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Difference between Jewish and Christian Theology

by Mark S. Railey
Aug. 21, 2021

One big difference between Jewish and Christian Theology is the Jewish commitment to Panentheism. (Note: There is a Christian Panentheism which is an attempt to legitimize the easier parts of panentheism and, not all Jewish traditions embrace this view of G-d; Panentheism may be incorporated from nature religions or complex forms of polytheism).


Panentheism is the belief that we are co-creators of all things with G-d. Hashem is profoundly present (immanent) in all creation. From the Jewish perspective, it is like the Tikkun Olam view that we redeem the earth and all creation by bringing G-d (or Heaven) to earth, by taking the profane or secular and redeeming it by blending the sacred into it. We ask Hashem to forgive and since we are co-creators, He is obliged to integrate with the creation and sanctify it.


Here is the problem. Gen. 1 says that in the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth - out of nothing (ex nihilo). Thus G-d was outside or before the creation. G-d is transcendent. When He judges and destroys creation, He is not judging and destroying himself. At this point, Christians must ask, if Jesus is G-d then does that mean he judged and destroyed himself? Of course, upon reflection, the Christian would say "That is the point! G-d cannot die (or rather, remain in a death stage) thus the resurrection." BTW, most rabbis do not have a problem with the resurrection. But Christian, note that if a person experiences resurrection this does not mean the resurrected one was divine - remember that all will be resurrected - some to eternal life and some to eternal damnation. This does not make everyone divine. If you want to claim Jesus is God, you have to use something other than the resurrection as evidence.


Did the text in Gen. 1:1 say "In the beginning, G-d (and we) created the heavens and the earth"? No?


So we turn to a second problem: Does G-d inhabit that which should be judged and destroyed such as an evil person, the demonic, or other created beings? The Christian might argues "G-d could turn bad to good and everything G-d does is good, so if G-d were to do this, it would be good by definition. So, do we see G-d transforming hearts?"

Okay, so Christian, you expect to see Hitler, Stalin, all rapists/mass murders, and abortionists sitting with HaSatan in Heaven? Maybe chatting with Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed, and Idi Amin?


You see the problem. If there is ultimately no evil, nothing ultimately (eternally) wrong with evil, then how do we make any lasting claims about good and evil, about ethical or moral paths? Panentheism teaches that G-d is a part of the evil in creation.


While there will be a new heaven and new earth because Hashem will allow the old to pass away, it is not because G-d needs a bath.


Only the righteous will dwell in G-d's presence. The rest won't be there. They may dwell elsewhere, but they will not endure in G-d's presence.


The fact is everyone sins and so everyone will have to be purged in some way. Remember what Isaiah said when he found himself in G-d's presence "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips." Perhaps Isaiah died and this was his judgment; but, the text does not say he died. So he is alive and being purged. Most agree that the purging we require happens in this life and not in the next (Although, I recognize that some people believe in some version of purgatory). I can hear Christian saying "But Jesus took our purging for us on the cross!" What? Doesn't G-d discipline the ones he loves?


Essentially, what I'm saying is panentheism is a problem with Torah-based Judaism or Christianity. Christians and Jews have some work to do on our theology.


What is your view of G-d's role in creation? If we are co-creators, describe what that would mean if G-d is transcendent? If we reject panentheism, how would you say that G-d is with us?

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