Reform Judaism and the relationship to Deism
by Lewis Loflin
Deism, depending on how it's defined, shares many of the same views as Judaism. As a non-Jew taking Old and New Testament survey in college, and having no religious background, I wonder why I was often being accused of being a Jew. Nor did I know why Judaism rejected Christianity or just what the problem with Christianity was with Judaism. Jesus was a Jew, He believed in G-d, etc. I rejected Christianity for the simple reason their claims about the Old Testament were false.
As a Messianic Jew, I am appalled by your ignorance and lack of understanding. Your page on the Protestant reformation is Hypocritical and your page on Judaism is unintelligent babble. It is not your place to judge man for that is reserved for the Most High, who can do a much better job than you. This site severely hinders the Universal Church through stigmatizing and ignorance. Shalom
Messianic Judaism is simply Christianity. In my view Christianity is a combination of Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and various Greek/pagan philosophies such as neo-Platonism, etc. The Apostle Paul and Gnostic-Greek converts such as the writer of Book of John are the true founders of Christianity.
In reality Judaism has a particular theology, in particular the oneness of God. While some Protestant fundamentalists believe that if all Jews will convert, their "savior god" Jesus will finally return as He failed to do 2000 years ago. Some others may go this route because they are too lazy to learn Judaism and its complex rules and rituals and look for a shortcut. Jews make conversion very hard. Regardless of the reason, a Jew is one that follows Judaism, period.
How Judaism, Deism, and Christianity Differ
Quoting The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Judaism (buy it here) by Benjamin Blech tells in a story from the Midrash how Abraham left Ur, came upon a an empty, but magnificent temple, and concluded it didn't build itself, but was created" by a builder. Blech continues, in regards to the world: "The world too, in its magnificence, complexity, and spender surely required a creator as well." Blech calls this "a flash of intuition." That is the exact deist' view of creation.
In addition, G-d and G-d alone created the universe, no other beings or intermediaries. That is also the Deist view, but not the Christian view. They believe Jesus (Word or Logos, as in Greek philosophy. See Philo's synthesis of Judaism and Hellenism.), also being G-d, created the world. "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3)
Now we come to Christianity (and related Gnosticism as well) breaks cleanly from Judaism. Judaism takes a literal interpretation of the "Old Testament" (There's no "New" in Judaism), Christianity takes an allegorical view of the "Old Testament" and literal "New Testament." The Christian Church knew there's no support for their dogma from the Old Testament as written, so their solution was read their belief (faith) into it. Deists and Unitarians take a literal view of both Old and New Testaments, then draw a conclusion based on both as written with the use of reason. The Torah clearly says in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." There's nothing about any Logos or Word.
From Deuteronomy 6:4, HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE HaShem OUR GOD, THE HaShem IS ONE. (JPS 1917) and Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:. (KJV) G-d is thus One and is the core belief of Judaism, classical Unitarianism/Deism. That means not many, three, or two, just one. The Christian Trinity (understood as not meaning tri-theism) is a direct violation of this most important of all beliefs in monotheism. But what does Jews for Jesus use as cover for this contradiction? To quote their website,
"Hear, O Israel, Adonai Eloheinu Adonai is one. These three are one. How can the three Names be one? Only through the perception of faith; in the vision of the Holy Spirit, in the beholding of the hidden eye alone...So it is with the mystery of the threefold Divine manifestations designated by Adonai Eloheinu Adonai-three modes which yet form one unity." (Zohar II:43b (vol. 3, p. 134 in the Soncino Press edition)
But Jews for Jesus Christians admit, "The above is taken from the Zohar, an ancient book of Jewish mysticism. The Zohar is somewhat esoteric and most contemporary Jews don't study it, but there are other Jewish books that refer to God's plurality as well...Christians consider themselves monotheists, while Jewish tradition maintains that believers in a triunity of God reject monotheism. Yet the Hebrew Scriptures do imply some kind of plurality in the Divinity...(referring to AND GOD SAID: LET US MAKE MAN, ETC.)...
Do imply? When did Christianity start using the Zohar? How can any thinking Jew (or anyone else) fall for this nonsense? I guess if I read it right Hebrew Scriptures can imply angels are really space aliens! Oh give me break. Like all Christians they always fall back on allegorism and Greek philosophy. They operate by faith alone, not reason or the Hebrew Scriptures as written. Jefferson often referred to Christians as Platonists and for good reason. Other differences I've noted are as follows:
Blech also points out that G-d has no form; thus to worship a man or any physical object is idolatry. Deism like Judaism rejects Original Sin and the Gnostic concept of a divine intermediary. There a direct relationship to G-d.
