Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Disturbing New Philosophical Position from Prof. Gerald Schroeder

Very disturbing stuff:

God According to God:
A Physicist Proves We Have Been Wrong About God All Along
a book by Gerald Schroeder

In this groundbreaking exploration, a biblical scholar and 
M.I.T.-trained physicist combines decades of research to change the 
debate between religion and science, presenting a new paradigm of how to 
understand God.

Gerald Schroeder has spent his career revealing the hand of God in the 
intricate discoveries of physics. Now, for the first time, he turns his 
attention to this Force, examining both the Bible and the physical world 
to discover the true nature of God - God according to God.

Schroeder argues that we have ignored those traits of God we find 
unappealing, replacing them with our personal desire for the 
all-knowing, all-loving, neverchanging deity that so many worship today. 
This leads to the age-old problem: How can there be such a God when the 
world is filled with tragedy? Yet Schroeder reveals that this troubling 
juxtaposition is really smoke and mirrors. The God revealed in the Bible 
is 100 percent compatible with the world as we know it today. It is our 
misconception of God that causes the disparity. In fact, the concept of 
God that atheists rail against and that believers defend is inaccurate.

In God According to God, Schroeder presents a compelling case for the 
true God, a dynamic God who is still learning how to relate to creation. 
The key to God's action in the world, says Schroeder, can be found in a 
well-known verse in Exodus that is typically translated "I am that which 
I am." Schroeder's correction that it should be translated "I will be 
that which I will be" reveals a God that changes Its presence to fit the 
ever-changing world.

This opens our eyes to other characteristics of God that we have long 
overlooked despite their being present in some of the most popular 
stories in the Bible - a God who regrets (the flood of Noah), a God who 
wants us to argue with Him (Jacob wrestling with God in the desert), and 
thus a God who changes His mind (Moses convinces God to spare the 
Israelite people), and a God who allowed nature, and the creation 
itself, from the very start, to rebel (Adam's and Eve's betrayal in Eden).

With riveting chapters on the origins of life, a scientist's view of 
creation, and the unique place of our planet in the galaxy, God 
According to God offers a radical paradigm shift that will forever 
change how we understand God.


  1. "Disturbing" is not the word! Is this not outright (dare I say) heretical?

  2. It seems that way. However, not having read the book, perhaps he is only talking "b'toch ha'tzimtzum" not from the point of Hashem's ultimate transcendence.

  3. Yes, if he only meant that G-d changes the way He *reveals* Himself, then maybe he is correct. But if this summary is accurate, then it does sound really problematic.

  4. His position as stated doesn't work if we consider that time is a nivra.

    Anyone who invokes relativity knows that there is no distinct time without space, and no spacetime without mass-energy. Thus, no time until Hashem made the first thing.

    Thus, a physicist would know that HQBH must perforce be lemaalah min hazeman. Regardless of his knowledge of mesorah.

    If he means that HQBH changes the way He reveals Himself, then he is stating the position of the Ramchal. According to the Ramchal, the Ari's Qabbalah is to be understood as a metaphysics of the process of history. Very much about the progress of Hashem's presence.

    But I fear that's not what's going on here. And realize that his friends know him as Yaakov.


  5. Jacob wrestling with God in the desert


  6. "And realize that his friends know him as Yaakov"


  7. Rabbi, I'm a bit surprised that you would attack Dr. Schroeder based on the marketing of a book leaf. This is a 200 pg large print book which you could probably read in one sitting.

    I'm almost finished with it. Yes, there are some novel approaches, but Dr. Schroeder always backs up what he says with the text and/or Rishonim.

    As, with all his books, he has me totally rapt. In our age where Judaism is morphing into this closed, fear-based, shadow of its former self, it's refreshing to see novel thought. But more importantly, Dr. Schroeder once again makes it virtually impossible for one NOT to believe there's a God.

    Clearly the Rabbis at Aish don't think he's an apikores or he wouldn't still be teaching there.

    I would value your critique after you've read the book. This post of yours is something I would expect from some close-minded reactionary blog, not yours.

  8. RML-

    To be melamed zechus on myself :-) that is the description that Dr. Schroeder himself chose to present his own book on his own website.

    So, how does he reconcile the controversial thesis with Hashem's transcendence of time and space?

