Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thanks, Pastor, for Saving Me


I came across a very interesting article in a magazine of which I am not a very frequent reader, Christianity Today, one of the largest evangelical magazines in the US, which is a call to evangelize the Jews. While I obviously disagree with the author's sentiments, I appreciate his candor. Here it is: (My commentary in red.)

Why Evangelize the Jews?

by Stan Guthrie

Larry King is not known as a tough interviewer. Yet with smooth-talking pastor and author Joel Osteen, he went for the jugular, asking whether Jews and Muslims must believe in C to go to heaven. And Osteen blinked: "I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know." (A very mature pastor. I like him.)

While Osteen later apologized for seemingly downplaying the necessity of faith in C for salvation, the pluralistic pressure to waffle on this issue is intense. Several mainline denominations support a two-covenant theology, which holds that Judaism and Christianity are parallel, divinely guided paths to God. (I guess that Christianity's finally growing up. Now if they would just drop their belief in J...) In addition, in 2002 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document, "Reflections on Covenant and Mission," affirming that "Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God."

Noting that many church leaders and theologians have "retreated from embracing the task of evangelizing Jews," in 1989 a global group of evangelical theologians (including Vernon Grounds, Kenneth Kantzer, J. I. Packer, and Tokunboh Adeyemo) drafted the Willowbank Declaration on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish People. They denied that "any non-Christian faith, as such, will mediate eternal life with God." (I'm sure Isaiah must have got it wrong when he said: "Your people are all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever; the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, wherein I glory." [60:21])

Such a statement, attacked when it was released, remains politically incorrect. Voices both inside and outside the church say that evangelizing Jewish people—calling them to repent of their sins and trust in J C as their Lord, Savior, and Messiah—is inappropriate. Rabbi David Rosen recently told CT that if someone relates to him "as someone who's going to burn in hell, then I can't really see that as genuine love toward my people and my faith." Duh!

I love and respect the Jewish people and their faith. (Only the parts that they got right, of course. Christianity is the way to go.) After all, J was a Jew (if he existed), and Christianity is firmly rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (not quite true. Leave my Scriptures alone! I challenge any Christian to find one solid proof supporting the messiahood of JC. Not an ambiguous, unclear quote taken out of context, but the sort of proof that would stand up in a court of law.). Certainly the Holocaust and the church's horrific anti-Semitism have changed the context for evangelism. (Right... so since burning us at the stake didn't work, Christians should take a different approach to getting us to become Christian. Maybe like dressing up as Jews, worshipping "Yeshua", according to the "Brit Chadasha" and going to Messianic "synagogues", dropping Yiddish terms, supporting Israel and eating bagels and lox.) We have much for which to apologize. But we cannot apologize for the gospel, which is Good News for Jewish people precisely because they—like all human beings—need J. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews (not! Paul, who taught that JC saved the Jews from the "curse of the law", clearly violated Deuteronomy 13:1, which states that nothing can be added or subtracted to G-d's law. In opposing the Torah and in deifing JC, Paul's sins warranted the death penalty. That's why many Jews reacted violently to his teachings.), said plainly, "What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. for … all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin." (If you've sinned, do teshuva. “That every man will turn from his evil way, then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3). But, of course, Christians know the Torah better than us.)

Some believe that Romans, which states emphatically that "all Israel will be saved," teaches that Jews do not need to hear the Good News from us. (I really don't care what you believe. If you can do enough theological acrobatics to worship a man as G-d, you can surely fix this problem. Leave us alone!) (Along those lines, Rosen asks evangelicals to "suspend your proselytizing and allow the Almighty to do whatever the Almighty thinks is the thing to do in his own time.") Such interpretations remind me of the apocryphal story of the misguided churchman who condescendingly told budding missionary William Carey, "Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine." If Carey had sat down, the modern missionary movement might have died stillborn.

Ordinarily God uses people to spread his message. Good news is no news at all if it is not communicated. And it must be shared first with the Jews (Rom. 1:16). Their calling as God's covenant people makes our evangelistic obligation to them greater, not less. "The biblical hope for Jewish people," Willowbank says, "centers on their being restored through faith in C to their proper place as branches of God's olive tree, from which they are at present broken off." ("Thus saith the LORD: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD." [Jeremiah 31:36] We don't need Christianity to make us kosher- we got the Torah.)

Some people denigrate the methods and motives of people who evangelize Jews. They claim that focusing ministry on—or "targeting"—Jews is just plain wrong. "Billy Graham didn't target Jews," pastor John Hagee says. "Bill Bright refused to target the Jews. I'm not targeting the Jews." (Good for you! Interested in a little Noahide laws yourself? At least these are kosher.)

Others charge that those who evangelize Jewish people are deceptive or are attempting to snare the vulnerable in the Jewish community. These would include students, the aged, Russian Jews, the impoverished, those from dysfunctional or interfaith families, and the uneducated.
Strangely, other types of focused evangelism—such as among students or the homeless—seem to be acceptable. As Willowbank correctly notes, "The existence of separate churchly organizations for evangelizing Jews … can be justified … as an appropriate means of fulfilling the church's mandate to take the gospel to the whole human race." (Only ignorant Jews who are completely assimilated and desperately thirst for spirituality while being unaware of the beauty of Judaism succumb. Have missionaries had any luck in Meah Shearim or in Bnei Brak?)

