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David Novak, who was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary and received his Ph.D. in philosophy at Georgetown University, holds the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. His Natural Law in Judaism will appear later this year from Cambridge University Press.

 

Abstract of paper given at Judaism and Ecology conference:
The Doctrine of Creation and the Idea of Nature

This paper deals with the relation between the Hebraic doctrine of creation and the Hellenic idea of nature. It argues that they are compatible if the idea of nature is taken as the immanent order of God's creation of the world rather than as a transcendent order including even God. The acceptance and understanding of that created order is the basis for natural law as a theological-moral doctrine, i.e., God's most general commands are originally presented through the claims of human political nature which human persons and communities make on each other. This nature, normatively conceived, forms the necessary background for God's specific revelation to Israel to occur in the world, i.e., what makes it morally possible for humans. Revelation is more than a natural occurrence, but it does not obliterate the very nature it presupposes. This nature within creation is known by a philosophical constitution of universal nature and by comparative study of the concurrence of general norms from a variety of cultures.

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