Friday, April 13, 2012

Nature Is Automatically Submissive

On page 144 of Natural Law in Judaism, David Novak refers to Sifre Devarim no. 31/end when he makes the statement that, according to Jewish liturgy, "the historical/political order will be ruled by God then as the physical natural/order is ruled by God now". The idea appears to be that the natural order is currently ruled by God, but the historical/political order is not, for there are evil people and nations that have power. But the hope in Jewish liturgy is that God will intervene that God might rule the historical/political order, as God rules the natural order.

In the course of my academic learning, I have heard similar concepts. I remember Jon Levenson saying that Islam believes that nature is automatically submissive to Allah, whereas humans get to choose whether they will submit to Allah or not. At Hebrew Union College, I heard (if my memory is correct) Maimonides characterized as one who believed that the natural order was good, and that it's our responsibility to circumvent the unpleasant (yet necessary) aspects of nature. My professor referred to fault-lines as an example.

Would Christians agree with such concepts? Perhaps they would, on some level. At the same time, many Christians attribute the existence of diseases and natural disasters to the Fall, which means that (in their minds) the current order of nature was not God's original design, and that God's rule over nature (like his rule over history and politics) is incomplete. Would traditional Judaism be on board with this? There are eschatological prophecies in the Bible about an end to disease, such as lameness. At the same time, I can envision elements of traditional Judaism viewing such things as disease and natural disasters as instruments of God----to punish, to chastise, etc.

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