  9. Point taken.

    Not for a blog comment. You'll have to read the book. :) (No I don't work on commission.)

    Also, Dr. Schroeder is very accessible, I've emailed him a couple of times.

  10. > "Schroeder argues that we have ignored"
    > "It is our
    misconception of God that causes the disparity."
    > "This opens our eyes to other characteristics of God that we have long

    Schroeder never seems to define who this "we" is.

  11. I heard him express these views on the radio when the book first came out. As R E Ginsparg explained to me after asking him, "He's a physicist, not a philosopher."

  12. Menachem Lipkin wrote above, "Dr. Schroeder always backs up what he says with the text and/or Rishonim."

    Does Dr. Schroeder run his ideas such as these past a specific present-day rav he respects, as a reality check? If so, which rav?

  13. I know of a group of people who use selective quoting of chazal and rishonim to make it look like belief in a dead messiah is normative.

    I therefore share Bob Miller's curiosity about whether Schroeder checked this reassembly with anyone. Aggadic sources are open to enough interpretation that people can assemble some pretty strange arguments from accepted statements.

    The notion of a god who is within time and is learning would appear to me to be an extraordinary claim requiring an extraordinary proof.


  14. Unless there is some objective limit to speculation, we can end up in deep water in a hurry.

  15. RYGB asked a while back to explain my comment "And realize that his friends know him as Yaakov". Sorry, I didn't notice until now.

    I meant that Gerald Schroeder is one of us. He has a chezqas kashrus. On the other hand, if he actually believes the position as presented or even that numerous O readers are capable of thinking it would be okay to, it says something about the ubiquity of Orthopraxy.


  16. Speaking of those people who justified belief in a dead messiah, I don't think people realize that Dr. Berger's book "The Rebbe, the Messiah, and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference" is as much about the Orthopraxy and lack of attachment to belief implied by that scandalous O indifference as about Lubavitch beliefs.

    Dr Berger's (no relation) thesis both in this battle and in his long debate with Marc (R' Mendel) Shapiro in which he supports the defining nature of the iqqarei emunah is that we have defined "Orthodoxy" to be about motions without beliefs. We therefore are willing to accept people who deny basic tenets, as long as they perform the right mitzvos maasios.

    Frumkeit really translates to Orthopraxy, not Orthodoxy.

    And without emphasis on belief, we are twice removed from the possibility of a Passionate Judaism.


  17. I believe that charges of heresy or Orthopraxy directed at the author are unwarranted, particularly from those who haven't read the book. Those who view GOD as some distant, omniscient and unfeeling Being need to account for the disparity between their belief and the descriptions in the Torah, Nach, and tefilla - perhaps more than does Dr. Schroeder. Even the idea of omniscience is problematic since there are actions and events in the human and animate world that appear to be inherently unpredictable. As to GOD being outside of time, that is difficult to reconcile with His interaction with time-bound creation. The latter necessarily introduces a dynamic to the Divine existence. You may, if you wish, distinguish between the transcendent aspect of GOD and His immanence. In which case, Schroeder can be said to deal with the latter aspect. Nor is Schroeder unique among Orthodox thinkers who harbor such views, judging from the enthusiastic approbation given the book by a leading rabbinic figure.

    "God According to God is crucially important... In an eminently readable fashion, Schroeder urges us to define God not in Aristotelian or even Maimonidian terms, but rather in Biblical terms, as God defines Himself. I found this book a ringing confirmation of my deepest feelings about the Living God of history.
    - Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat

  18. a dynamic God who is still learning how to relate to creation.

    I do not have a theological problem with a Gersonidean (Ralbag=Gersonides) perspective of a God within time - even though the logic escapes me. It is the quotation with which I opened this comment - from Schroeder himself, evidently - that to the best of my knowledge is unprecedented in Orthodox thought, and a theological problem of significance.

  19. "perspective of a God within time "

    I think I would defintly have a theological problem with this. Since according to general relativity, time and space are not seperate but part of one and the same spacetime, saying God is in time is the same as saying He is in space which is very highly problimatic.

  20. Y Aharon rightly complains: "I believe that charges of heresy or Orthopraxy directed at the author are unwarranted, particularly from those who haven't read the book."

    But I think to a large extent that was actually avoided. "It seems that way" -RYGB. Dixie Yid is dan lekaf zekhus. And then Meishiv says that this is exactly the notion Schroeder promoted on the radio.

