The notion of upgrading is a uniquely human problem. The concept is simple – there are improvements/revisions and thus a change that justifies upgrading and/or replacing. The famous Apple iPhone cycle is a perfect example of it: each year Apple comes out with a “better” handset and people upgrade to the newest device. Even the operating system is upgraded every year.
Apple isn’t alone. Google does it, and so does every other tech company. In fact, it’s not limited to just technology – it is part of every component of our lives. We even have self-improvement habits and life coaching, etc., to make us a better version of ourselves. This is part of our human condition, and thus part of the problem. How so? Since we are human, we apply the idea of upgrades, evolution, etc., to every other component of existence, both physical and incorporeal, finite and not. Therein is a huge theological fallacy…
G-d Is Perfect
A key concept of theology within Judeo-Christian tradition is that G-d is perfect. It is a necessary component of the theology to remain sustainable. If G-d were not perfect, then problems abound. This key doctrinal component is acknowledged. Every Jew and Christian I have spoken to universally agrees that G-d/HaShem is perfect as part of his/her/its nature. If we all agree to this, then why are there theological belief systems within Judaism and Christianity that posit otherwise?
In the Judeo part of the holistic Judeo-Christian faith, there are many Jewish movements. Orthodox. Modern Orthodox. Revisionist. Reconstructionist. Conservative. Reform. The list goes on. This is a huge problem. Why so many movements? For example, Conservative and Reform movements do not keep the mitzvot like Orthodoxy does. If everyone agrees that Orthodox Judaism today is the Pharisaic Judaism of the Second Temple era, and that the observances during Temple times have a Mesora dating back to Sinai, then why do those movements not look like Orthodox Judaism? Times have changed, some say. Yes, that’s true. Times have changed…but HaShem does not. At least that’s the case if we believe HaShem is perfect. So, either HaShem is not perfect or the Jewish movements that don’t resemble biblical Judaism are hypocritical and cannot sustain their own soteriology.
The same struggle is evident within Christianity. Denominations aside (more like clubs that pick and choose), there is a theological concept that is dangerous and problematic: dispensationalism (also known as replacement theology). This is a common contemporary belief that is philosophically not sound. The common application of replacement theology is to put “the church” in where “Israel” is found in promises in Torah – that the church has replaced Israel. If that’s the case, then did G-d make a mistake? Dangerous territory. Dispensationalism teaches that G-d dispenses different, evolving concepts of salvation throughout history. This is a challenge too because it doesn’t add up.
Let’s look at it this way: I, the father of my sons, make an agreement with them. If my sons act honorably and follow my household rules then I have a gift to give them. They struggle with understanding this so I clarify my expectations and rules. In a sense, I create a Torah for them: a book of instructions. So far so good. Now here’s the issue: after they toil for weeks on following the rules I have a few options. In my rulebook I give a way for them to be forgiven for mistakes they make, and atonement of sorts. They need to pay me when they cuss, wash out their mouths when they insult me, and receive a spanking when they steal. Some seasons they do great and have minor mistakes, often enjoying a pleasant relationship with me. Other times…those days aren’t as happy but there’s still atonement.
Now, when it’s time to give them a large gift for their long work and behavior over a period of time, I tell them that all their work no longer matters, nor their atonement, because I changed the rules. This is the issue. In this moment, I am either imperfect and trying to fix the system or I’m outright malicious. I’m probably imperfect. But G-d isn’t, so then G-d would necessarily be malicious, and that doesn’t jive with a stable theology. G-d gave Torah, and Torah gives instructions on how to avoid sin and also how to atone for sin, both with blood offerings and without blood offerings (mincha requires only grain). In fact, the prophets told of how our prayers are an offering and can atone for our mistakes. It’s called I’m sorry. For G-d to change the program and require accepting a form of idolatry that violates a core tenet given in Torah is incompatible with the Bible (Jewish or Christian, take your pick). The ten commandments forbid us from idols and from following other gods. All the other gods required child sacrifices, and G-d indicates His abhorrence to this notion throughout Torah. What is an idol? An idol is a physical representation of the incorporeal nature of HaShem (we’re told not to make graven images of heavens, land, or man for a reason). So, in typical dispensationalism, belief in yeshka as a human sacrifice is required for salvation, even for Jews.
Finding Perfect Consistency
If G-d/HaShem gives a covenant to the Jewish people, His nature has expressed in Torah prohibits a change in terms. How can we find consistency with a Judeo-Christian faith? Actually, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan and Pinchas Stolper solved this problem in the 80s. Within Judaism there are two covenants for mankind: one for the Jewish people and one for the rest of the humanity. The Jewish people have Torah, and the rest of the world has the laws given to Noah. From this we have the concept of the Noachide Laws – seven laws that non-Jews can follow to obtain righteousness alongside a Torah-observant Jew. Why? Torah is reserved for the Jews, a yoke of redemption for the world. That’s what it means to be a nation of prophets and a light to the world. The Laws of Noah provide a “universal morality,” as Chabad would put it. They’re simple to follow:
- Acknowledge there is one G-d
- Don’t curse G-d
- Don’t murder
- Don’t eat from a living animal
- Don’t steal
- Don’t commit sexual perversions
- Establish courts of justice
Do those look familiar? They should. James assigns them to all Christians in the Jerusalem Council as recorded in the Book of Acts.
Two Faiths, One Path
If Christianity does not subscribe to dispensationalism and believe they replace Israel, and instead believe Paul when he says all Jews will be saved in Romans, then Christianity could, after dealing with minor doctrinal issues, believe that the Jews have Judaism and that the Christians have the Noachide path (after all, if Christians believe the Trinity is one and that Jesus is part of that, then technically Christianity is a Noachide faith).
Could it have taken two thousand years of righting the ship that Rome set on the wrong path? Quite possibly. After all, we’re imperfect beings constantly working on self-improvement and upgrades. G-d isn’t, though, so it would make more sense for us to facepalm our own ignorance now than to dig in our trenches…