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Thought for the Day: The Search for Truth Must be Accompanied by Clear and Verifiable Evidence

More on the Kuzari's rejection of Christianity and Islam.

Synopsis
To the Christian Scholar: The flow of your argument is not logical and I didn't grow up with it.
[...]

To the Islam Scholar: The record of the miraculous events surrounding Mohamed is in Arabic, and I don't read Arabic.
[...]

The Talmid Chocham: We believe in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Who took the Isralite nation out of Egypt, sustained them in the wilderness, bequeathed to them the Land of Canaan. And that was after He brought them thought the sea and across the Jordan River with outstanding wonders. He sent Moses with His Torah, and after that many thousands of prophets who all exhorted us regarding that Torah and who promised reward to those who keep the Torah and punishment for those who rebelled against it. We believe in all that is written in the Torah according to the received interpretation.

The Kuzari: Shouldn't you have said you believe in the Creator the of the world and His running of the world, like all other religions?

The Talmid Chocham: That would be an exercise in philosophy; an intellectual exercise of logical proofs and reasonable assertions. It could not, however, lead to a true perspective on how to live one's life.

Commentary
Until I read what the Talmid Chocham had to say to the Kuzari, I was more than slightly puzzled about how the Kuzari rejected Christianity and Islam. If the ideas of Christianity are illogical, what does it matter that he didn't grow up with them. If the miracles of Islam are not proof, then what does it matter that they are recorded in Arabic? But these are the words of a Rishon, and perhaps even more important, these words have been studied by countless talmidei chochamim over the centuries and none sought to amend these arguments.

In general, when one is confronted with with illogical conclusions there are two way to deal with the situation. One is to reject the argument. In this case, that option is not tenable for the reasons stated above. The other approach is to re-examine the assumptions that let to the problem. We have up till now assumed that that the Kuzari is saying that the Christianity is in and of itself illogical. Let us rethink that. The Kuzari, I would like to propose, does not think that Christianity is in and of itself illogical. (There are, after all, many very intelligent Christians.) Rather, he is saying that to appreciate the Christian world view requires an unreasonable level of trust until one can see its logic. This is not uncommon when changing perspective. In modern times we have gone from a world view that included a static, infinitely old universe to the Big Bang. We have gone from the precise and rock steady view of Newtonian mechanics to the more queasy reality of quantum mechanics and its uncertainty principle.

What, then, is the Kuzari's reason for rejecting Christianity? Not that the world view is illogical, but that Christianity offers no proof other than a promise that all will be clear once one fully appreciates all that Christianity has to offer. The Kuzari rejects that because he has already been through trying to find the the appropriate way to live his life and serve his Creator. After all he tried, the Kuzari was finally told, "G-d appreciates your intent, but not your actions." That being the case, it must be that the true service to G-d must be presented with evidence that is logical to anyone. This is a much stronger case against Christianity than any consistency proof or historical proof. The case against Christianity is simply that any complete world view cannot be appreciated without a lifetime of work. If the true service to G-d could only be discovered after one's life is complete, only one born into that religion could ever know what to do. Anyone else would be in a complete quandry... faced with many choices of what to choose; all with the promise, "it will eventually make sense". G-d could not present Himself that way and have any complaint against someone who choose wrong.

With this, the argument against Islam is also clear. Of course the Kuzari expects G-d to introduce Himself with miraculous events. But those events must be accessible to all, not only those who speak Arabic. The miraculous events that are public knowledge are those that pertain to Abraham and also to the Exodus from Egypt. These events were open and public; they were known to all. The events of Muhammad, on the other hand, are private and recorded only in the Koran in Arabic. Again, not a proof that can be verified; and therefore not a possible religion.

After dedicating his life to finding Truth, the Kuzari king has come to the conclusion that the true service to G-d must be accompanied by clear and verifiable evidence. Open, public miracles certainly satisfies that condition. Unverifiable, private miracles or promises of eventual enlightenment do not.

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