The will to disbelieve
by Jonathan Rosenblum
August 29, 1997
Michael Drosnin's The Bible Code is the international publishing sensation of the year. According to Drosnin, there is imbedded in the Bible a secret code that allows us to predict future events. His most dramatic claim on this score is that he used the code to predict the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and attempted to warn him.
To shore up his credibility, Drosnin is careful to insist that he remains a confirmed atheist. Lest anyone associate him with those wackos who believe that the Torah is the word of God, he is quick to assure us that he has another explanation for the existence of the codes: Super-intelligent beings from outer space encoded their messages in the Hebrew Bible (which they presumably wrote, as well).
In Drosnin's view, it is just a coincidence that these space beings chose to place their messages in the text that introduced monotheism to the world and which revolves around the special relationship between the diety and the Jewish people.
On its face, of course, Drosnin's explanation is patently ridiculous. No being, regardless of how intelligent, could predict the future one day in advance, much less thousands of years. Chaos theory makes clear that future predictions are inherently impossible. Only a Being with control over nature could foretell natural events, and only one above time could know in advance how human beings will exercise their free will. Sounds a lot like God.
DROSNIN'S EXPLANATION of the codes is just one example of a recurrent phenomenon: Intelligent people clutching at absurdities in order to deny God's existence. As a child, I read a breathless account in Time magazine of the 'discovery,' by a Near Middle Eastern scholar of naturalistic explanations for each of the ten plagues recorded in Exodus and independently confirmed by contemporary Egyptian papyrus scrolls. For his grand finale, he claimed that the splitting of the sea was the result of a massive tidal wave of the coast of Madagascar, or some such place.
It seems to have escaped the learned professor that the occurrence of an unprecedented and never-repeated event, at precisely the moment the Children of Israel arrived at the Reed Sea, with the Egyptians in hot pursuit, was a miracle of consanguinity whatever natural phenomenon were involved. (Not that one shred of proof for any such tidal wave was adduced.)
Such grasping at straws is by no means limited to humbugs and pedants. The greatest mind of our century was led into elementary mathematical errors in order to deny God.
When Albert Einstein first proposed his General Theory of Relativity in 1916, two mathematicians, Willem de Sitter and Alexander Friedmann, working independently, pointed out that the theory could only be correct if the universe was not static, but rather expanding at a rapid rate.
Einstein, however, strongly resisted the Big Bang theory, and labelled it, in a published letter, 'suspicious.' He made clear what aroused his suspicions. To one colleague, he wrote, 'I have not yet fallen into the hands of the priests,' and he professed to be irritated by the idea of an expanding universe, i.e., one that began with a single point. Only when Friedmann pointed out that Einstein's published response to him contained fundamental mathematical errors was Einstein forced to concede.
Even then, he remained highly resistant to the Big Bang theory and refused to acknowledge for a full five years the finding of American astronomer Edwin Hubble that every galaxy within 100 million light years is speeding outward.
THAT RESISTANCE was occasioned by the scientific equivalent of a nightmare. Astrophysicists, concludes Robert Jastrow, former director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Center for Space Studies, were forced to recognize the Big Bang theory as confirmation of a created universe with a definite beginning.
'For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason,' he writes, ' the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.'
Nor is it difficult to locate modern man's resistance to God. As Dostoyevsky's Ivan lamented, 'If God does not exist, everything is permitted.' For the modern temperament the freedom from restraint is positive, not a cause for lament.
Many who are content to while away their time watching Baywatch and the like would be distinctly uncomfortable with the thought that God is in the room watching over their shoulder, and quick to concede that if God created man, He probably had other pursuits in mind for him. Solution: Deny God.
When my younger brother was a freshman at Yale, he took a special seminar in the classics of Western literature. Virtually the entire section on the Bible focused on theories of multiple authorship (Drosnin's Martian band?). My brother challenged the professor to explain why he had not dwelt in a similar fashion on theories of multiple Homers when reading the Iliad.
The answer was simple. Homer is not prescriptive; he makes no concrete demands on the modern reader. The Bible, by contrast, insists that there is a divine standard by which we will all be judged. That was an idea too dangerous for Yale.
Related Topics: Jewish Ethics
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