Gentiles don't even need to convert to Judaism. There are thousands who have come to proudly identify as a Noachide, or B'nai Noah (children of Noah) while Jews alone are covered by the Sinai Covenant.
The seven Noachide commandments are:
The prohibition of idolatry
A Jewish friend had this to say on animals:
As an interesting aside, I will share with you an interesting explanation I heard on one of the Noachide laws - namely the prohibition against eating a "limb" from a live animal. On the surface, it seems like a bizarre rule. You don't exactly see people grabbing sheep, chickens, etc. and biting their leg off.
If we explore a little bit, we arrive at the idea that this law embodies the
prohibition against cruelty to animals. Way back when, some people who owned
animals such as goats or cows would literally cut a piece off from their
leg, bandage it up, and repeat this.
Deism and anti-Semitism
Modern anti-Semitism differs from Christian anti-Judaism had it's origins in the French Enlightenment. Going from religious intolerance, it has been secularized into a form of racism. In America in particular Deism and Unitarianism were the same thing. John Adams was a Unitarian and Jefferson identified himself as Unitarian as well.
The radical French Enlightenment led by Voltaire was another story. To quote, The philosophes-Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century-sought to create a world in which reason prevailed and all people enjoyed equal civil rights and religious freedom. People were to be free of past restraints and superstitions to develop a life of reason. This would be the "humanism" we see today in its efforts to destroy all traditional values including any belief in G-d.
It's absurd to talk of "religious tolerance" while working to rid society of all traditional religion. The French and German Enlightenment were rabidly anti-religious and while Jews did gain emancipation, there was the underlying assumption that the only way that Jews could be acceptable to the rest of society would be to give up their separate Jewish ways and Judaism.
So this "god" of the French deists is more identified with that of Greek paganism (Aristotle), not Israel. A remote, machine-like creator that did "go away" after creation. (In reality did for them.) In all practical terms, it was atheism. The problem is this god of Voltaire is the "deism" of websites such as www.deism.com which is both rabidly Marxist and anti-Semitic.
Oddly, Reform Judaism embraced the European Enlightenment, socialism, and humanism to the point there's almost no difference between liberal Jewish groups, the Unitarian Universalists, and the Humanist Society. The Jews and Unitarians alike have so rejected their religious roots that left-wing politics, etc. are in fact all they have left. (Same problem with liberal Christians.) Then we have nonsense such as Humanistic Judaism, which is no more Jewish than Jews for Jesus is.
Another difference between the Founders of America and the French was America was nationalist (not in the European sense) while the French were internationalists. According to 1990 survey, 42 percent of American Jews regard themselves as Reform. Reform today to me is the same thing as the Unitarian Universalists, they have no religion for the most part as defined by a belief in G-d. To quote Dennis Prager,
Jews (outside of Israel) are indeed overwhelmingly liberal and disproportionately left of liberal as well...the question is further sharpened given that traditional Jewish values are not leftist...They therefore tend to fear Christianity and believe that secularism guarantees their physical security. That is what animates the ACLU and its disproportionately Jewish membership...to fight all public expressions of Christianity in America.
Let's be clear that since the 1960s liberal and leftist are the same thing. Other far-left groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ADL, etc. while "Jewish" are in fact are leftist. While most leftists are not Jews, far too many prominent and destructive leftist organizations have plenty of Jewish names or funded by wealthy Jews. (Ex George Soros who hates Jews, Israel, and America alike.) The ACLU for example will attack any public expression of Christianity or Judaism, but goes out of it's way pandering to Islam.
And it isn't just religion, but other causes such as open borders and mass immigration that if not curbed will destroy the whole country. The last thing Jews need are millions of violent Muslims like they deal with in Europe. This is also creating a lot of anti-Semitism giving Jew haters ample ammunition. Also see Jews idiotic anti-nationalism.
The ironic part is many of these "liberal" Jewish groups such as Reform, etc. are in fact Deists of the anti-Semitic and atheist' Voltaire variety. And no matter far left they go, the left will still hate them and does so today. The left is a failure and all failures need a scape goat. To me an atheist born of two Jewish parents is and atheist, to the left they are still Jews.
See The Socialist Roots of Modern Anti-Semitism No example of this is better than Leon Trotsky, born Lev Davidovich Bronstein. To quote Leon Trotsky and the Jews by Arthur Rosen,
It is related that the chief Rabbi of Moscow, Rabbi Jacob Maze, once appeared before Trotsky to plead on the behalf of the Russian Jews. Trotsky answered him, as he had done on various occasions, that he was a Communist and did not consider himself a Jew. To this Rabbi Maze replied: "Trotsky makes the revolutions, and the Bronsteins pay the bills."
