My Responses to Douglas Kraeger on Christianity
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Douglas Kraeger: My original question was this: Is there a fourth possibility for what God wants everyone to believe concerning Jesus Christ? and if so, what could it be? How do you reply to this direct question, does God want us to see Jesus as who He said He was, True God and true Man, or as a fool, or as a fraud and deceiver?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: As I originally replied, reality does not validate Christianity’s claims, including Jesus being a deity. I explained, God said not to add to the Bible (Deut. 13:1). Adding the New Testament, adding new holidays, adding new ideas that God became man, etc., each violate this Biblical command. Furthermore, God said through His prophet Isaiah (40:25), “there is nothing to which you can equate Me.” Thus, God cannot become man, for then He will be equatable to man. Reason too dismisses such a notion that the all powerful God should render Himself subjugated to natural law by becoming flesh. Such a notion originates in the infantile part of man’s psyche seeking a tangible deity, and not in intelligence or evidence. This is akin to the Jews’s sin of the Gold Calf once Moses was ostensibly gone. And Moses reminded the people that they saw no form of God at Revelation. Why? This crucial lesson is that God is not equatable to His creations, i.e. the physical world.
For these reasons, a follower of the Bible cannot agree with your premature conclusion that “each person should ask God for the help to believe what God wants everyone to know and believe concerning Jesus Christ.”
What God desires of each man and woman can be discovered. Would you not agree that by following God’s proven actions, and not historical fabrications, we will obtain a more accurate understanding of God’s will? God gifted reason and intelligence to us all, so that we engage these faculties and agree with what they demand, and dismiss what they cannot prove. Had God desired we live by blind faith, these faculties would be of no use. But, As God gifted man with them, He desires we rely on our senses, rejecting a belief that an ocean is before us when it is not. He desires we accept mass witnesses of any event, but suspect the testimony of the few or one person. Why? The latter contains possible motive of fabrication, while the former, i.e., masses, cannot possibly be motivated to equally lie. Thus, God desires man to rely on his reason.
Now, as there were no masses ever in history witnessing any miracle other than the Bible’s miracles including Revelation at Sinai, we have no basis to believe such claims, other than these. All other religions are based on the words of a few people, or individuals. Such claims cannot be validated. When God wishes to make His communication to mankind known without doubt, He ensures masses witness it. No one can perpetrate a lie so large, telling others that they witnessed intelligent words emanating from a fiery mountain together with millions of others, had it not occurred. For if he lied, the masses would ask him, “Where are these others with whom you claim we all witnessed this event?” Certainly, all those to whom he lied would not replace their true history, transmitting a new delusional lie to their children. No claim of a mass-attended miracle would ever be adopted in place of one’s own known history, and certainly, it would not become world history, accepted by all others as truth 3300 years layer.
However, as Revelation at Sinai is the only Jewish history, and is accepted even by opposing religions (Christianity and Islam), this can only be explained due to the true nature of the event. And, had Revelation been a lie, we would at least be in possession of the “real” Jewish history. But after thousands of years, there remains one identical Bible; one unanimous Jewish history. And if it were true that the Bible is a grave distortion, why is the distortion identical everywhere on Earth? Did all nations conspire to distort the truth identically? That is most absurd. Distortions would be of numerous versions. The Dead Sea scrolls and the writings of medieval Sages confirm the Bible is unchanged.
For these reasons, we accept Revelation as truth, and as the only evidence in history of God revealing a religion. To repeat, other religions are based on the words of a few people, or individuals, and no history is validated by the claims of the few. Certainly this is so, when the claims have conflicting reports.
But God did not give the Bible to the Jews alone. As all other nations were idolatrous at that period in history, Abraham was the only monotheist; he was the only individual who would accept and transmit God’s ways to all others. And that is precisely what Abraham did, until he had thousands of followers. God eventually made his seed great, giving them His Bible through Moses at the only mass-witnessed revelation in history. No other time has God spoken to masses; no other time did He reveal another religion. And why would He? He knows all, and as He gave a Bible, wherein He commands man to never add to, or subtract from it (Deut. 13:1), this is because He knows this Bible is applicable to all mankind throughout all time. Man will never change his design, so God’s prefect Bible system need not change. Those other religions violate God’s word by adding books to His texts, creating new holidays and religious rites, claiming unsubstantiated prophecies and suggesting heretical notions that violate His prophets.
So, your conclusion does not adhere to the guidelines the Creator demands we follow, namely, trusting our senses, and our reason. These are proven guides of God’s will, since He created both. But to live by blind faith and accept stories and notions that violate the Bible and Prophets, and are also without proof, in fact violates God’s will in gifting man reason and senses.