Of course, deception and manipulation are always wrong. The ends do not justify the means when it comes to evangelism. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church has rightly told Jewish audiences that he doesn't believe in coercion—though he does believe in persuasion.
So must we. As we continue the good works of dialogue and practical ministries among our Jewish neighbors, let's renew our commitment to also sensitively but forthrightly persuade them to receive the Good News. (Obviously, if you play good cop/ bad cop with us, we'll just chuck that whole 'Judaism' thing out the window. Get real. Study some Torah.)
***

Why are these guys our friends? If anybody wants to steal our souls, we don't need them. HaShem will protect us, so we have no need to rely on goyyim. They need us though, since those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed.

Since the author seems so determined to evangelize to Jews, I'm gonna evangelize back. The path for non-Jews to achieve salvation is to follow the 7 Universal Noahide Laws. The only one worth worshipping is HaShem, the One and Only, and there is no need for an intermediary between you and Him.



Take a look at this video. It seems that some of these people (some- there are many good Christians out there who support us with no ulteriour motive) are using us as cannon-fodder for the Second Coming. Some Christians hold that before JC can come back, a certain amount of Jews have to accept Christianity. What will happen when Christians realize that we're not converting and JC's not coming back? What will they do when they realize that we're holding up his return? Will they forcibly convert us? It's not so far-fetched. Something to chew on...

19 comments:

The Hermit said...

I don't know anybody here who is that interested in converting Jews. Maybe because there aren't many Jewish people in Appalachia. But I know a lot of people who think the Jews have to rebuild the temple before Jesus will return.

Personally, being an agnostic, I don't really care how or what people worship as long as they aren't sacrificing kids to Moloch or whatever.

WomanHonorThyself said...

wowza dude!thats some vid..I had never seen that before either...Shabbat Shalom and yasher kochachuh!

Big Daddy Jew said...

I enjoyed the post as well. Far be it from me to determine who is and isn't going to enjoy a place in the World-To Come...that's not for me to decide...

Eitan said...

Good post, Shimshi! I've taken my fight against Messianic "Jews" and certain Evangelical C-ians further by having kept the Shabbat this week. My goal is to keep kashrut (not entirely yet but still...) and the following Shabbat. I'm keeping my goals low b/s I want to make sure I can make good on them.

"Yashar koach" "kochachuh" sounds weird.

Jungle Mom said...

Bar, As to the "Jewish"...I can remove it if you prefer, I just don't want anyone to try and "convert" you since it upsets you so! On your blog, I am listed under "Christian" am I not?

Bar Kochba said...

JM: I was kidding.

Devash said...

You forgot to insert comment here, so I did it for you:

"If Carey had sat down, the modern missionary movement might have died stillborn." [Too bad they didn't tie him to that chair!]

Jungle Mom said...

William Carey was not a missionary to the Jews! His ministry was in India and involved translation of the Bible into Indian languages. He is considered the father of the modern missionary world wide movement which has little to do with this subject at all.
I find devash's comment to be very harsh!

Jungle Mom said...

BK, I got distracted...I changed my blog roll. I think you will like it better now. I prefer it this way.

Bar Kochba said...

JM, me too actually. I think that the missionary movement is godly when it comes to non-Jews. Christianity in America makes it one of the most moral places on earth.

Pinky said...

Hi Bar. I came here from JM's blog. I'm an American Christian who very much supports Israel. However, I'm a bit shocked at your anger towards Christians.
I've learned a ton just from reading your blog. I won't pretend to know much about Judaism, but it is a subject I've always wanted to know more about. I have a great respect for your religion. Do you really feel that all Christians are so hell-bent on converting Jews? I have several Jewish friends, and we've discussed it, but then it's dropped. I don't feel like their soul rests in my hands, nor mine in theirs.
Oh, and I was amazed and terrified by the video. Chilling.
Nice to meet you.

Pinky said...

Oh, just thought I'd add....Joes Osteen is considered a joke by many serious Christians in the US. He's one of those TV evangalists who promises the world if you'll only send your money. You know the type. Just think positive and you can achieve anything. He also changes his tone depending on who is asking the questions. Not exactly who I want representing me. He's not legit in my book.

Pinky said...

I typed Joes...correct Joel

Eitan said...

Pinky, you don't seem to realize whom you're dealing with here. This is Shimon Bar-Kochba, leader of the Judean Rebellion against the Roman Empire, the Messiah in his followers eyes. He's just waiting out for the right moment to rise from the dead...

Eitan said...

p.s. "Shimon Bar-Kochba": Simon, Son of a Star(Messianic implication? Dare I say a lot more so than that Jewish kid who spent his life showing off and vying for the attention of the masses and ended up...well...

Pinky said...

I'll be glad to leave if I"m not welcome.
I did not intend to be disrespectful in any way.

Jungle Mom said...

I agree about Joel Olsteen. He's a chameleon. Known to have said whatever he thinks his audience of the day would like to hear. He is beyond a joke!

Eitan said...

pinky: I, too, was kidding. It seems that most people don't realize just how important Bar-Kochba was in Jewish history, hence my ellusion.

Eitan said...

whoopdy..."a"llusion.