Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I have long noticed that there are those who participate in inner-Orthodox discussion who seem downright flippant about the notion of heresy. Define them as you will but it is clear that there are things which are beyond the pale. While some of this can be attributed to orthopraxy, I do not think that is the entirety of the issue.

I do not now recall the exact topic, nor the exact blog, but I remember that while discussing a position which was theologically problematic (or at least challenged) but was in conformance to (or along the lines of) the scientific/academic view, a commenter quipped, "Just tell yourself, 'If its true, then it cannot be heresy.'" This is a very misguided approach, and is another example of being neither emunah peshuta nor rationalism.

The question of whether something is true is related to, but separate from, whether something is heretical. Heresy is a belief which is mutually exclusive with the affirmation of a particular religious faith. Whether or not it is true is irrelevant to the question whether a belief is consistent with a particular religion. Establishing the truth of a "heretical" falsifies the religion for which a belief is heretical.

The Rambam wrote, "If, on the other hand, Aristotle had a proof for his theory, the whole teaching of Scripture would be rejected, and we would be forced to other opinions" page 200. It may be debatable whether a certain position is heresy or not, but the fact that something is true isn't the determinant. And "אם יעלה על הדעת", one where to imagine, that something the Judaism was heresy were true, that would falsify Judaism. The two positions are mutually exclusive.

Conversely, if we have good reason to believe Judaism is true then if it is established that something which seems true is in fact heretical, then perhaps we should be a bit more skeptical than we might initially be inclined to be. If it is heretical then reconciliation is not possible and we must weigh the apparent "truth" against the weight of our reason for accepting Torah. If I did not believe that in each case the scale tips in favor of Torah, I wouldn't be "here".

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