Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The utility of heresy

Mississippi Fred MacDowell
At the new YCT blog there is a post, by Ben, about R. Nathan Lopes Cardozo's (always loved that name!) talk at Yeshiva Chovavei Torah in which he argued that heretics do a great service to religion in that they force them to develop intellectually. The specific example he gave was Baruch Spinoza and that "many rabbinic works and indeed entire rabbinic careers that were dedicated to the strengthening, defense and exploration of Jewish doctrine due, either directly or indirectly, to the serious questions and doubts raised by people like Spinoza."

Ben wonders "if an increased refinement of Judaism philosophically and intellectually is worth the expense of losing those Jews from the fold of traditional Judaism due to the heretics in the first place. Is heresy truly ever justified? Could there of been ways the Jewish communities in the past could of prevented heresy to develop so as not to need defense after defense, inquiry after inquiry in order to continually make Judaism relevant and respond to these doubts? Or perhaps heresy and doubt are inexplicably linked to the process of religion and it is precisely within those challenges that Judaism finds its greatest moment."

Good questions.

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