    As for myself, I am pretty careful with describing my objections to the "position as stated" and to those who understand Schroeder to be speaking of an evolving god and defend it.

    And much of the conversation is the validity of the idea, not of the status of the person it is attributed to.

    I do, though, firmly agree with our host that just agreeing to have the words on the book flap and on is itself problematic, even if they don't mean what they seem to.

    So, while your criticism is correct, I think it's overstated for this comment trail.


  21. Rabbi Bechhofer,

    "To be melamed zechus on myself :-) that is the description that Dr. Schroeder himself chose to present his own book on his own website."

    I have to agree with the original comments of Menachem Lipkin. Normally your explanation of your position (as articulated above) would be fine for me, but in light of the terrible chillul Hashem that happened in Israel with the school parents, I think that caution needs to be applied. Yes, the book jacket raises contreversory (sp?), but why not just wait until you have read the book before speaking up? Your friends and readers loss nothing in that short delay and if anything they gain a more informed opinion from you.

    Again, let us not rush to judgement, even about something that Dr. Schroeder signed off on, until we have heard or read his entire treatise.

  22. "why not just wait until you have read the book before speaking up?"

    The jury may still be out as to whether the book contains material offensive to Torah Judaism or not. But, in the meantime, isn't there a danger in encouraging Jews to read it?

  23. The blurb itself is problematic. Regardless of whether it leaves the wrong impression about the book. It's hard to see how an observant Jew can see those words and agree to have them on his book and web site.


  24. Other critiques of G. Shroeder's works appear at these two sites, both by Orthodox rabbis:


    And this is coming from a guy (me) who actually thinks that R' Schroeder is onto something with his approach of reconciling the age of the universe.

  25. "I am the Lord, I have not changed" (?)

  26. Anonymous, while the phrase you cited is often used by those who insist that the Deity, inherently, isn't subject to change, it is only half of that verse. The entire verse is translated as, "I, Hashem, have not changed (my design), and you, Israel, have not been destroyed". The evident meaning, then, is that Israel is divinely punished for its failures, but it continues its divine mission which will ultimately succeed.

  27. Other relevant verses are Bamidbar 23:19 :
    לֹא אִישׁ אֵל וִיכַזֵּב וּבֶן אָדָם וְיִתְנֶחָם הַהוּא אָמַר וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה וְדִבֶּר וְלֹא יְקִימֶנָּה

    See also I Shmuel 15.29 ("The Glory of Israel does not deceive or change His mind, for He is not human that He should change his mind."), and Tehillim 89:35 ("I will not violate my covenant, or change what I have uttered." ).

  28. Phil, I certainly don't disagree - nor would Dr. Schroeder, that GOD's word and promises are reliable, as attested by the verses that you cited. The issue, however, is whether there was ever Divine reconsideration. Such reconsideration also has biblical sources as noted in my original comment. Besides the 2 in Genesis, there is the one in Jonah. While the latter may be viewed as the non-fulfillment of a threat based on changing conditions, the contemplated destruction of Adam's progeny wasn't originally communicated. Nor was the subsequent reconsideration to never agains cause such a total destruction. Again, it isn't a question of divine trustworthiness, but of whether reconsideration is even possible. It only takes one example to establish that it is possible. An explicit promise, particularly when reinforced by an oath is a totally different matter. No one imagines that the Deity we worship is a liar.

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. I have not read the book, nor all the comments, but it sounds a tad like an attempt at Process Theology. That being said someone did comment about such an approach merely as a way He Reveals Himself as relating to the universe, than R. Alan Yuter's comments on Process Theology in a review of Tamar Ross' book may apply;

  31. Y. Aharon,
    Thanks for your comment. By offering those verses, I merely was providing sources for further research, not to prove anyone wrong. Speaking about Hashem "regretting," I recall seeing a nice essay on the issue from the Lubavitcher Rebbe in his commentary on that Genesis verse. I'm not a Chabad guy, but I thought the essay was very good. Hopefully, someone here can find it.

  32. R'YGB, I think you'll find Rabbi Norman Lamm's comment, on page 152 of Faith and Doubt, quite relevant. In it, he blasts those who talk about a "developing" or "evolving" God.