Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Myth of the Christian Tzadik (Or "Why the Golden Rule Doesn't Work Outside of Judaism")

Christians believe that the "Old Testament" laws (in contradistinction to 2 Tim. 3:16) are inapplicable--and therefore not useful as instructions for righteousness:
"Two kinds of old-covenant stipulations have clearly not been renewed in the new covenant...the portion of laws from the Pentateuch that no longer apply to Christians can be grouped conveniently into two categories: (1) the Israelite civil laws and (2) the Israelite ritual laws....some aspects of the Old Testament ethical law are actually restated in the New Testament as applicable to Christians....No other specific Old Testament laws can be proved to be strictly binding on Christians, valuable as it is for Christians to know all of the laws," pgs. 167-169 of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
Fee and Stuart here regurgitate the classic tripartite legal hermeneutic of Christianity as seen in the writings of Aquinas and Calvin:

"We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. ‘moral’ precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; ‘ceremonial’ precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and ‘judicial’ precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men," (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2a, Question 99, Article 4)

"We must attend to the well-known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law," (Calvin, J, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated by Henry Beveridge, James Clark & Co., 1962, Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 20, Section 14, page 663)
Blackstone explains that this concept of universal morality/ethics which Aquinas calls "natural law" is something one can derive from reason alone without the aid of the revealed law of Scripture:
"These [natural laws] are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all His dispensations conforms; and which He has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions," (Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, pg. 38)
Thus we have the Christian version of a tzadik:  a person who acts according to principles he thinks are ethical (i.e. the Golden Rule).  

The problem is that the Golden Rule ("do unto others as you would have them do unto you") only works within the confines of Torah and Judaism.  Here are a few examples of how a de-contextualized Golden Rule breaks down into lawlessness:

  • A homosexual believes that homosexual marriages are ethical and therefore should be promoted to others.
  • A pagan idolater believes that child sacrifice appeases the wrath of the gods and therefore believes it is ethical to promote child sacrifice to others
The Golden Rule only works if you're a covenantal member of Israel following the standard of righteous conduct set forth in the Torah!

So, for a Messianic who accepts the precedent set forth in Torah that there is "One Law" for covenantal members, a completely different image of a Tzadik (righteous person) emerges.  A Tzadik is someone who follows both the mishpatim (e.g. "thou shalt not kill") and chukim (e.g. kashrut law, the laws of family purity).

In Judaism, a person cannot be a Tzadik and at the same time neglect a "ritual" command such as Niddah:
"{18:5} But if a man be just (tzadik), and do that which is lawful and right, {18:6} [And] hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman (niddah), {18:7} And hath not oppressed any, [but] hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; {18:8} He [that] hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, [that] hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, {18:9} Hath walked in my statutes (chukkotai), and hath kept my judgments (mishpatai), to deal truly; he [is] just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD," (Ezekiel 18:5-9)


  1. It shows that you can't pick and choose. Both Calvin and Aquinas were wicked men who instigated wicked deeds. They are sources of death, not life.

  2. It shows that you can't pick and choose.

    Which should be obvious, but we have both Christians and Messianic's claiming that certain Torah commands apply to gentiles, and at the same time, saying gentiles are not responsible to the Torah, its always amateur hour somewhere :P...