* Humanistic Judaism is a movement within Judaism that emphasizes Jewish culture and history - rather than belief in God - as the sources of Jewish identity. Its rituals and ceremonies do not include prayer or any invocation of a deity. Its philosophical outlook is derived from Humanism or Secular Humanism...Secularism and Nontheism became widespread among Jews only in the 19th century, during the Haskalah (Enlightenment), many of whose leaders rejected all traditional religious practice and belief in favor of reason and the scientific method... Ref. Wiki. Sherwin Wine, Founder and president, Society for Humanistic Judaism, along with Kendyl Gibbons President, Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, signed Humanist Manifesto III.
Here are some off-site links for Jews thinking of conversion to Christianity to find out the truth or those wishing to convert to true Judaism.
There should no confusion: Deists do not accept the authority of the Bible, Torah, or Koran is the "Word of G-d" on faith alone or the authority of their priestly classes. I can/do accept many (while rejecting some) Jewish and Christian moral codes out of reason, not compulsion. Deists (should) reject any form of religious compulsion. Deists do not as a rule accept any holy books or claims of divine revelation unless they pass the test of reason.
Reform Judaism and the Enlightenment
The following comes from the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, (UAHC) at http://rj.org/rj.shtml;
WHAT DO REFORM JEWS BELIEVE? WHAT DO REFORM JEWS DO?
The origins of Reform Judaism lie in the German Enlightenment with both Kant
and Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86, a deist) Quoting Karen Armstrong in A
History of G-d, It is not difficult for Enlightened Jews to accept the religious philosophy
of the German Enlightenment. Judaism had never had the same doctrinal
obsession as Western Christianity.
It should be noted that Deism as defined by Christians is not "G-d created the universe then went away." An important point to be a Deist means we accept basic Enlightenment ideals such as religious freedom, secular government, freedom of conscience, etc. along with reason and belief in one supreme G-d. But Deism predates the 18th century Enlightenment and varied with the local culture. See At the Origins of English Rationalism T.E. Wilder.
Classical Deism believes "G-d made the universe but does not meddle in daily affairs." This runs counter to traditional Judaism (and Christianity) where G-d has an active and on going relationship with mankind. But there is more than this. Again, quoting the UAHC, Judaism were not capable of evolution, of REFORM...accepts and encourages pluralism. Judaism has never demanded uniformity of belief or practice. Yet Christianity is an example of how Judaism "evolved" or became so distorted there is little Judaism even left in it. It doesn't even pass the Noachide Covenant for Gentiles.
Quoting The Vanishing American Jew by Alan Dershowitz, "Orthodox rabbis argued that Judaism was incompatible with .....secular enlightenment." He goes on to say in some respects they are right, "the pull of the Enlightenment tugged many young Jews out of the ghetto into... Reform Judaism, agnosticism, etc. He quotes another rabbi who described Reform Judaism and its institutions as "places of spiritual danger, for they are run in the spirit of freethinking." (p 3)
This rabbi who said this stayed in Poland and died in the Holocaust rather than come to America and seek shelter with freethinkers.
I will state here that Deism isn't Judaism and if one is so secular that I see little difference between the two, are they still Jews? As a traditional Unitarian/Deist I have tried to attend Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations in my area and walked out. While Unitarians started as a more rational Christianity, (monotheism) they, like Reform Judaism, and liberal mainline Protestant churches in the 19th century became so "plural" they lost most of their traditional beliefs. UUs also "accepts and encourages pluralism" to the point G-d no longer exists at all.
The UUs are nice people, but Buddhism, Eastern religion, New Age theology, secular humanism, paganism, and high doses of liberal political correctness dominate have for many replaced Unitarianism. There has also created a high intolerance of traditional religious values and institutions. For example, allowing gays and lesbians as clergy as well as women. Even Conservative Judaism (midway between Reform and Orthodox) is debating this homosexual issue that is also tearing Christian churches apart.
Because of "pluralism" most liberal type religions often fall apart and decline. (Or become new sects or religions.) The UUs are not Unitarians, many Reform don't practice Judaism at all and as I understand it from talking to several, Abraham and Moses are mere traditions, not historical people, and many mainline Christians no longer see Jesus as divine, but a "nice guy." Referring again to Dershowitz/others over half the American Jews don't even practice Judaism to any degree. Some estimates are that by 2076 Jews will be little more than the Amish today, just scattered Orthodox groups. Judaism has dropped 10% since 1990. This is due mainly to intermarriage and low birth rates. Unitarians are nearly gone, Reform Jews and mainline Protestants alike are in decline.
