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Is God a Republican?

April 30th, 2008by Haim Watzman · 8 Comments · Judaism and Religion, Politics and Policy

Poor God. You created the world, you are the power and glory, but everyone thinks you’re a Republican.

But the association of the Most High with the most right-wing doesn’t stand up to philosophical scrutiny. Conservatives, after all, love order. They want today to be like yesterday, and tomorrow to be like the day before yesterday.

But then they’ve also got this all-powerful God who, they believe, intervenes in their lives, in politics, and in everything else on a daily, ongoing basis. But wait a minute–if God is constantly intervening in the world, that means the world operates according to God’s will, not according to any established laws. A world ruled by an omnipotent, interventionist God would, on the face of it, be totally unpredictable. Tomorrow would most certainly not be like today.

That’s not a very conservative proposition.

As Philip Ball points out in an excellent essay in the April 17 issue of Nature, “Triumph of the Medieval Mind,” European thinking about the world was revolutionized at the beginning of the twelfth century when lost and ignored classical works of science were reintroduced into Christendom via translations from the Arabic. Islamic scholars such as Averroes, Al-Khwarizmi, and Avicenna had studied and expanded on the work of Aristotle, Pythagoras, and other Greek and Roman philosophers during the second half of the first millennium. During this time, European geopolitics made the life insecure and unpredictable for the continent’s inhabitants, so they found little of interest in the works of ancients who claimed that the world was ruled by natural law.

But the twelfth century’s new generation of Christian thinkers–who came to be called the Scholastics–lived in a more stable climate. Like their Jewish contemporary Maimonides, they conceived that God’s glory was revealed not in his power to arbitrarily do as he wished with the world, but rather in the wisdom through which he created a world that was ruled by natural law. This law could be understood by mortals and used to predict how the events of tomorrow would result from those of today.

Like today’s rationalists, they were also vilified by critics who charged that science explicitly denied God a role in the world. But–and this is to often disregarded by modern-day defenders of science–their concept of natural law emerged from an explicitly theocentric view of the universe.

So is God a Republican? If we accept the view of the Scholastics and Maimonides, God favors order and consistency. But he also in his divine wisdom created a world that we can investigate and understand without reference to revealed truth. Perhaps that means he’s a Democrat.

I guess we’ll have to wait for November and see which way his precinct goes.

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Y. Ben-David // Apr 30, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I completely disagree with your characterization of Conservatives as people who oppose change. The most effective reformers in history were conservatives. The most damage has been done by “revolutionaries”. A conservative is someone who believes that human nature has very strong inertia and so anyone who wants to make reforms has to take this into account. “Revolutionaries” (and by “revolutionary”- I mean those who say “let’s overturn everything and start from scratch-or “let’s change human nature by means of coercion”), on the other hand, make up complex theories that appeal to their egos and then try to force everyone to conform to them, usually leading to chaos.
    As an example, the people that did the most to end slavery, like Wilberforce in Britain, and Abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison in the US were religious men, conservatives, who felt that slavery went against G-d’s law. On the other hand, a “revolutionary” like Lenin left Russia a wasteland after his diseased Communist system collapsed.

  • 2 Jon Kay // May 1, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Yeah, Y.. we know- all good revolutionaries were conservatives, and all bad ones liberals. Thomas Jefferson, for example, was conservative, and Hitler clearly a liberal.

    Or, maybe God’s a centrist ;-).

  • 3 Y. Ben-David // May 1, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I would rate the American Founding Fathers as pretty conservative. Thomas Paine was a real radical and he left in order to participate in the French Revolution which he barely got out of alive. The French Revolution was indeed radical, as they replace churches with “Temples of Reason” and they carried out mass executions. The American Founding Fathers made a point of studying ancient and more recent studies of government including the ancient Greeks, the Bible, and made a point of studying how different forms of government operated. They designed the Constitution in order to prevent the gov’t from becoming a tyranny and also to avoid what they considered to be “mob rule”. That is why they came up with seemingly anti-democratic institutions like the electoral college, a Senate not based on population size but by state, and having the Senate elected not by popular vote but by the state legislatures. Thus, we see that they did not attempt to change human nature as the French and other radicals like Marx have attempted, but to channel it. The big attempt at social engineering that the Americans did try was a massive failure, and that was Prohibition, which was indeed a radical proposal.

    Regarding Hitler, he certainly was no conservative, he was an extreme radical (his movement was callled “National Socialism”) but, tragically, he was able to come to power by way of making a temporary alliance with the most reactionary elements in Germany. Thus, it is important to differentiate between “reactionaries” who are the ones who really don’t want reform or change, and “conservatives” who do support change but along the lines I stated previously.

  • 4 Clif // May 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Your post, Haim, came at an interesting point for me because I’m currently reading The Stillborn God by Mark Lilla that covers (among other things) the differing views of God: as the world itself, as the creator who made the world then left the scene, or as the interventionist who steps in continually in our daily lives. A most interesting read, short but intellectually sweet with particularly illuminating views on Rousseau and Kant as they viewed religion.

