How Judaism Gave Western Civilization the Ideas of Human Freedom and the Ordered Universe

Aug. 19 2019

Drawing on the work of the mid-20th-century Christian theologian Claude Tresmontant, Samuel Gregg explains how the ideas of the Hebrew Bible made possible the achievements of European civilization:

The Jews . . . believed that the material world was not evil or beset by demonic contests. [The] universe is presented in the Hebrew Scriptures as ultimately permeated with order—not chaos and incomprehensibility. Much of this universe was thus understandable by the human beings made by God in His image and similarly suffused with His order.

This belief in a good and ordered world challenged the supposition of the surrounding religions that the material world itself is malevolent—a view that was not clearly rebutted by Greek philosophers such as Plato. The Hebrews insisted that this material world was made for man and that its goodness would unfold under his cultivation. This Jewish emphasis on the order built into a created world of which man is the apex had two critical consequences. First, Judaism’s audacious confrontation of idolatry and pagan mythology was a powerful affirmation of man’s rationality. . . . The Jews’ liberation of human reason from mythology and nature-worship amounted to one of humanity’s most powerful “enlightenments.”

The second important consequence of Judaism’s understanding of the created universe was its accent on human freedom. In the Hebrew Scriptures, human mistakes and errors are not caused by capricious Greek and Roman deities manipulating men. Nor did Judaism see human events as determined by fate, which characterized the pagan religions.

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Read more at Acton Institute

More about: Ancient Greece, Judaism, Western civilization

 

What to Expect from the Israeli Election

Sept. 16 2019

Tomorrow Israelis go to the polls for the second election of 2019, in which the two main contenders will be the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the centrist Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Neither party is likely to have an easy path to forming the 61-seat Knesset majority needed to form a government, a reality that has affected both parties’ campaigns. Haviv Rettig Gur explains how the anomalous political situation has led to something very different from the contest between left-wing and right-wing “blocs” of parties predicted by most analysts, and examines the various possible outcomes:

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Liberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics