Thursday, December 28, 2006

the theodicy of the jews

"How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?"
-Woody Allen


It amazes me every time I hear it, so I just had to write about it. That which amazes me are those Jews who lost their faith in God because of the Holocaust during World War II.

At first, it seems reasonable: why believe in a god who won't protect you? What good is a god who allows millions of your race to be killed in a systematic fashion? Why believe in a god who won't stop your people from being killed?

These are questions of theodicy ( thee-ODD-i-see) -- justifying God's goodness in the face of evil.

To some Jews, God's lack of protection of his people during WW2 is proof that he doesn't really exist. Certainly no god would allow that to happen to his people, if he were really almighty, would he?

First let me state that I'm in full agreement with all those who find the Holocaust of World War II to be an act of despicable evil. However, there were a lot of things done to a lot of people during World War II that was despicably evil. Just read a little about what the Japanese did to the Chinese (amongst others) during that same war, or what the Russians did to the Germans, or even what the Russians did to other countries. There's plenty of evil that went around to implicate just about everyone, even America and Britian to a small extent.

The reason I bring up the multitude of atrocities is to demonstrate that their was enough pain and suffering going on in Europe and Asia to make almost everyone lose faith in God; you didn't have to be Jewish to suffer at the hands of the Nazis. And yet there are many more who's faith was ultimately strengthened by the events of World War II, like the famous Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom. The horrible evil of World War 2 was not sufficient to make atheists of everyone, even those who lived through it's horrors.


There are many underlying assumptions being made by those who choose disbelief which need to be clarified before we can proceed. Those who find fault with God for not preventing the Holocaust are making--consciously or unconsciously--one or more of the following assumptions:

1. God must protect his people, no matter what.

2. No Jews were spared from the pain and suffering of the Holocaust.

3. God must overrule the free will of men to choose evil actions.

4. God has never allowed the Jewish people to suffer such humiliations in the past.

5. Nothing good ever came out of the Holocaust that ultimately benefited the Jewish people.

6. The Jewish people did not deserve the persecution that they underwent.

7. The Nazis got away with their evil acts


Let's examine these assumption one by one:

1. God must protect his people no matter what.

You will not find a passage anywhere in the Bible where God gives unconditional protection to any group of people, not even the Jews. Rather, there are numerous conditions that God lays out that are necessary for him to grant you protection. (Read the five books of Moses and the prophets) And even so, that does not mean that you will be spared pain and suffering in this life. The book of Job is a prime example of this, as is the story of Joseph.

2. No Jews were spared from the pain and suffering of the Holocaust.

While millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust, millions more were spared this evil, either because they lived in countries beyond the reach of the Nazis, or they were kept from the Nazis' persecution; often being rescued by Christians of various denominations.

3. God must over-rule the free will of men to choose evil actions.

The Hebrew scriptures clearly state than man has been given the freedom to choose good or evil, Ezekiel 33 states this clearly. God will not over-rule mens' actions, but He will at least be warn men of the consequences. If a person chooses evil, they will ultimately pay for their choice. However, God does not intervene to stop men in their initial pursuit of evil.

4. God has never allowed the Jewish people to suffer such humiliations in the past.

Because of their special relationship with God, the Jews have been under closer divine scrutiny than any other people. While God does not offer all Jews unconditional protection, he does what he can to help those who remain faithful to him despite heavy opposition and persecution. Sadly, these Jews deserving protection are often a minority of the total population. This point is well documented throughout Hebrew scriptures, and is obvious to anyone who studies the prophets and writings beyond the five books of Moses. (Yet the pattern is set even in the Torah...Noah and Lott for instance, and even the Hebrews themselves enslaved in Egypt.)

But because the covenant between God and Israel applies to all Jews who are circumcised, and not just to those who are faithful followers, the negative aspects of the covenant are in effect for those who choose not to follow the terms of the agreement. When this happens---and it's happened several times throughout Jewish history---God takes the offensive against the Jews, and has them suffer humiliating defeats against their enemies. Again, this is extremely well documented in the Hebrew scriptures, as well as secular historical texts. However, these defeats and humiliations are never allowed to go so far as to wipe all Jews off the planet.

5. Nothing good ever came out of the Holocaust that ultimately benefited the Jewish people.

It was a direct result of the Holocaust that the nation of Israel was established in 1947, by the vote of the UN. It is an event unprecedented in history: a nation coming back into existence that was wiped off the map back in the year 70 by the Roman army. While the British were none too helpful in the creation and administration of Israel, at least they made a provision for it's existence. Of course Israel has had it's issues with it's very intolerant neighbors ever since it's independence, at no time have they been able to overcome the Jewish nation, the most powerful country in the entire middle-east.

6. The Jewish people did not deserve the persecution that they underwent.

Well, this is one of those assumptions that cannot logically be made, since obviously someone, somewhere believe that is was deserved! Whether or not God himself felt it was deserved is beyond our knowledge, but given that we have a history of him taking full responsibility for the mass deaths of Jews (as well as other nations) throughout history, it would not be illogical to assume that he, in some cosmic way, can be held responsible for the Holocaust deaths. It is also logical to assume that he somehow discerned that they were, in fact, deserved. What crime or crimes the Jews committed, either individually or corporately that offended God I cannot say, but I do think that Jewish involvement in communism, both in it's creation and in it's spread, might have something to do with it, even though only a small number of Jews may have been directly involved. Certainly this was a very big part of Hitler's rationale in exterminating the Jews, as they were seen by him--and not inappropriately so--in being the instigators in the communist movement, both in Germany and in Russia. It should be remembered that Hitler hated communists even more than he hated the Jews. It is one of the strange paradoxes of history that the country where communism first took root, Russia, was just as anti-semitic, if not more so, than Germany.

And it is a cold fact of history that communism as a political movement has been the most evil force of the 20th century, greatly eclipsing the atrocities of the Nazis by a wide margin.

7. The Nazis got away with their evil acts.

Well, they didn't, not by a long shot. If we can logically and biblically "blame" God for the deaths of the Jews at the hands of the Nazi's, then we can also logically credit God for putting a stop to the Holocaust, and to the Nazis themselves. It is a fact of history that the Nazis obviously failed in their effort to exterminate the Jews, a failure so complete that the Jewish people gained far more from the Holocaust than they lost: they got their old country back. Would the Jews be better off if there were no Israel? There are a few Noam Chomsky type self-hating Jews out there who might want to try to make that argument, but it's obvious that a clear majority of Jews are very, very happy that there is, once again, a Jewish nation on the face of the earth...perhaps the greatest miracle of the 20th century, if not world history.

The connection of the Holocaust to the creation of Israel is a fact of history, a fact so irksome to modern day Jew-haters that they would prefer to deny the existence of the Holocaust in order to deny the right of the nation of Israel to exist.


There may be good reasons for giving up your faith in God, but through rational examination of the evidence, the historical fact of the Holocaust cannot be one of them. If anything, it may paradoxically serve as more evidence for the existence of a God who favors the Jews!

<>< TM

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