Torah and Truth: Theology in the Obituary Pages

AlbertMohler.com – Torah and Truth: Theology in the Obituary Pages.

This past Tuesday, Dr. Al Mohler posted on his blog this interesting article about the death of an influential Jewish rabbi in New York. Seems there was a bit of theology in the rabbi’s death notice. Mohler’s comments concern how the liberal rabbi – and we as evangelical Christians – view the Bible. Elementary perhaps, but for that very reason, significant. Here is part of what Mohler had to say; read the full article at the link above.

Theological lessons appear in the most unexpected places. The February 12, 2012 edition of The New York Times included an obituary for Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, who died February 8 in Toronto at age 99.

The obituaries in The New York Times are legendary, rivaled only by those in The Times of London. Both papers feature unexpectedly lengthy obituaries devoted to those who made a difference in their times.

Rabbi Plaut was one of those figures. As Margalit Fox of the Times explained, the rabbi was one of the most influential figures in Reform Judaism, North American Judaism’s most liberal major branch.

…Reform Judaism does not require any belief in a personal God, and many adherents are agnostics or atheists in terms of traditional theism.

Rabbi Plaut wrote his commentary on the Torah for this movement and its congregations, and in the introduction to the work, he stated what he believed about the Bible:

“God is not the author of the text, the people are; but God’s voice may be heard through theirs if we listen with open minds.”

With those words, Rabbi Plaut honestly stated what he believed about the Bible, and specifically about the Torah. God is not the author of the text. The text was not divinely revealed to Moses, nor to anyone else. The Torah was the literary achievement of the Jews. God’s voice “may be heard through theirs if we listen with open minds.”

That is an amazing statement, and it may even shock some readers who are unaware of the fact that many people consider the Bible to be nothing more than a human book. In the secular academy and among liberal Bible scholars, the Old Testament is increasingly referred to as an example of “Ancient Near Eastern Literature.”

The rabbi’s statement is not merely indicative of Reform Judaism, but of the belief about the Bible held within liberal Christianity. Rabbi Plaut’s words are hauntingly reminiscent of the arguments offered by Rudolf Bultmann, the most influential liberal New Testament scholar of the twentieth century.

Here we see the great dividing line — the line that divides those who affirm the Bible as the inspired Word of God and those who see the Bible as a human product. Everything flows from where one stands with respect to this line, and no one can avoid taking a stand.

Focus on the Family: What I Think About the Obama Adminstration’s Announcement

Focus on the Family Community: Finding Home: What I Think About the Obama Adminstration’s Announcement.

 

After taking fierce fire from churches and religious organizations (especially Christian) for the “contraceptive” mandate which was recently revealed to be in his controversial healthcare plan, Pres. B.Obama made a supposed “compromise” (“accommodation”) this past weekend (see my post from last Saturday, Feb.11, 2012). Afterward, there was still strong opposition, because rather than change the mandate itself – the real issue! – the president and his team simply changed the way it would be paid for (by the insurance companies, not the religious organization).

On Monday of this week I received the following email letter from the president of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly. It is worth reading. Once again, as our society’s “culture of death” moves forward, combined with government encroachment on the church and Christian, we must not only be alert but also vocal in our opposition. No matter which way this issue goes, there will be increasing persecution of believers in Jesus Christ.

 

What Every Christian Ought to Know About President Obama’s Healthcare Mandate

It was difficult to click on a website, turn on the TV or venture into the social media space over the weekend without encountering news of President Barack Obama’s attempt to blunt criticism that his healthcare plan would force religious groups to violate their deeply held morals and values by paying for contraceptive drugs that could cause abortions.

As you’ve probably read, seen or heard from that coverage, the administration’s self-described “accommodation” has not gone over well with institutions or people of faith. That’s because, for us, this is matter of morals, not money. Principles like how we view human life and whether we are truly free to live and practice our religious convictions speak to the very essence of who we are as people and as a society. They are woven through every aspect of our lives. They are not issues for America; they are the ethos of America.

There are many compelling points to be made that the president’s revision does not adequately address the concerns of Catholic charities and other religious groups—including evangelical organizations like Focus on the Family.

Under the revised mandate, employers who have “a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan” will not fund these services directly. Instead, the insurance plan will cover these services to all female employees. Still, all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.

Also of concern is that private business owners who provide healthcare services for their employers have no exceptions. A Catholic business owner would have to fund contraception; an evangelical business owner would have to fund possible abortion-inducing drugs. To think you’ve placated Christian groups by giving them what they want, while denying it to other people, disregards a core tenet of our faith: the needs of others are always to supersede our own.

Then there’s the issue that the drugs mandated for coverage by the Obama administration go beyond contraception as most Americans understand it. That is, they don’t just prevent the fertilization of a woman’s egg. Drugs like Plan B and Ella, which are mandated for coverage, can cause an early abortion by preventing the embryo from attaching to the uterine lining. This is terminating a human life.

That brings up a point that should be pondered by fair-minded Americans who hold even vastly different views on the sanctity of human life: This mandate elevates contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to the level of preventative healthcare. They are not. Plan B should not be considered equivalent to the polio vaccine. Pregnancy is not a disease. Perhaps the most fundamental flaw in the White House’s “accommodation” reasoning—no matter, frankly, what in the end that accommodation turns out to be—is that religious liberties are not something any president has the legal authority to recognize or deny. As Christians, we believe these rights come from God; but you don’t need to believe in God to recognize such rights are protected for all citizens by the Constitution.

There is a limit to what government can compel us to do—or not do—particularly in matters of faith and conscience. It is in the best interest of all Americans, of every ideological stripe, that this limit, this line, not be crossed.

This is not about politics. It is about more than one government policy. It is about what’s proper—and it is never proper for government to force the people who elected it to violate their consciences.

Yours in Christ,
Jim Daly's signature

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