From certain Jewish thinkers has come the criticism that Christianity poses an unhealthy dualism between heaven and earth. Christianity, it is said, tends to flee from God’s created reality, and hence from man’s responsibility for the earth, into an unearthly future. Judaism, on the other hand, keeps faith with the earth. The tradition of Israel and its love for the land of God’s gift illustrates Judaism’s concern for this world as God’s world. Here on earth God holds his dialogue with man and here on earth man must seek his divinely intended fulfillment. The difference between Christianity and Judaism is often thus typified by Jewish writers.
One thinks in this context of the modern Jewish philosopher of religion, Martin Buber, as well as of Leo Baeck. Buber speaks of a deep gulf between Judaism and Christianity, a breach that is vividly seen in Christianity’s disdain of creation. He interprets the Christian doctrine of redemption as salvation and escape from this world. He also sees the Christian eschatology as having no place at all for this world. Christianity, Buber claims, is a kind of Platonism, a religion in which God is an Idea without real contact with the world. This eminent Jewish thinker misses in Christianity what he calls the prophetic faith in the eventual sanctification of the earth. Christianity, like much of Eastern Apocalyptic literature—a literature exemplified, says Buber, in the Jewish prophets Ezekiel and Daniel—gives up on the world as on a hopelessly corrupted piece of reality. The Christian apocalyptic mind has no eye for the beauty, the challenge, the future of this earth. Buber is under the impression that Christianity at the core is ascetic, world-estranged, ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more