Christianity: OK for Christians?
Reader: Thank you for a quick response. If you don’t mind I’d like to ask you a few more questions. One other person with whom I discussed this topic, told me that the information about Christians not having share in olam haba is totally incorrect since Christianity is considered permissible for Gentiles (but not for Jews). He used the term schituf when referring to Christianity and claimed non-Jews are not commanded against schituf.
What do you think about this opinion Rabbi?
Mesora: “Shituf” means partner, or in this context, ditheism - more than one god. Judaism follows reality, which dictates that as we trace the steps of creation backwards, we must eventuate at a cause, which preceded all other causes, and was in fact the “First Cause”, i.e., God Himself. Parenthetically, speculation in matters prior to the first acts of creation are prohibited by the Mishna in Chagiga, 11b. Similarly, scientists teach that the laws we use to understand the world cannot be applied to studying anything prior to the Big Bang. Since these laws (physical causes and effects) at that time were not yet established, we are inherently crippled from pondering this subject. This truth that the scientists arrived at through reasoning, complies with the Mishna we received on Sinai.
By definition, there can be only one “First Cause”. Christian ditheism, (i.e., the father, son and holy ghost) is a theory, which goes against reason. The Torah does not say anywhere that Christianity is acceptable for Gentiles. Conversely, the Torah prohibits Jew and Gentile alike in the area of knowing God. It is an open verse seen by anyone with clear vision, (Exod. 20:20) “Do not make with me gods of silver, and gods of gold do not make to yourselves”. We just read this last week. The person you have been talking with is not following reason, and not following the Torah’s own words. God Himself says do not follow ditheism, and this is part of the Noachide laws, which all Gentiles must follow. Again God says, “Hear O Israel, God is your God, God is One”. Gentiles must accept God, and all that the Torah says about Him. He is One.
There are a few essential problems with this person’s statement. First of all, he accepts a ditheism for Christians. This means that God is not independent - He has needs. In truth, God has no needs, as reason dictates, and as Ramban points out on the verse quoted above, “God needs no other”. By claiming a ditheism, a few gods in need of each other, he denies the concept of an all knowing and all-powerful God which Judaism firmly teaches. See our Rosh Hashana prayers. The entire foundation of these prayers is that God is omniscient and omnipotent.
His second mistake is he believes there is more than one reality, as he says, Christianity is fine for Christians. Would he say “gravity works for Blacks, but not for whites?” Certainly the absurdity of the latter applies to the former. Just as there can be only one scientific reality, there can be only one theological reality.
His third mistake is his belief that the fabrication of Christianity at a point in history affects what a follower of this religion must now believe as truth. My response; Objective reality and God’s existence are independent of foolish peoples’ fabrication of man-gods throughout history. Just as there was truth before Christianity, this objectively true system can in no way be corrupted by the fantasies of Jesus’ disciples. Claiming Christianity is acceptable for Christians means to say that after Christianity was developed, all reality in the universe conformed to Christianity’s new tenets. This is absurdity taken to new heights.
Sources addressing the status of ditheism now follow:
Exodus, 23:13: “The names of other gods do not mention, let them not be heard (via your doings)”. The simple meaning of this verse is that no other gods are to be mentioned by us, nor heard from others by any action of our own. Other gods includes distortion of God in any form. Once a person construes God as more than one, he has thereby completely distorted the true concept of God. He is as far from the truth as one who thinks God is physical.
Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dayah, 147, see the T”Z), “It is completely prohibited to strengthen the beliefs of idolaters”. Reason dictates that God desires all mankind to recognize Him. The “Alaynu” prayer with which we conclude our services states clearly, “V’chol b’nei basar yik-ri-uh shimecha”, “all flesh will call your name”. This means that God desires all mankind to recognize His truth. ditheism is false, and therefore against this verse.
This area in the Shulchan Aruch say that one is allowed to say to a gentile during the years of shmita, “Elokim should bless you with good this year.” The Gra states that this term “Elokim” cannot reference the false gods of this gentile. If so, one would be strengthening the beliefs of idolaters, which is prohibited. In fact, the Gra held that when you say this, you must be referring to God Himself, thereby wishing a real blessing for the gentile. Even though we cannot work the field, we can wish the gentile success, as laws of shmita do not prohibit him.
The Pilpula Charifta on Talmud Sanhedrin, Chapter 7 - quoting Maimonides - states, “ditheism is real idolatry”. He further states via a fortiori argument - addressing the accepted law that celebrating multiple deities carries prohibition, “How can their holidays be prohibited, but their beliefs be permitted?” He thereby reasons that celebration of ditheism cannot be worse than the belief itself. Accordingly, the Pilpula Charifta deems ditheism a prohibited belief, otherwise the holidays would not be of prohibited status. And not just for Jews.
