Ascher’s and Formstecher’s Views on Judaism and Christianity
The characteristic of Judaism and Christianity as revelational religions is attributed to the German writer and translator Saul Ascher. Ascher viewed Judaism and Christianity as religions of revelation. In his opinion, Judaism is a religion that is made up of the belief in a metaphysical God inherent to rational religions, the ethical ideas, and the organization of the religious community. Similar to the terminology proposed by Kant, Ascher also distinguished between the aspects of Judaism described as “regulative,” “essence,” “constitutive,” and the “form.” The regulative aspect of Judaism is connected to the individual, and communal needs of a religious group, the essence of Judaism is the declared beliefs that took the form of fourteen rules, the constitutive aspect is connected with threats posed to Judaism, and the form aspect of the religion is linked to the rules and ordinances of Judaism.
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Ascher had built the notion of Judaism around the concept of revelation, which means disclosing some kind of truth through a connection with a deity. In revelational religions such as Christianity and Islam, the idea that a moral and a metaphysical God exists was intertwined into the history of the development of these religions. Such a connection, or sometimes even called intervention, was a primary force of building a strong foundation for the historical consciousness of the believers (Fackenheim and Jospe 109).
Judaism and Christianity as Spiritual Worship
Solomon Formstecher’s most significant work on the topic of Judaism is called The Religion of Spirit (1841). Formstecher had put forward a view that God can be identified by the affirmation of the spiritual reality that can go beyond nature and transcend it. Furthermore, he had a separation between two dominant expressions related to the Spirit. One such expression is the natural human consciousness that gave a basis to physics while the other is the primary producer of logic, the consciousness of the consciousness itself. Formstecher included Islam and Christianity as the main examples of spiritual religion that is characterized by the deity transcending the nature and a human wanting to be one with God. However, in his opinion, Judaism was the purest and the most accurate example of the spiritual relationship between God and the followers. He also noted that with the dawn of paganism, Judaism had become a universal religion that was able to overcome its nation-state identity and transform itself into a “pure spiritual religion of absolute truth” (Samuelson 151).
Formstecher’s view of Christianity was drastically different than of Judaism. Even though he had characterized both religions as forms of spiritual worship, the prevalent opinion was that Christianity is a combination of some attributes of pagan religion and the true transcendent nature of Judaism. The history of the Christian religion is disturbed by the conflict of these attributes within the Church itself. When discussing Pagan elements of the Christian religion, Formstecher pointed out specific doctrines that had primarily pagan attributes: the relic cult, the elevation of sainthood, praying for those who had passed away, and transubstantiation. Also, Formstecher had a strong view that in the very end, Christianity will abandon its pagan attributes and become identical to Judaism in the pure transcendence of God and nature. A way of abandoning the pagan elements, according to him, was liberal Protestantism. Lastly, it is important to note that Formstecher saw Judaism as an ethical religion due to its intolerance and rejection of paganism and acceptance of other religions like Christianity or Islam.
When drawing parallels between the views of Formstecher and Ascher, the differences are evident. According to Ascher’s works, his idea of Judaism was mostly connected with the rational humanism of Europe in the aspects of morality as well as regulations. He agreed with the fact that the individual should neglect the law when it comes to religion although was open to the discussion since such an action could be potentially undesirable for the community. The only solution that he had suggested lied in Judaism’s redefinition in a manner that would lift an obligation to observe laws from an individual at the same time with staying true to the Jewish community and its religion. Formstecher, on the other hand, saw Judaism as the purest religion in existence that bears no rational thought but a spiritual connection between a person and God. Throughout his career, Formstecher had tried to elevate Judaism above religions like Christianity using applied academic thought.
Thus, even though some may view concepts of revelation and spiritual worship similar, German scholars Ascher and Formstecher managed to distinguish them in a significant way. While Ascher described Christianity and Judaism as religions that are built around getting knowledge from a deity, Formstecher saw these religions are spiritual, those that can transcend nature and get human beings closer to God. Both religions have similar attributes that could make them universal through a purge of pagan ideas in Christianity and restoration of faith doctrines in Judaism.
Fackenheim, Emil, and Raphael Jospe. Jewish Philosophy and the Academy, Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Press, 1996. Print.
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Samuelson, Norbert. An Introduction to Modern Jewish Philosophy, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989. Print.