Question of God's Perfection
Konrad Adenauer Conference Center, Mishkenot Sha'ananim,
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Philosophers often describe theism as the belief in the existence of a “perfect being” — a being that is said to possess all possible perfections, so that it is all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, absolutely simple, and necessarily existent, among other qualities. However, there are reasons to question whether this conception of God’s nature is appropriate as a basis for Jewish theology, and indeed, for religious belief more generally. This conference seeks to bring together philosophers, theologians, scholars of Bible and scholars of rabbinic literature to take a fresh look at this notion of God as perfect being, asking whether it is consistent with Judaism’s foundational texts, or whether it needs to be revised or replaced by a theology that is better suited to Jewish thought.
What are the sources of the claim that God is “perfect being”? What philosophical purposes have been served by making this claim, and are they still relevant? Does the view of God as perfect being express the theological standpoint of the Jewish Bible? Of the Talmud and Midrash? If not, can it be modified so as to reflect genuine biblical or classical rabbinic views? Or do the Bible and Talmud just offer a very different view of God’s nature? If the latter, is a philosophically coherent account of this alternative biblical or rabbinic theology possible? Do later developments in philosophy, theology and science—whether Jewish, Christian, or other—provide resources for recognizing a distinctive Hebrew Bible or classical rabbinic view of God’s nature? Do such views have any advantages or disadvantages over “perfect being” theology as contributions to a compelling contemporary account of God and his relationship to the world?
December 15, 2015, 11:00am +02:00