Can God forgive our trespasses?
- 214 Downloads
Believers regularly refer to God as “forgiving and merciful” when praying for divine forgiveness. If one is committed to divine immutability and impassability, as Maimonides is, one must deny that God is capable, in principle, of acting in a forgiving manner. If one rejects divine impassability, maintaining that God has a psychology, as Muffs does, one must reckon with biblical depictions of divine vengeance and rage. Such depictions suggest that while being capable, in principle, of acting in a forgiving way, God has a difficulty to manage God’s anger and do so in practice. Employing a Wittgensteinian perspective, I argue that utterances, e.g., “God merciful and gracious, slow to anger. . . forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin”, need not be understood as involving mistaken or confused descriptions of God’s nature and manner of acting. Rather, they can be understood as speech-acts of various types and functions: mystical, theurgic and others, that purport to bring about or transform various states of affairs in this world and/or beyond it. As such, they can function as non-semantic instruments that purport to elevate the believer to the “upper worlds”, or as anger-management devices that purport to help God implement His second order desire to act in a forgiving manner, despite His difficulty to do so.
KeywordsForgiveness Resentment Prayer Maimonides Muffs Wittgenstein
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Benor E. (1995) Worship of the heart: A study in Maimonides’ philosophy of religion. State University of New York Press, Albany, NYGoogle Scholar
- Blumenthal D. R. (2006) Philosophic mysticism: Studies in rational religion. Bar Ilan University Press, Ramat GanGoogle Scholar
- Butler, J. (1896). In W. E. Gladstone (Ed.), The works of Joseph Butler. London: Clarendon Press. (Vol. 2, Sermons 8–9). http://anglicanhistory.org/butler/rolls. Accessed 21 July 2010.
- Fox M. (1990) Interpreting Maimonides. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- Govier T. (2002) Forgiveness and revenge. Routledge, London and New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Kierkegaard, S. (1998). Works of love. (H. V. Hong & E. H. Hong, Edited and Trans.) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Lorberbaum, M. (2011). Dazzled by beauty: Theology as poetics in Hispanic Jewish culture. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
- Maimonides, M. (1963). The guide of the perplexed (Shlomo Pines, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Muffs Y. (2005) The personhood of god: Biblical theology, human faith and the divine image. Jewish Lights Publishing, WoodstockGoogle Scholar
- Murphy J. (2003) Getting even: Forgiveness and its limits. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Phillips D. Z. (1965) The concept of prayer. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Roberts R. C. (1995) Forgiveness. American Philosophical Quarterly 32/4: 289–306Google Scholar
- Rosenberg, S. (1996). Prayer and Jewish thought: Approaches and problems (a survey). In G. H. Cohn & H. Fisch (Eds.), Prayer in Judaism: Continuity and change. New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.Google Scholar
- Verbin N. (2010) Forgiveness and hatred. Ethical Perspectives 17/4: 603–625Google Scholar
- Verbin, N. (2011). Wittgenstein and Maimonides on god and the limits of language. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3/2.Google Scholar
- Weil S. (1987) Gravity and grace. Ark Paperbacks, London and New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Winch P. (1987) Meaning and religious language, trying to make sense. Basil Blackwell, Oxford and New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Wittgenstein, L. (1973). Philosophical investigations (3rd ed.). (G. E. M. Anscombe, Trans.). New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc.Google Scholar
- Wittgenstein, L. (1984). In G. H. von Wright in collaboration with Heikki Nyman (Eds.), Culture and value. (Peter Winch, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar