feared they would overpower him or something. But especially with a view of God as part of the process and learning with humanity, it seems more likely to me that he is interested in what would bring the most growth for the earth. I think it's interesting that he doesn't actually say anything about trying to stop people from becoming more powerful...I don't know why we interpret it that way, maybe because he did stop their immediate actions. Rather, it seems to me like he's saying "Wow, look what they can do even when they're so limited! But they're going about this all wrong, let's split them up and let them develop more diverse skills and cultures, and then see what they do!" People were trying to become more powerful and make something of themselves, and I think God wanted that too. But their perspective was a little too limited and God maybe had some more foresight and had a different idea of how to accomplish it.

Suroor said...

Great! That's all I needed to know that I ate the apple to teach God a lesson! :D

Amber said...

Huh. It's interesting and it certainly goes against the modern concept and understanding of how God works. I've never seen God as learning from people in the Torah. I'm going to try and look at it from that perspective when I read some of the older stories, see what I get out of it that way.

But, can we really say that God learns or changes His mind? Or does it just look like it from our perspective? That God leads *us* to be more moral by laying the groundwork for us...I think I'm saying it badly, but basically people understand things better if they come to the realization of the fact themselves. So you can tell someone the answer to a question, but they may not entirely internalize the knowledge and comprehend it until they're led through the process that led to the answer.

*shrug* I always took the story of Babel to just be an attempt at reconciling the creation myth with the fact that there are people with vastly different cultures and languages in existence. They needed to bridge the two concepts somehow...

*lol* I think sanil's idea sort of sounds like a kid's science project! 'What would happen if I...'

sanil said...

*lol* I think sanil's idea sort of sounds like a kid's science project! 'What would happen if I...'

I'm so picturing God playing with an ant farm right now. :D That's not too irreverent, right?

I'm of the opinion that God in the Torah does change his mind and can be reasoned with, but I see both sides...And I think I've actually argued both of them depending on who I'm talking to. I usually wind up representing the absent side if I'm in a group that leans a little too much towards one interpretation.

Amber said...

Since I had the same thought? Let's go with no, not too irreverent. I haven't been struck by lightning yet, so it's got to count for something!

Versatility in argument is a good thing. :)

Susanne said...

Y'all are so cute! By the way, chapter 3 in this book is "God's Project." No ant farm illustration, but still! :)

Sanil, I like the way you interpreted Babel with such a positive spin.This author did not and it left me kind of sad. But then I read YOUR reply and was smiling again! :D

Amber, yes,he said the first 6 books read like a novel and if you tried to read it apart from any traditions/interpretations you grew up with, you would get a different point of view. This is what he is trying to do here annnnnnnnd it's quite odd for me! :)

Good point about people coming to realize things for themselves...hmmmm

Thank you also for answering my Babel question. I enjoyed your thoughts of it!

Suroor, :)