Monday, November 22, 2010

Pope Benedict's Equivocal Position on Judaism (Revised)


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Quaeritur: Would you care to possibly comment on this other excerpt about the Jews from the book The Light of the World.

Respondeo: This is a better example than the condom comment of a point in which "[i]t goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong," as the Holy Father himself admits in his book.  The theologically objectionable point is the claim that the traditional Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews was erroneous because he realized the profound unity of the Old and New Testaments:

"... in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense."

The rest seems to amount to an unclear and rather circumlocutious pair of premises that are somehow being offered as support for the above conclusion.  The argument contains little discernible propositional content by way of premises; it rather expresses a theologically misguided desire for ecumenism. (A desire cannot be false in the strict sense, just misguided or disordered.)  But one can perhaps boil all that down to the proposition that there is a natural unity between Judaism and Christianity.  This seems to be the hidden premise of the argument that he uses to get to the conclusion, i.e., the quote above.   Thus, what the Pope offers us is an enthymeme (an implied syllogism), which we can reformulate into an explicit syllogism:

Major Premise: If there is a natural continuity between Judaism and Christianity, then we must not pray for the Jews' conversion in a 'missionary sense' --i.e., that they change from a false religion to the one, true religion.
Minor Premise: There is a natural continuity between Judaism and Christianity.
Conclusion: Therefore, we must not pray for the Jews' conversion in a 'missionary sense' (as the Old Missal does), but for the perfection of their religion (as the New Missal and Pope Benedict's 'proclamation of the Christian faith' does).

For the sake of precision, allow me to express my refutation of his reasoning as a scholastic distinction:


I concede the major.  It is a statement of the self-evident proposition that one cannot convert from religion to religion b if, in the ultimate analysis, a = b.  Conversion (in the 'missionary sense') involves changing religions that are essentially distinct.

I distinguish the minor (i.e., this premise is true in one sense, but false in another).  That there is a natural continuity between pre-Christian Judaism and Christianity, I concede; but that there is a natural continuity between modern Judaism and Christianity, I deny. The Holy Father's reasoning is faulty insofar as it does not take into account this important distinction. Pre-Christian Judaism, i.e., the religion of the Old Testament, is essentially the same religion as Christianity, the religion of the New Testament: Christianity is the perfection of pre-Christian Judaism. Pre-Christian Judaism prefigures Christianity; Christianity perfects Pre-Christian Judaism--every bit as much as the Old Testament prefigures the New, and the New perfects the Old.

But post-Christian Judaism, and I specifically mean the religion of the Jewish race after the destruction of the Temple, is a new religion distinct from the religion of the Old Testament. Judaism, in other words, underwent a sort of substantial change at that point. Not only was it redefined due to the impossibility of observing the Old Law (no Temple, no sacrifice, no Judaism); but also a new, anti-Christian element came into the definition of this new religion. The core of Jewish belief is no longer merely the awaiting of a Messias, but also the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is NOT that Messias. As a consequence, a modern Jew who thinks that Jesus IS the Messias is not considered a Jew by the Jews themselves. This shows that modern, i.e., post-Christian Judaism and Christianity are not continuous.

In short, pre-Christian Judaism is pro-Christianity, whereas modern Judaism is anti-Christian.

I distinguish the conclusion: That therefore, we must not pray for the pre-Christians Jews' conversion, I concede; but that we must not pray for the modern Jews' conversion, I deny.  Given the distinction of the minor that I made above, the conclusion can only be true in the sense that we don't pray for the conversion of pre-Christian Jews.  But they're all dead, so that's obviously not what the Pope means.  In the other sense, the sense in which the Holy Father means it--that modern Jews cannot convert from their religion to Christianity, and the Old Missal is incorrect in praying for that intention--in this sense the conclusion is false.  


The fact that the argument's conclusion is false can be stated positively: modern Judaism is a false religion and modern Jews, therefore, have the obligation to abandon their errors and accept the true religion revealed by God through Jesus Christ and the Church; consequently, the traditional liturgy does right in praying for their conversion: 

Let us pray also for the perfidious Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish perfidy: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.


Caritas non nisi in veritate.



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