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Thursday, June 20, 2013

"God is Truth"  --  Talmud

In both metaphysics and science, faith is an important element.  Most people do not associate faith with science.  Einstein did make the connection when he said, The mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap."  This is transcendent reality in the view of a scientist.  The essential question is, how far can that "leap" go before it is no longer connected to demonstrable reality?

Maimonides sought to answer that question in metaphysical terms.  He said, "… for there is nothing else in existence but God and His works, the latter including all existing things besides Him: we can only obtain a knowledge of Him through His works; His works give evidence of His existence, and show what must be assumed concerning Him, that is to say, what must be attributed to Him either affirmatively or negatively." 

The Talmud states that God is Truth.  Maimonides asserts that the only way to acquire knowledge of God is through God's works, i.e. God's Creation.  Then, does this imply that our faith should be anchored in that Creation?  This takes us to the nexus of science and secular kabbalism. 

Thus, God, Truth and Reality are inextricably connected.  In the Bible, the Hebrew word for faith, trust and truth are the same (emun).  If you believe that God is the Creator, then God created reality.  This applies no matter what your personal view of the nature of God may be.  Therefore, it follows that reality must reflect the nature of God, just as a painting or symphony reflects the nature of its creator.  From the perspective of the secular kabbalist, faith is constrained by reality.  It challenges us to ask, how far can we "leap" into transcendent reality?

When we look into an ephemeris (astronomical almanac) to determine sunrise for a future date, we have considerable faith in its prediction.  Barring an unexpected cosmic catastrophe, it will happen.  In a medical emergency, when the physician says that the patient has a good chance of surviving we have faith in his prognosis.  However, we prepare ourselves for an adverse outcome.  When the local weather report says storms in a month, we do not take it too seriously.  Our faith in these events depends on experience and repeatability.  Should these also be our criteria for that leap of faith into transcendent reality?

Of the words in the vocabulary of theology, faith has been the subject of considerable debate.  For example, in the New Testament, James, the brother of Jesus, and Paul have distinct views.  James asserts, "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." (James 2.17).  Whereas, Paul declares, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2.8).  The various texts on this subject have had a variety of interpretations.  Nonetheless, there are clear distinctions between the two points of view.

In this instance, the Torah (Pentateuch) is closer to the view of James.  It repeatedly insists that faith is demonstrated by works and, conversely, positive works are the products of faith.  From this point of view, you might ask, if God is known to us through God's works, then are we "known to God" by our works?

The Bible is the root of much of Western theology and metaphysics.  As we in the West have become more aware of other sacred texts, they have contributed greatly to contemporary theology and metaphysics.  Over time, the word faith has taken on a number of meanings.  Then the relation of faith and truth must be reexamined in the context of evolving metaphysical thought.  In particular, how do we find the meaning of faith in the context of the education of a Secular Kabbalist?

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