Talmud Sanhedrin, 63b, Tosafos “Assur L’Adam”. Here, Tosafos poses an argument: “We do not find it prohibited to cause idolaters to commit ditheism”. If Tosafos held that ditheism is permitted, they (Tosafos were comprised of many sages) should have said so. But they didn’t. Why? Because this Tosafos is not addressing the definition of “ditheism”. It is addressing the act of a Jew causing (“grammah”) a gentile to swear by idolatrous deities. Tosafos says, this far we do not go. That is, to prohibit a Jew from doing and act which might cause a gentile to swear an oath to his god, we do not prohibit actions that far on Jews. Again, this specific Tosafos is not addressing whether ditheism is prohibited, because in reality, it is. Common says tells us that gentiles too must have the correct notion of the true God. Otherwise, their entire existence is a waste, as would be equally so if a Jew had the wrong concept of God.
In summary, ditheism dilutes the pure, accurate truth that God is one. If one believes God to be more than one, even if he says I believe in the God of the Torah and another god, his concept of God is 100% wrong.
Any prayer to such a god would be idolatry.
Reader’s response: I read your article on Christianity. It seems like the most important point is that the Torah does not demand merely that one not be involved in idolatry (which perhaps this concept of shitfus is not technically idolatry??),
Mesora: That I would have to research further, to determine the definition of “idolatry”. There are many permutations of the offense, such as palm readers, necromancers, etc. So what constitutes idolatry must include all the violations, not merely acceptance of dualism, but even perhaps those who read horoscopes. I’m not paskining, but rather suggesting that the umbrella definition of idolatry must include all violations mentioned in the Talmud.
Reader: but that the gentile have the correct notion of Hashem, who is One. Without the correct notion of Hashem, there is nothing. If I act correctly in every area of my life, but deep down I believe that my computer is responsible for the existence of the universe, I am delusional. All of my actions are meaningless, because they are in this framework (that’s assuming my actions can even be correct in this framework, which I doubt).
Mesora: I believe this question was asked to either the Rav or Rav Moshe zt”l: If one keeps all 613 commands, but believes God is a man, what is his fate. The answer was “Tragically, he has no Olam Haba”. So yes, exactly as you put it.
Reader: It is true that in other areas, the Torah does not technically penalize someone who makes a philosophical mistake. (you can fulfill the commandment of tzizis even if you believe that if you wear them they protect you physically from harm, like a shield).
Mesora: I don’t think this is true. Even according to the view that mitzvos don’t require intent in their performance, in my understanding, this would not be considered a valid act of following a command. See the Shulchan Aruch on this very point. The Gilyon M’harsha, Yoreh Daah, 289, page 113 on the bottom, “if one affixes the mezuza for the reason of fulfilling the command, one may consider that as reward for doing so he will be watched by G-d. But, if one affixes the mezuza solely for protective reasons, it in fact has no guidance, and the mezuza will be as knives in his eyes”. This statement “knives in your eyes” would appear to me that one has not fulfilled this command of mezuza. Similarly, all other such erroneous notions should void any attempt at fulfilling any other command. However, Rashi in Devarim states that if one does a mitzvah with no clue as to its purpose, it is worthless. Although a rabbi taught, “this doesn’t mean you are free from the mitzvah”. Based on this, your conclusion is correct, i.e., one still must act out the mitzvah, meaning, it still an acceptable performance. But Rashi would hold it is useless. This must be looked in to further.
Reader: But in terms of the purpose of the entire Torah being to help humanity come close to reality, i.e. the world as it really is (as opposed to how we imagine it), a mistake in the area of the nature of God’s existence undermines everything.
Mesora: Yes, and the reason is that the command of acknowledging correct notions (as far as we can have them) of God is a command which can only be carried out with wisdom. Since specific wisdom is the very element we are required to have for this command’s fulfillment, lack of wisdom (in the form here of ditheism) is inherently antithetical to any possible fulfillment.
Reader: In order to be a Noachide, one must not merely refrain from idolatry, one must accept that the world was created by a being who is One. However, I have heard a few times that Christianity is not idolatry. Do you know of any sources that actually state that, and can you analyze them?
Mesora: I have only heard that it is in fact idolatry.
The person quoted herein created a convenient double standard saying Christianity is ok by negating the concept of tzelem elokim. If each person is created in the image of God, then God’s system of belief is set up specifically and appropriately for all beings, as that is God’s will for mankind. In the case of gentiles, God created the system of Noachide laws which were created for the Gentile so that the correct and absolute understanding of the Creator remains intact - so that no misconception(s) whatsoever will occur in acquiring and maintaining this understanding of God and His laws. Any other explanation that alters this one is false.