Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rabbi Slifkin on Apparent Age 3

Previously we noted that Rabbi Slifkin objected to the Lubavitcher Rebbe(zt"l)'s dismissal of the question why would God create the world with apparent age. He continues by objecting to a hypothetical answer to the question (which is of course fair enough, just because one thinks its a fair question doesn't mean he has to accept any answer given). Although he does not provide any actual references, nor can I think of any off the top of my head, he addresses the hypothesis that apparent age, i.e. fossils etc., constitute a test from God. Rabbi Slifkin counters:
First, although dinosaurs might have de facto become a test of faith for people, there is certainly no innate reason for them to be a test; as we shall see, there are plenty of ways in which the age of the dinosaurs is easily understood in the light of the Torah. (Challenge of Creation, page 159)
This is curious. If he really felt this way one would suspect the book might be called "The Non-Challenge of Creation" or "The Un-Challenge of Creation". My apologies if that sounds too sarcastic, I do not mean to poke fun but instead demonstrate that this is a real challenge. The problem is that Rabbi Slifkin is one of many who simply do not appreciate the philosophical and theological tenuousness of interpretations that negate the plain meaning. It should be the last option, and even then requires explaining why this makes better since than to reject the text outright.

Now, I do not think that apparent age is intended as a "test" per se. At least not as a test independent of the "test" that is the physical world. Yes, Nature points to God, as Rabbi Slifkin points out. But it also conceals Him. This isn't debatable in a theistic context. This is the stuff of free will. God run's the world through the laws of nature, which sources including the Rambam indicate were not entirely set in stone until the completion of creation. At the same time it seems self obvious that the particulars of how God decided to run this world have their own reasons and if the natural order has apparent conflict with the miracle of creation, I'm not so certain we should find this surprising.


in the vanguard said...

No clue what this is about.

Were Adam and Eve created as an adult to test people??

What's wrong with dinosaurs having gone extinct? They may have been so corrupt before the Great Flood that they were forbidden from entering the Ark.

Yirmiahu said...

INV: To get a better idea where I'm comming from on this topic it may be worthwhile to start with http://machzikeihadas.blogspot.com/2008/10/parshas-breishis-in-beginning-brias.html

"Were Adam and Eve created as an adult to test people??" I touched on this issue in the main article, I do not believe that it is necessary to say that the specifics whether from a scientific perspective or from the peshat of the Torah are tests. The whole world WAS created to test us insofar as it is the realm of free choice, that's a given. It seems to me that it was the ratzon of Hashem to create the world miraculously Yesh M'Ayin as He describes in His Torah. It was also His will that the world would generally be run through natural laws that would usually be at odds which such miracles as creation. I have no doubt that there are a variety of reasons that either was His will, some of them we may have access to, others not. That the apparent contradiction would "test" our free will certainly was not incidental, at the same time it wasn't an arbitrary "contradiction" with no purpose other than testing our faith.

"What's wrong with dinosaurs having gone extinct? They may have been so corrupt before the Great Flood that they were forbidden from entering the Ark."

Extinction isn't a problem per se, but saying that dinosours lived within the last 6000 years is, as is saying that they weren't allowed on the Ark when we were told that all animals where.