Yoram Hazony Says God is Imperfect

Yoram Hazony is an Orthodox Jew, the president of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and the author of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.This is a book I have but have not read yet. Steven Pinker recommends it highly. Jerry Coyne just linked to an article in the NY Times where Hazony argues God is an imperfect being, which I quote from below. Until I read his book I can't comment much except to say that he is an Orthodox Jew which represents the ultra conservative branch of Judaism, so he's not an ally unless I misunderstand what he's doing. One thing he's got absolutely right though, is that Yahweh, as depicted in the Hebrew Bible, is most emphatically NOT a perfect being. Here's what he said about God:
Is God perfect? You often hear philosophers describe “theism” as the belief in a perfect being — a being whose attributes are said to include being all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfectly simple, and necessarily existent (among others). And today, something like this view is common among lay people as well.

There are two famous problems with this view of God. The first is that it appears to be impossible to make it coherent. For example, it seems unlikely that God can be both perfectly powerful and perfectly good if the world is filled (as it obviously is) with instances of terrible injustice. Similarly, it’s hard to see how God can wield his infinite power to instigate alteration and change in all things if he is flat-out immutable. And there are more such contradictions where these came from.

The second problem is that while this “theist” view of God is supposed to be a description of the God of the Bible, it’s hard to find any evidence that the prophets and scholars who wrote the Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”) thought of God in this way at all. The God of Hebrew Scripture is not depicted as immutable, but repeatedly changes his mind about things (for example, he regrets having made man). He is not all-knowing, since he’s repeatedly surprised by things (like the Israelites abandoning him for a statue of a cow). He is not perfectly powerful either, in that he famously cannot control Israel and get its people to do what he wants. And so on.

Philosophers have spent many centuries trying to get God’s supposed perfections to fit together in a coherent conception, and then trying to get that to fit with the Bible. By now it’s reasonably clear that this can’t be done. In fact, part of the reason God-bashers like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are so influential (apart from the fact they write so well) is their insistence that the doctrine of God’s perfections makes no sense, and that the idealized “being” it tells us about doesn’t resemble the biblical God at all. Read more.
My problem is where I think he's going with this. He probably believes in progressive revelation and that it still leads to his particular God, you know, the one that justifies imprisoning Palestinians in Gaza (a topic for another time, but hint, it's complex). I think this view of his may actually become the dominant one among believers as they face the onslaught from biblical critics, scientists and atheists. But it's still based on faith not evidence. It's still an attempt to save face, to defend the defensible, to maintain faith despite the overwhelming evidence that faith has no method and produces no knowledge.

If this picture of God does become the dominant one then welcome to Calvinism, or at least, the part where God doesn't have to love everyone, that he can damn people just because of their birth order (think Jacob and Easu), or use because he has decreed them to damnation. I have found Calvinists to be the most obnoxious believers on the planet who hate non-believers with the hatred of God, because, well, God hates non-believers. Theirs is a hate filled God because that's how he's depicted in large swaths on the Bible.

I hate such a God concept. If Hazony successfully argues for this and it gains ascendency then we may have a major problem in the future.

So, while I think he's correct that Yahweh is an imperfect God, I must argue further that such an imperfect God is unworthy of worship and is best explained as nothing more nor less than the musings of ancient superstitious barbaric pre-scientific people who didn't have a clue.

We'll see though.