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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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