But Congress seems to be in danger no less from bad theology as bad money. Yesterday she referred me to this incredible video of Rep. John Shimkus, who represents a huge chunk of southern Illinois. Shimkus believes that, because God promised Noah that he would not destroy the world again, we don’t need to do anything about global warming.
Note that Shimkus segues without blinking from God’s promise that He will not destroy the world into the odd idea that therefore mankind is incapable of destroying the world on its own. That’s sloppy theology.
Maimonides would not have made such a ridiculous mistake had he been elected to Congress. He adduced the Talmudic principle that ha-olam ke-minhago noheg—meaning that the universe functions in accordance with the laws of nature. Even when the Messiah comes, he argued, we will see no supernatural events or miracles that violate the natural order. (One reason Maimonides and other theologians have held this position is that if the natural order must be violated for God to carry out his will, then the world is an imperfect creation—implying that God made mistakes that He needs to correct.)
So God’s promise to Noah is not that he’s made it impossible for Noah’s descendants to destroy the world. God’s message to Noah is that it’s entirely up to humankind to maintain the world. It would be apt to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin today: “A world—if you can keep it.”