  • 5 george a. hilborn // May 2, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I must say Garrison and Wilberforce were conservatives ?Depends what definition you want to use for conservative.I don’t think Garrison or Wilberforce would fit the Rush Limbaugh definition of conservative and conservative principles.Are you talking about their sociatal calls for the abolitition of slavery made by these two men.?William Lloyd Garrison fits the Quaker mold not Edmund Burke’s.I find the general term conservative to be by it’s self meaningless.Many of my friends are ,what they call social liberals and economic conservatives.I consider myself to be a Democrat-Socialist.but, it depends on the issue,

    John Adams,Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were intellectuals,yes were , steeped in the Enlightment and the legal and judicial traditions of Britain and the Greeks and Romans.John Adams, Franklin(a Quaker) and Jefferson were considered radicals and terrorists by George III. Adams called for absolute independence and if not granted armed revolution(doesn’t fit a definition of conservative). We here in the former colonies are enjoying this week the historical series on John Adams on HBO. If you think the founding fathers were conservatives in the 18th Century sense , you live on the planet Zog.

    Thomas Jefferson , the writer of The Declaration Of Independence , used “liberte, equalite, and fraternite, as the underpining for this document and he was asked by Adams to compose it because he was the most articulate with the pen.Both Jefferson and Dr. Franklin were life-long Francophiles and 18th century liberals.

    The Federalist Society and their revisionists are bent on a program to re-write history and the garbage I just read in Ben -David’s episile it is the same we have seen in earnest since Spencer Abraham(Bush’s former energy man who got his butt by Debbie Stabinow) started the ball rolling when he was at Harvard. Every earnest history student should have read the Federalists Papers and appreciated the political slant and bias upon which they are based. Again the argument on who was or was not a great or even a good President John Adams doesn’t get too many votes .He was a brilliant legislator,but highly argumentative and,yes,obnoxious and even paranoid and a Federalist.He pushed through the Alien and Sedition Act because he was suspect of the French and Irish immigrants and their attitude toward individual rights and their Roman Catholic religion.Fortunately it was repealed but forms of it have been revived to keep out the unwanted; the Irish, the orientals,and especially the Jews like Emma Goldman and now The Patriot Act. Oh, yes Nelson Mandela’s name was discovered on the TSA”no fly” list this week.Condi Rubber Stamp says she’s sorry .I agree ,she sure is sorry

    Randy Garrison ,the great,great,great grandson of the Great Liberator, I think still lives here in Birmingham.I’m sure he would be amused that his famous relative was being labeled a conservative.

    Now Mr. Ben- David Iwant you to point to any point or page of the records kept of the Constitutional Convention sessions where the bible was foisted as a source for any of the proposed or actual language of the Constitution. Tell me when or if the name of God or a prayer was ever invoked during an open session. When and by whom ?

    The so- called founding fathers were not a homogenous group but one thing they did have in common is the hatred of THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

  • 6 george a. hilborn // May 2, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I ask forgiveness for getting off the track.I and many others believe God is infinite and undefinable. I see no difference between the God who loves me and wants me to do better than the God of the Israelites. They are the same God.I think this God even loves Republicans or those who call themselves, Republicans or even the godless , male female, straight, gay, all colors and races. I think his or her infiniteness helps explain the universe and the”big bang” theory It is only his children who want to keep him in an orderly fashion.I think what Steve Martin says ” a wild and crazy guy” is more apt.He must have a good sense of humour,I can’t explain any other reason I’m still here at72.
    He may not be a Democrat because I can’t see him stealing defeat from the jaws of victory

  • 7 Jon Kay // May 3, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Yes, of course, Y. What a fun game! Lessee, I’ll call Lenin and Stalin fascists, which they clearly were for being so evil and being in the same time period and region. And Washington and Adams were clearly classical liberals, right?

    Or we could join the annoying deference to facts that bring us the internet, democracy, and toilet paper.

    Classical Greeks and Romans, by the way, had a similar split in their conceptions of the divine. They mostly felt that the Gods and human nature favored order, duty, and heirarchy, but also believed the Gods favored thought and curiosity. There was a huge Athena/Minerva cult all over the NE Mediterranean; she, of course, was the Goddess of Thought. Her favored city, Athens, was probably the most advanced city on Earth for at least two centuries.

  • 8 SS // Feb 23, 2012 at 12:12 am

    God is not a Republican, he is the God of all the world, not just the United States, and there are other parties besides Republicans and Democrats throughout the rest of the world. God loves all his children, even the chronic sinners–he does pray for them that they will repent before time is up.

    I do believe God’s principles are closer to the U.S. Republican party than the U.S. Democrat party at this time. God will always frown upon abortion, gay marriage, and similar issues. But he hates nobody, he prays for the saving of souls during the “wiff of time” we are on Earth.

    As a Republican, I claim his principles. I claim conservatism is the source of order, contrary to the article, because in the words of Albert Einstein, “God does not shoot dice with the universe.” There IS some order and when order breaks down, it is man’s rejection of God and God turning it over to Satan to promote our repentance. But my fellow Republicans and I can NEVER claim God himself as truly ours. We are all inevitably going to sin no matter what we do. As Godly people, we will resist MOST temptation, but never ALL. We ALL need the vehicle of forgiveness granted to us vis a vie the gift of salvation!!!!

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