Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Letter to My Friend Who is Being Trained by UMJC to be a Rabbi


[DISCLAIMER:  THE FOLLOWING LETTER HAS BEEN EDITED IN ORDER TO BETTER PRESERVE ANONYMITY]

Shalom,

I enjoyed your recent sermon entitled [space].  When you talked about the need for conflict resolution, it made me want to talk to you.  Since I support you and know you to be a good man, when I hear that you are studying at MJTI, the leadership wing of UMJC, it makes me want to tell you what's on my heart.  I have a conflict with the UMJC and I don't want it to be a conflict with you.  I hope you will permit me to share with you what is on my heart.

I feel that the UMJC is teaching something very hurtful:  the teaching that gentiles should not follow the Torah.  So I'd like to talk about three things:  (1) the teaching itself; (2) why the teaching is harmful and; (3) why the passages used to support this position are being misused.  I hope that I can talk about this without causing you offense.  This is truly weighing on my heart and it is my sincere desire to see this conflict resolved.

There are many Rabbis in the UMJC who teach this position.  David Rudolph is one among many.  He puts it this way, "…there are two universal rules in the New Testament that enjoin Jews to remain Jews, and Gentiles to remain Gentiles--one authorized by Paul (1 Cor 7:17-24) and the other by the Jerusalem apostles (Acts 15)," (Rudolph, "Paul's Rule").  And he states what this means for praxis here:  "…Gentiles do not need to take on Torah observance as proselytes…" (Rudolph, "Paul's Rule").

Why is this harmful?  Because Torah is G-d's instructions for righteousness and freedom.  The Torah is meant to be taught to all the nations (Mic 4:2; Zec 2; 8:22-23, etc).  It is a crucial part of the New Covenant to which both Jews and gentiles belong (Jer 31:33, etc), telling all Believers how to become His people, an Am Segula.  So when G-d instills in them a desire to follow Torah but they're taught by the UMJC that Torah is not for them, this plunges them into identity confusion, cognitive dissonance, and sometimes can even lead to them abandoning Messianic Judaism for a non-Messianic form of Judaism in which they will be encouraged to follow Torah provided they reject Yeshua as the Messiah.

The UMJC primarily bases this teaching on three passages:  Acts 15; 1 Cor 7:17-24; and Galatians 5.  I will briefly state the UMJC's case and then respond to each in turn.

ACTS 15

The UMJC states that the issue before the Jerusalem Council was "Should gentiles get circumcised and be required to follow Torah?"  Dan Juster writes that the answer is a resounding "no" and that the council decreed that the gentiles were merely bound to the Noahic Covenant.  Other UMJC writings echo this belief that the council decided against including gentiles in the Sinaitic Covenant and elected instead to bind them to the Noahic Covenant.  Rudolph himself says that the fourfold decree was a proto-rabbinic form of the Noahide Law.

In reality, the issue before the Jerusalem Council was whether gentiles were accepted into the covenant by grace (15:11) and Peter's assertion that "…we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they" is a direct attack on the Pharisaic position stated in 15:1 "And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved."  In short, Peter argued that the gentiles were saved by grace and that the Ruach accepted them into the covenant so that from out of the gentiles G-d had created "a people for His name" (15:14).  In Tenak, this expression refers to the covenantal relationship between HaShem and Israel.  Israel actually took on G-d's name and became Am Yisra-EL.  

The fourfold decree is not ethical in nature but rather refers to "pollutions of idols" and various pagan practices connected with idolatry that must be avoided at all costs since they "pollute."  These gentile "converts" (note the use of epistrepho in vs 3, 19) were expected to renounce idolatry and the rest of normative covenantal Torah lifestyle was well known since it had been taught from ancient times in every city each Shabbat in synagogues (15:21).

1 CORINTHIANS 7:17-24

In this passage, Paul tells Jews and gentiles to remain as they were called.  The UMJC argues that this proves that gentiles should not follow Torah.

However, verse 19 says "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what counts."  The plain reading here is that whether or not one is circumcised, each Believer should follow the Torah of Moses.  The scholar Frank Thielman notes that that expression "commandments of God" occurs in the Septuagint's translation of Ezra 9:4 as a synonym for the law of Moses.  So this verse actually damages the UMJC's argument pretty severely.

GALATIANS 5

Russ Resnik and Dan Juster write, "Galatians 5 warns Gentiles not to receive circumcision or they will be required to keep the whole Torah. The clear implication here is that without circumcision, Gentiles are not required to keep the whole Torah"  (Resnik and Juster, "One Law Movements").

But did Paul really see circumcision as a horrible "yoke of bondage"?  If we look in the context we see that Paul wasn't against proper circumcision at all but rather he was arguing against the false doctrine from Acts 15:1--the teaching that unless one is circumcised one cannot be saved.  We know that Paul is attacking works-based justification and not circumcision itself because Paul says "You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (5:4).  

