Friday, November 16, 2012
Introduction Section for Orthodox Messianic Judaism (book and blog)
Just about any Christian who has been to church has heard that the Church is the New Israel, that Jesus abolished the Law, etc. This type of teaching says that Jesus came to abolish Judaism and set up a completely different religious culture--that of modern day Christianity. This means that when Christians try to convert Jews, they tell them to stop keeping the Jewish Sabbath and start keeping the Christian Sabbath, start eating Biblically prohibited meats. In short, the Christian message to Jews is anti-Judaic: "Stop practicing Judaism!"
And just about any Messianic Jew who has been to Messianic synagogue has heard that Gentiles are excluded from the nation of Israel and precluded from keeping the commandments of the nation of Israel. In fact, many Messianic synagogues who promote exclusionism teach that gentiles who keep the commandments are actually hurting Jews. Such "Torah-theft" is said to prevent Israel from achieving its mission to be the only nation in the world that keeps the commandments of the covenants.
But what if the New Testament promoted a religion that was both pro-Judaic and covenantally inclusive of Gentiles? What if Israel is meant to include both Jews and Gentiles?
The Problem with Christianity: Anti-Judaism
There are roughly four manifestations of Christian anti-Judaism:
(1) Supersessionism: the belief that Jews have become irrelevant because the Church has superseded Old Israel by becoming the New Israel;
(2) Antinomianism: the belief that Jesus sought to wipe out Judaism with all of its observances of Biblical commandments and set up in its place a new religion with different holy days and customs (e.g. Easter, Christmas, Sunday Sabbath, permissive food policies);
(3) Syncretism: the belief that customs originating in paganism can be converted for use in Christian worship (e.g. Sunday, Easter, Christmas, etc);
(4) Triumphalism: the belief that Christianity is the true form of religion which everyone must embrace. Therefore, Jews must reject all Jewish practices from the Bible and replace them with the practices of cultural Christianity.
What's the harm in having such anti-Judaic views? The costs of Anti-Judaism may be laid out as follows:
(1) Loss of intimacy. Antinomianism hurts one's relationship with G-d. The commandments are meant to orient one to G-d and to lead to a deepening intimacy with Him. Thus, to ignore His instructions means to hurt one's relationship with Him;
(2) Damage to relationships. Antinomianism also hurt relationships between family members and members of the community. For example, the Biblical practice of the Sabbath was intended primarily as a means of deepening familial relationships. In Christianity, the family has taken a hit. There are many failed marriages and many broken families. Rejecting G-d's instructions for relationships as set forth in the commandments means hurting those relationships and not experiencing the full richness that G-d intended. Antinomianism also creates a relational rift between Gentiles and Jews;
(3) Distortion of the Gospel. All of the aspects of Anti-Judaism distort a pro-Judaic gospel into an anti-Judaic gospel which Torah prohibits Jews from accepting. Jews can't accept a gospel that (a) eliminates Jews as a Chosen People; (b) teaches that the New Covenant nullifies the commandments; (c) mandates a culture permeated with atavistic pagan practices; (d) and leads to loss of Jewish identity (i.e. replacing Jewish religious culture with the trappings of cultural Christianity.
So how can Gentiles help rather than harm?
The solution to Christian anti-Judaism is Messianic Judaism. Gentiles need to identify as Messianics practicing Messianic Judaism. The pro-Judaic influence of an inclusive Messianic Judaism reverses the harmful effects of Christian anti-Judaism. It can do this in the following ways:
(1) Intimacy: Following the Biblical commandments helps Gentiles understand G-d better and experience intimacy with Him;
(2) Inclusionism: By understanding how the Gentiles are included with Jews in the national covenants of Israel, Gentiles will be better able to relate to one another as well as their Jewish brethren;
(3) Discipleship: The original Gospel wasn't just about spreading a message. It involved making disciples. A pro-Judaic Gospel enables Jewish discipleship. By understanding that the Gospel is truly pro-Judaic, Gentiles can finally transmit a Gospel that (a) celebrates Jews as a Chosen People; (b) encourages the zealous observance of the Law; (c) replaces cultural Christianity with the culture of New Covenant Judaism.
The Problem with Exclusionist Messianic Judaism
The loudest voices (but by no means the majority) in Messianic Judaism are those of the Exclusionist camp who say that the New Covenant excludes Gentiles from the nation of Israel. They teach that the New Covenant is really a multi-national covenant that separates Jews and Gentiles into their nations of origin. On the basis of covenantal exclusion, this camp teaches that Gentiles who keep the distinctive Jewish commandments are committing "Torah-theft" which robs the Jewish people of their identity and damages the uniqueness of the Jewish people.
What's the harm in excluding Gentiles from the covenants?
Exclusionism harms Gentiles in at least three ways:
(1) Loss of intimacy. When Exclusionists prohibit Gentiles from keeping the commandments, they prevent Gentiles from experiencing the intimacy of the commandments;
(2) Damaged relationships. To be excluded from the lifestyle of the commandments is to be excluded from the Jewish community. This second-class citizenship leads to feelings of inferiority amongst Gentiles. This feeling of inferiority coupled with the lack of relational wisdom that comes from experiencing the commandments, wreaks havoc on Gentile families and on the relationship between Gentile families and the Jewish community. Additionally, with the pulpit saying one thing and Scripture saying another, many Gentiles suffer from identity and role confusion;
(3) Communal rejection forces gentiles to reject Yeshua. People need a community. This is instinct just like the instinct to eat or procreate. We are social beings. When a Gentile feels excluded from a Messianic community, he often seeks acceptance from a non-Messianic Jewish community and eventually succumbs to the social pressure to reject Yeshua.
Is there a way to reverse these harmful trends of Exclusionism?
Inclusionist Messianic Judaism reverses the harmful trends of Exclusionism. When it is understood that the New Testament teaches that Gentiles are included in the covenants of Israel and in the way of life mandated by the covenants, there are benefits to not only the individual but also to the entire community! In addition to Gentiles experiencing deeper intimacy with G-d, feeling welcome as equal members in Messianic Jewish communities, the entire, global community of Jewish and Gentile Believers can experience peace and harmony with one another. Under the unifying influence of a pro-Judaic culture, the community of Messianic Believers would grow and truly become a witness to Yeshua that the whole world might believe.
END OF INTRODUCTION
Stay tuned for the main body of the book...
Posted by Peter at 8:13 AM