A Jewish visitor to this website had this to say,
Reform Jews, like Jews of the other main branches, believe in the Torah. Services are held that say the same prayers, that observe the same holidays, and hold the same core moral beliefs as other branches. While it's true that reform Judaism is inclusive of a variety of viewpoints in theory, the context paints a more clear picture.
Thank you for clearing that up Debbi. But another Jewish visitor took issue with some of the above. To quote,
But will Jews just assimilate and vanish as some predict? I think and hope not. Another Jewish visitor has this to say,
By 2076, Judaism will not be a few scattered groups. Rather, most U.S. Jews will be Orthodox. There are currently about 700,000 Orthodox Jews in the US (including me). They average about 6 or so children, and have a very low intermarriage rate. Thus, in 3 generations, we will number in the millions, where as Reform Jews, with their very high intermarriage rate and very low number of children, will be on the verge of extinction...
The writer above went from secular to Orthodox. Before we write-off non-Orthodox Jews, let's remember their willingness to readily accept converts and less rigid religious outlook could be their key to survival. But the question of "converts" has opened up, according to the UAHC, both Reform and Conservative Judaism to conflicts with the Orthodox.
More Deism and Judaism
Extracts from JewishEncyclopedia.com shows how easy it is to mix up Unitarians, Jews, and Deists. It should noted that in individuals, he/she could go either way or merge them together.
A system of belief which posits God's existence as the cause of all things, and admits His perfection, but rejects Divine revelation and government, proclaiming the all-sufficiency of natural laws. The Socinians, as opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity, were designated as deists. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries deism became synonymous with "natural religion," and deist with "freethinker."
Deism in England
England and France have been successively the strongholds of deism. Lord Herbert, the "father of deism" in England, assumes certain "innate ideas," which establish five religious truths: (1) that God is; (2) that it is man's duty to worship Him; (3) that worship consists in virtue and piety; (4) that man must repent of sin and abandon his evil ways; (5) that divine retribution either in this or in the next life is certain.
In France, Voltaire, Diderot, and, above all, Rousseau, were exponents of deism, on the whole illustrating the intellectual moralism of the school. In Germany it is the "Aufklärungsphilosophie" that to a certain extent is under the influence of the deistic theses, and as Moses Mendelssohn is one of the prophets of the "Aufklärung," deism may be said through him to have had a part in the shaping of modern Jewish thought.
Reason and common sense are, according to Mendelssohn, identical ("Werke," ii. 265, 283, 315). Religion is, according to him, natural and eminently practical. To "do," not to "believe," is the chief care of the religious man. Natural theology is as accurately certain as mathematics. That God is, is a fact, not a belief. Mendelssohn parts company with deism by modifying the doctrine of divine retribution. According to him, happiness and the doing of right are coincidental.
The Mendelssohnian arguments left their imprint on the Jewish theology of the nineteenth century. His "deistic" moralism on the one hand, and his "national legalism" on the other, have not been without influence on the theories of the Reform rabbis, which differentiated the moral-that is, the universal and eternal-injunctions and principles of the Law from the national and temporal; while the distinction made between moral and ceremonial laws, though recognized by Saadia and others, received a new emphasis through Mendelssohn's views.
The relations of deism to Judaism, however, have not been made the subject of systematic inquiry, though non-Jewish controversial writers have often argued that Judaism, positing a transcendental God, virtually stood for deism. This contention must be allowed if deism connotes anti-Trinitarianism. Judaism has always been rigorously Unitarian. Deism, as the denial of original sin and the soteriology built thereon, also harmonizes with Jewish doctrine.
The question how God's government is compatible with human freedom has kept the Jewish thinkers on the alert; but, whatever their answer, none disputes God's supremacy and government (Saadia, "Emunot we-De'ot," iv.). Ibn Gabirol assumes that God's direction is carried into effect through "mediating forces." Judah ha-Levi's discussion of the names of the Deity (Elohim and Yhwh) proves his antideistic convictions. "Ehyeh asher ehyeh" indicates God's constant presence in Israel and His help ("Cuzari," iv. 1, ii. 7). Maimonides' discussion of Providence ("Moreh," iii. 17) is also antideistic, though largely influenced by the pseudo-Aristotelian doctrine that Providence does not extend to the care of individuals.
Deism posits the moral freedom of man, his predisposition to virtue: so does Judaism (Ber. 33b). "All is in the hands of God save the fear of God" is the Talmudical formula for a doctrine resting on Biblical teachings, and accepted by Jewish theology. Judaism is theistic, not deistic
If using this material on another site, please provide a link back to my site.