Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Congregant's Thoughts on Genesis

Once again, congregant Ludwik Kowalski has asked that we share his thoughts regarding our weekly Saturday morning Torah study sessions. This year we have been concentrating on family narratives in the Torah and Tanach, and these remarks come in response to last week's (February 15) discussion regarding Jacob.
We are still discussing Genesis. Last week congregant Eric Fisher said that Abraham, Jacob, Rebecca and Leah are our ancestors. Today I objected, saying that they are not real people, that we have no historical evidence of their existence. Then I quoted the following statement from our prayerbook (on page 33):
Torah is what God revealed to us, and what we discern of God; ideas, ideals, laws and mitzvot, our religious heritage.
God, as I often repeat, is a spiritual (not material) entity. The same applies to people and events described in the Bible. Spiritual entities are not real; they are fictitious. I am a scientist. How do I reconcile my scientific attitude with my belief in God? By accepting the NOMA position, formulated by another scientist, Stephen J. Gould. According to Gould, science and theology are two non-overlapping magisteria. Methods of validation of spiritual claims and methods of validation of material claims are drastically different. My elaboration on this topic was published one year ago at on my website.
"God is not a material entity," I wrote, "and attempts to refute God's existence by performing scientific experiments are not appropriate. The same is true for attempts to refute scientific claims, such as the age of the earth, on the basis of disagreements with holy books." Here are other terms used to describe the two non-overlapping magisteria:
  • natural versus supernatural
  • physical versus metaphysical
  • real versus fictional
  • objective versus subjective
  • materialistic versus idealistic
  • etc.
Adjectives such as mystical, metaphorical, allegorical, and assumed, are often used to describe our spiritual world entities. Today I asked our rabbi what he thinks about Eric's statement. He said that we are studying God-inspired descriptions of beliefs of our sages. In other words, unlike many Orthodox Jews, we do not take these descriptions literally. This is consistent with what our rabbi wrote in his book entitled Judaism's Great Debates, published in 2012, and with what was written by the German rabbi Abraham Geiger, one of the founding fathers of Reform Judaism, in the 19th century.
Ludwik Kowalski's views, as they are expressed here, do not necessarily represent the official position of Congregation Adas Emuno. But we are always happy to share the thoughts and opinions of our members here on our congregational blog.

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