CONCLUSION

Thank you for taking the time to hear what was on my heart.  I hope that even if you choose to disagree with my position (which is fine by the way) that we can respect each other.  However, my fervent hope is that you will reevaluate the UMJC's position since I've demonstrated how it is unstable.  And if you ever want to talk more about this then I would take that as a sign that you also desire to resolve any doctrinal conflicts that have arisen between us and work towards mutual respect.  

Shalom in Moshiach,

Peter

13 comments:

  1. Peter, the theology of One-Law you espouse is supported neither in the Torah, nor by the Jewish sages, nor by the apostles, nor by Judaism today, nor by Messianic Judaism, nor by Christianity. It's a tortured theology, born out of age-old Supersessionism that imagined Christians as the New Jews/New Israel. One Law theology can't stand an ongoing Jewish peculiarity. Variations of it are practiced today by groups such as Seventh Day Adventists and World Wide Churches of G-d. This theology requires one to chuck out or reformulate huge tracts of text in order to support itself. It has few if any reputable scholars or peer-reviewed academic texts to defend its views in the market of ideas.

    It's anti-Christianity, which it views as pagan and lawless (but ironically, apart from One-Law beliefs, differs little from mainstream American Evangelicalism). It's anti-Judaism, since Judaism contradicts One-Law theology and fights against attempt to erase Jewish distinction (but it doesn't shy away from misusing Judaism as it sees fit). It's anti-Messianic Judaism, since Messianic Judaism has long rejected OL Theology as destructive to the movement. Because if that the OL movement has been perpetually angry with Messianic Jews.

    It's a movement that from the onset was based on jealousy of Israel as a chosen nation to whom belong the rights to interpret the Torah.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gene,

    I am about had enough of you twisting the teachings of OL to support your agenda. You want to be credible? Then support your claims with Scriptures rather than your private inventions...

    FYI, OL teaches that our identity is IN MESSIAH, not in Judaism or Gentilism. Can you show where Paul say even one time "in Judaism?" I can show you many places where he said "In Messiah." So put up or shut up.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Messiah is a Jewish concept rooted in Judaism. To violently rip out of its context by making Yeshua a generic "Messiah" devoid of the Judaism he upheld and by making his Jewishness (and that of his Jewish followers) a mere ethnic construct, you do no better than what Christianity has done for the last two thousands years. Many Christians, whoever, are waking up to that fact, just as you are falling asleep.

      Delete
  3. Great article Peter, I agree, I hope he has some understanding of this... You can also link him to Tim Hegg's writings, Tim Hegg does an excellent job of exposing these false theologies held by groups like UMJC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will send him the link immediately. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Delete
  4. Well said Peter!

    One you read some of the convenient and anachronistic teachings of some of the leaders of UMJC and FFOZ, it makes you wonder.

    Although I do not always agree with Michael Brown, when I read Kesher, I have to. In an attempt to frame their brand of Messianic Judaism as the only "authentic" one, they have practiced a diplomacy like the US State Department: kiss your enemies and criticize your friends.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "In an attempt to frame their brand of Messianic Judaism as the only "authentic" one, they have practiced a diplomacy like the US State Department: kiss your enemies and criticize your friends."

      Rick, what are you talking about? Who are the enemies of the Messianic Jews that we are suppose to see and treat as enemies? Our own Jewish people? What "friends" are we criticizing? You?

      As far as Michael Brown goes, I doubt he has anything praiseworthy to say about One-Law/Two-House groups.

      Delete
    2. No Gene, I am not a friend of BE. I was talking about an enemy of BE though - traditional Christianity. They truly ARE supercessionist - nothing imaginary at all there...

      Although Michael Brown may not appreciate my Torah lifestyle, I greatly appreciate him even though I may not always agree with his theology.

      Also, Michael Brown does not call folks like me "supercessionist" nor does he teach a form of post-modern Christianity being passed as "orthodox", and pretend that he is the only valid form of Judaism.

      Even if I disagree with him, he is far more honorable and transparent.

      Delete
    3. Rick,

      Agreed. Michael Brown has conducted himself honorably. I'm also a big fan of his.

      Delete
  5. "I feel that the UMJC is teaching something very hurtful: the teaching that gentiles should not follow the Torah."

    Peter, why would you tell your friend something that wasn't true? There's a world of difference between being lawless / not following Torah (period) and not being obligated to certain aspects of it or in the same way. A classic straw man attack... Hopefully, your friend sees it for what it is and takes you to task.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gene,

      A straw man is when one purposefully mischaracterizes the opponent's position in order to attack it. So for you to prove your assertion that I've mischaracterized the UMJC, you would need to demonstrate that their position is different from what I've quoted above. You've offered no such evidence. You better go ahead and provide some so that people don't think you're making desperate rhetorical ploys out of sheer frustration for having no adequate rebuttal to the substance of my argument. : )

      Shalom,

      Peter

      Delete
  6. Peter,

    But this is Gene's MO. Look how he keeps mischaracterizing the teachings of OL...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! Good point, Dan. (by the way, I gave you credit for the Shaye Cohen resource on the my latest post. Thanks, brother)

      Delete