Douglas Kraeger: Do you want to encourage people to investigate the evidence that God wants them to study and pray, so as to come to the conclusion that God wants everyone to know and believe, or do you just want them to take your conclusion as final?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: As I originally stated and repeated again above, God clearly desires man to investigate, explaining why He gifted us with reason and senses. No, I do not wish anyone to violate this, and simply take my conclusion as final. Each person must investigate themselves. “Duties of the Heart” written over 1000 years ago is a wonderful work on our religious lives. The author Rabbi Bachaya ben Josef ibn Paquda stated:
“Our sages have said that if a person performs a mitzvah (command) but has no intention of doing it for the sake of Heaven, he receives no reward for it.”
“Whoever has the intellectual capacity to verify what he receives from tradition, and yet is prevented from doing so by his own laziness, or because he takes lightly God's commandments and Torah (Bible), he will be punished for this and held accountable for negligence.”
“If, however, you possess intelligence and insight, and through these faculties you are capable of verifying the fundamentals of the religion and the foundations of the commandments which you have received from the sages in the name of the prophets, then it is your duty to use these faculties until you understand the subject, so that you are certain of it - both by tradition and by force of reason. If you disregard and neglect this duty, you fall short in the fulfillment of what you owe your Creator.”
Deuteronomy 17:8-10 states: “If a case should prove too difficult for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, between (leprous) mark and mark, or other matters of dispute in your courts...you must act in accordance with what they tell you."
Regarding this passage, Rabbi Bachya states: “The verse does not say simply accept them on the authority of Torah sages and rely exclusively on their tradition. Rather, (Scripture) says that you should reflect on your own mind, and use your intellect in these matters. First learn them from tradition - which covers all the commandments in the Torah, their principles and details - and then examine them with your own mind, understanding, and judgment, until the truth become clear to you, and falsehood rejected, as it is written: "Understand today and reflect on it in your heart, Hashem is the G-d in the heavens above, and on the Earth below, there is no other (Deuteronomy 4:39).”
Douglas Kraeger: You say, “And Moses reminded the people that they saw no form of God at Revelation” and I agree, God is everywhere in His infinite presence, His infinite power and mercy and...yet we do not see Him now as He is. But that we do not see Him as He is eternally is not a proof that God does or does not have human nature within His infinite nature so that when we are made in His image and likeness, we receive human nature in His image and likeness. That the people saw no form of God makes no statement as to the infinite nature of God. It is only a statement as to what the Israelites did not see.
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: I will repeat myself, Isaiah stated (40:25), “there is nothing to which you can equate Me.” Isaiah repeates God’s lesson to mankind: God is dissimilar to anything. Thus, God does not partake of human qualities. You also err when saying “God is everywhere”, for this too makes God equatable to a physical object by partaking of location. Just as an idea or a natural law does not exist in time and space, but these are metaphysical entities, God too does not occupy space, but exists and knows all.
Douglas Kraeger: If God “became man” but retained all of His infinite Divinity would He be equatable to man? How would he be equatable since He is still truly infinite?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: You accept a contradiction by suggesting God is simultaneously man. Similarly, a square cannot simultaneously be a circle .
Douglas Kraeger: Does it not say somewhere that God made man in His image and likeness? If so, then we are really partaking of the image and likeness of God. Right? If our human qualities are in the image and likeness of God, then we got them from God who gave them to us and they were in Him to be given to us when He created us in His image and likeness?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: You misunderstand the Bible’s words: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God, He created him, man and woman he created them (Gen. 1:27)”? Notice that the Biblical sentence says God “created.” He did not take a piece of Himself and plant it in man. Rather, God created man and his “image of God” from nothingness, just as He created the universe from nothingness. What is this “image of God” that God created in man, and in no other creation? This refers to the soul, the part of man that is not physical and can apply abstract thought to uncover truths about the universe and about God.
Douglas Kraeger: If God is truly infinite, how can human qualities be something beyond or outside of God, for then God would not be truly infinite because there was something beyond, or outside of God?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Your idea of God being infinite, demanding nothing be “outside” of Himself, is forced into physical terms, and therefore, you are in error. God is not physical.
Douglas Kraeger: You said, “God made this command not to add to Torah unconditional.” Would you agree or disagree that the command was for men only, and God was not commanding HIMSELF not to add anything?
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: God’s commands are stated truths, to which, He does not contradict. As He says the Torah is perfect and no change is allowed, this is because He agrees to what He speaks and would not have a double standard.