What Christians Can Learn from Judaism about Confronting the Onrush of Modernity

Examining the philosophical works of the great 20th-century sage Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Catholic thinker Matthew Rose argues that Christians have much to learn from them, especially about how to confront the challenges of modernity. Rose also notes that Soloveitchik’s best-known book, The Lonely Man of Faith—which begins with the distinction between the Adam of Genesis 1 whose task is to “fill the earth and subdue it” and the Adam of Genesis 2 whose task is to “serve and safeguard”—began as a lecture to Catholic seminarians.

Soloveitchik did not accuse modernity of dividing what had once been integrated. He charged it with doing precisely the opposite. He argued, in effect, that modernity’s most powerful ideologies and institutions are trying to unify human nature—not by harmonizing its two discordant aspects, but by abolishing one of them.

In his 1965 lectures at St. John’s Seminary, Soloveitchik spoke out of Jewish loneliness in a Gentile world—a loneliness, he implied, that faithful Christians would soon experience amid the onrushing secular revolution. His reading of Genesis offered subtle advice: relinquish any dreams of building a Christian order that would restore the imagined harmonies of premodern life. Our divided natures, he insisted, and not only our disordered loves, make such a society an illusion. But unlike many Christian thinkers in that disruptive decade, Soloveitchik was no less worried about the demons of secularism, and he warned both Jews and Christians against internalizing the stunted perspective of Adam the First. For the ambition to overcome Adam the Second, and to replace the hope for redemption with the ideal of liberation, masked its own darkness.

Read more at First Things

More about: Christianity, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Secularism

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship