Saturday, May 08, 2004

In the middle of huge term papers on subjects totally new to me (and I already have a Masters Degree!), but I had to post part of this email I received from Adam Kotsko of The Weblog, and then give a brief response:

I just wanted to address one point in your post about seeing God face-to-face. It is true that your professor and fellow students are probably ignorant of Scripture and shot you down hastily. It is also true that the interpreter of Levinas may well be just as ignorant of Scripture. Levinas himself, however, does appear to have more than a passing
familiarity with Scripture, and it is likely that he was working out of the passage where Moses is indeed forbidden to see God face-to-face and can only see God's back as God walks away. These are two conflicting stories, so it is every bit as "scriptural" to say both that God will not allow Moses to see him face-to-face and to say that Moses sees God face-to-face. Thus, your professor and fellow-students overreacted when they said that the existence of the verse you cited would undercut Levinas's philosophical basis for what he said.

I would say that I only have a passing familiarity with Levinas, so I can't speak for certain if Levinas was aware of Exodus 33:11, but I'm sure he was. And I'll leave it better theologians than myslef to harmonize the two verses, though I know its been done.

I was commenting more on the ignorance of my colleagues and their refusal to believe something that might or might not be contradictory evidence. Not only that, they weren't willing to go investigate the source material, and when I forced them to do so, they blew it off with the most idiotic of defenses that "it must be translated incorrectly!" (One reason I included various translations here on my blog. In essence, their ignorance became willful. Most of them still remain ignorant of various biblical allusions I use in class discussion. The only ones they seem to be familiar with are the ones used by Cixous, Derrida, Nietzsche or other atheistic (or agnostic) philosophers and theorists.

This is not to downplay to value of Cixous, Derrida or Nietzsche or other atheistic philosophers and theorists. Despite being religious myself and disagreeing with much of their work, I find some value in them still. But I find the willful ignorance of the Bible shocking. I am not Buddhist or Muslim, but I have an interest in Southeast Asian culture, so I have read many of the religious works in both traditions (as well as some Sikh, Jain and Hindu works, though not as much) in various translations, so that I can understand at least some of the religious allusions and arguments I find in the literature of that culture. I may never fully understand it all, but I refuse to remain ignorant, and when presented with new evidence, I readily investigate it.

But there is far too much willful ignorance of the Bible among many of my colleagues.

Of course, on the other hand, there are those who know it a bit too well and use that knowledge to try and tear it to shreds (metaphorically). In some instances, I ashamedly admit, I prefer the ignorant ones, because at least I can safely ignore their uniformed arguments on why the Bible is crap and a bad little book. But the ones who actually know a lot more than I do - they are few and far between, but they do scare me a bit.

Onward and upward. Finals approach!

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