Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fallacies --

Let’s talk about fallacies, a word that I learned in a logic class that I took a while back. The class was very good, we learned how to think. Fallacies are statements that are logically sound but not necessarily true. For example, I can say that “The 6-Day War is the cause of Palestinian suffering.” If one were to hear this statement and then be shown pictures of places where Palestinians live, they might come to the conclusion that this is true without a doubt. This statement is a good example of a fallacy because it can be shown that Palestinian suffering occurred due to the 6-Day War, i.e., the War occurred and then suffering occurred. However, it can also be shown that Jordan, Egypt, and Syria started the War, and when they did, they did not have the fate of the Palestinians in mind and therefore they are also implicated in the suffering of the Palestinians. In other words, the 6-Day War led to Palestinian suffering, but the Arab attack on Israel led to the 6-Day War. The original statement cannot be said to be false, but it can be said to be omitting an important piece of information, which is just one type of fallacy out of many.

The fallacies that I want to discuss in this post are those that I have noticed in my life pertaining to Christian attitudes towards Judaism. I wouldn’t say much about them if it wasn’t for the fact that many of these attitudes completely contradict what I know to be true about Judaism through my experience living as one. As we can see from the original example, fallacies can be very damaging because they shape perceptions into the desired form, and much of the time, people whose perceptions are already (mis)shaped advance those same fallacies. Many of them are made and advanced not because they are necessarily true, but because many of them, if they were true, would necessitate and justify Christianity, and since Christianity stands on many of the fallacies that it has produced about Judaism, it must treat them as the G-d – given truth.

Before I go on, it must be said that one type of fallacy is stating a statement as if it were purely true and not stopping to consider or attempt to demonstrate if that statement truly is true. For example, I said that “Christianity stands on many of the fallacies that it has produced about Judaism,” which is a fallacy itself. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s not true. It’s a fallacy because I’m assuming that those specific pillars of Christianity are misrepresentative of Judaism, but it might be that some of them are accurate depictions. To show that it’s not a fallacy, I’ll have to show that those statements are not entirely true.

My friend Arielle has a text book for one of her religion classes, in which I found several fallacies about Judaism. The title of the book, authored by Gustavo Gutierrez, is “On Job; G-d – talk and the Suffering of the Innocent.” The introduction, to put it kindly, is chock full of fallacies; none new, but persistent. In the introduction, with the subtitle “Revelation and Theological Method,” Gutierrez writes, “The point I have just made leads me to discuss two connections as I begin these pages on talk about G-d. 1) The first is the relationship between revelation and gratuitousness. Christ reveals that the Father who sent him on a universal mission of G-d is love.” This statement is saying two things. The word “gratuitousness” also means “grace,” which is the primary Divine characteristic that Christianity, accredited to their belief in Jesus’ teachings, attribute to G-d. The first thing, therefore, is that “revelation and gratuitousness” refers to Jesus’ revelation of
G-d’s grace, of course, which he revealed through himself. In a matter of speaking, it was G-d then that revealed grace. This is the way it can be viewed portraying the relationship of revelation and grace within the scope of Christianity.

The relationship that Gutierrez speaks about can also be as having another meaning, and that is that “revelation” refers to G-d’s revelation of His instruction, the Torah, in what Christian’s call “Old Testament,” and “gratuitousness” referring to His grace, takes the place of revelation; and this is the New Testament. The “relationship” that he refers to, and not so very subtly, is of replacement, also known as “supersessionism,” in which one religion replaces another. “The revelation assigns a privileged place to the simple and the despised, as Jesus made clear; ‘I thank thee, Father, L-rd of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will’ (Matt. 11:25-26).” (Gutierrez) The fallacy exists due to the belief that G-d possesses unconditional love for all humanity, which Christianity goes to great lengths to prove by contrasting Judaism’s supposed belief that G-d only loves and cares about the Jews. Therefore, if G-d is a kind and unconditionally loving G-d and chooses all, then Gutierrez’s statement that “The revelation assigns a privileged place to the simple and the despised, as Jesus made clear…” goes against the very nature that Christians try to emphasize about Christianity, the teaching that they attribute to Jesus himself, which was G-d’s “gracious will.”

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