Monday, August 03, 2015

The Immature Christian

I don’t know a lot about modern Judaism, orthodox or otherwise. But I was intrigued by this opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post. Of all the things that might tick Jews off about Christians, the one that particularly sticks in the craw of writer Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks is that we’re ... well ... immature.

Now let’s face it, almost nobody in this century or the last much likes the idea of a religion that claims a monopoly on truth. But the one completely untenable, utterly illogical position to be taken is that all religions are therefore simultaneously true, or even contain substantial truth. The Law of Non-Contradiction declares that contradictory statements cannot be true in the same sense at the same time, and contradictory statements about the nature of God are no exception. Some ideas about God, the universe and morality are simply more accurate (and therefore more truthful) than others.

Believing We’re Right

Now it’s certainly possible to declare the Law of Non-Contradiction invalid in the interests of advancing a theological argument. Just don’t expect to be taken terribly seriously by anyone who has studied philosophy.

Almost anyone of any persuasion believes themselves to be right. If you don’t, you’re essentially agnostic, whatever name you may choose to take. And Susskind-Sacks is no exception. Perhaps what offends her about Christians is that many of us actually grasp what’s at stake as a consequence of what we believe rather than shrugging our shoulders and saying, “Live and let live” or some other platitude essentially amounting to “I don’t care if you go to hell”.

And, she insists, it is this certainty and the persistence that naturally follows from it (among other things, including our view of God) that make us “immature”.

Piaget and Cognitive Development

Citing Jean Piaget’s views on cognitive development, Susskind-Sacks alleges that Christians are stuck at Piaget’s “third stage” of development, the Concrete Operational stage, something usually in evidence in children up to approximately age eleven. In this stage, she tells us, children have the ability to develop a logical thought about an object only if they are able to manipulate it. They are unable yet to grasp its abstract aspect.

On the other hand Judaism, in the view of Ms Susskind-Sacks, has attained Piaget’s Formal Operative stage, and appeals to her as being fully mature in its view of God.

The Concept of a God Taking on Human Form

I might actually be offended if I could stop laughing long enough to imagine even for a moment some of the greatest minds of the last two millennia from all nations on earth being summarily dismissed by an opinion columnist as “insufficiently cognitively developed” and functioning intellectually at the maturity level of an eleven year old. Luther, Lewis, Chesterton, Sir Robert Anderson, not to mention the apostle Paul: all desperately in need of an introduction to Piaget’s fourth stage.

But yes, that is really what Ms Susskind-Sacks means:
“The concept of a god taking on human form, attributes and physical manifestation is an example of what Piaget’s third stage of object manipulation refers to. It is one of the ways in which Christianity can come to grips with the concept of an abstract god, the G-d they borrowed from Judaism.”

No Occasion for Pride

Thankfully, we are assured that the advanced status of Jewish theological thought is not a reason for pride. It does not make Judaism “better”. It only means:
“... that we arrived at a more developed stage in our Cognitive Evolvement earlier and have remained there.”
I am reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who seems to have anticipated Ms Susskind-Sacks twenty centuries ago in declaring:
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Like, say, an eleven-year old perhaps?

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