Sunday, July 27, 2014

Toward an Inclusionist Philosophy of Law

What is Law?

There are two fundamental approaches to answering this question:

Utilitarian (Positivist School):  Law is whatever the lawgiver posits.  However, law ought to bring about the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of people.

Naturalist (Natural Law School):  Law is that which conforms to reason--thus, all Scriptural commands that appear nonsensical may be dismissed.

The former position makes a god of pleasure, the latter position makes a god of reason.

I believe that groups like First Fruits of Zion and the UMJC, in their teachings on how the Law applies to Gentiles, promote a slightly modified version of the Naturalist hermeneutic (i.e. nonsensical commands may be dismissed) with the additional rule that Gentiles should dismiss any "distinctively Jewish commands".  

What Might an Inclusionist Philosophy of Law Look Like?

I would now like to propose a third alternative:  an Inclusionist approach to law.  This position is comprised by the following three elements:

(1) Definition of Law:  a law is not a law unless it conforms to the Divine Will;
(2) Source of Law:  all laws derive from the Divine Will revealed through Scripture;
(3) Applicability of Law (Hermeneutic):  Scriptural precedent dictates that there is "One Law" for all covenantal members regardless of ethnic background.  Whilst the Naturalist hermeneutic rejects all Scriptural laws that appear unreasonable, the Inclusionist accepts all applicable Scriptural laws regardless of apparent reasonableness.


  1. Yes, we have a whole category of torah that is not rooted in reason, but accesses the world beyond reason. In addition, pleasure is not the goal of torah, although it may be the end product, as all her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.

    One caveat is that one torah was for those who dwelt among us; not for those who dwelt elsewhere. Halacha has always been interpreted locally, and Jewish people have never had Popes that ordain commands from a place of unassailable authority.

  2. Princess,

    There are 2 flaws in your assertion:

    (1) Metaphysics: if there is a G-d and His will is Law then how does man know definitively what that Law is unless that Law is revealed? For man has many different ideas of what laws (e.g. moral laws) seem rational. In Japan, abortion is fine; in Ireland, it's considered evil. Thus, there must be a revealed law. And the only revealed law is Scripture. And Scripture doesn't divide laws according to "moral" and "ceremonial". That means that G-d intends His Law for mankind (as David describes it--"Torah ha-Adam"). And the Prophets confirm that ALL the nations will observe this Torah;

    (2) Covenant Precedent: there's no getting around the binding precedent of One Law for all covenant members of Israel. And, via Yeshua, Gentiles are brought into Israel and the New Covenant. Thus, Gentile Believers are bound to the Torah of Israel.

  3. Perhaps I am not being clear. Halacha is the interpretation of torah. While those who have spent their lifetime studying the language, text, history, related texts that add insight, etc., may come to differing conclusions, there is no option to just toss the torah aside and make it up as you go along.

    What I have been observing currently is gentiles are not taking hold of the corners of the garment of an ish Yehudi, and saying, "We will go with you because we know the Holy One is with you." Instead, gentiles pick up their torah in English and interpret it according to Western or Evangelical theology and mindset, or just make it up as they go along, and also choose to learn from those who are equally clueless.

    I am seeing an undercurrent of antisemitism among those who claim to follow torah, with all sorts of excuses for it. Perhaps what I see on social media is not an accurate representation of the real world, as it tends to be the lowest common denominator. The Jewish people have always honored learned teachers and scholars, not that they were/are perfect nor that we follow them slavishly or culticly (although there are fringe groups that do that.) What I see among gentile torah keepers is the evangelical mindset of 1) make it up as you go along and 2) learn from teachers who are entertaining, charismatic, etc., but lack knowledge, wisdom and vetting.

    Do you notice that in the Jewish community you don't see much in the way of argument and apologetic that one should keep torah? The argument is about how to accomplish this. In addition, why would a movement that is filled with chaos, vicious fighting, fraud, craziness and ignorance be attractive to someone looking in from outside? Yes, there are places of exception.

  4. If you examine Hebrew Roots social media, you will see a lot of antisemitism, although they claim they are not antisemitic, they are just anti-rabbinic, anti-Jewish tradition, etc.

    Some of the teaching takes a page from British Israelitism, which is rooted in antisemitic replacement theology.

    Much of this is a result of Greek/Western thinking, and they interpret the writings of the first century talmidim through that mindset. For myself, I am attempting to go back to square one and seeking to discover how the followers of the way understood the writings, jettisoning all preconceptions. There are scholarly Jewish commentaries, such as those by Daniel Boyarin, that attempt to view Yeshua and these writings through the worldview of those times. But scholarly works rarely make it down to the masses, and often when they do, they are simplified to the point of providing an inaccurate picture, or misused by those with an agenda. I think about how when my kids were little and asked a question, I gave them a simple answer, and in my attempt to communicate according to their developmental stage, accuracy was sacrificed.

    What I see is a disdain for rabbinic tradition and arrogance about their own abilities; not a balance. I suspect this, "trying to figure things out for yourself," is rooted in the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, which doesn't exist in the real world anyway.

    This reminds me of the time we had a plumbing problem, and I got an estimate of $150. DH, who knows little about plumbing, thought we could save money and he would do it himself, and we ended up spending $700 to fix the mess he made :)

    I agree it is not Yeshua's will that people fail, but when they choose to follow ear-tickling teachers, they are led astray. In ancient times, torah was learned at the feel of a wise and respected teacher/scholar. Yeshua enjoined his talmidim to teach everything he had taught them, and their disciples passed on the wisdom via relationship, not Greek oratory and discourse. The chain was broken and the original meaning lost, but it is being restored.

    As far as progress, my take is that as persecution of Jewish people worldwide increases and Israel is further targeted with vitriol, there will be those who stand with us and those who fully turn against us, a repeat of what occurred following the death of Paul. You are familiar with the parable of the seed.

    I would be interested to know which torah following Jewish feminists influenced you?

  5. The biggies were: Wendy Shalit (A Return to Modesty), Rebbetzin Heller, Blu Greenberg, and last but not least, Gila Manolson. Manolson's books had a profound influence on my life.

  6. The male Jewish authors were great too but those were mostly scholarly and so they didn't really have the same emotional impact.