The Fine Art of Church-Bashing

A reader commented recently:

I fear, though, that you’re shutting most out by “the Church has it wrong” rhetoric.

I am sensitive to comments like that. I know sometimes I am guilty of using negative rhetoric to make a point more interesting. We do live in a culture of pop-media where it takes a little controversy to get interest.

You can find church-bashing in Messianic Judaism and on Messianic Jewish websites. Sometimes those engaging in the church-bashing are from a very immature theology (and not what I would consider real Messianic Judaism). Some want the church to start keeping the Sabbath and dietary law. Some want the church to become Jewish. Some say the church was corrupted by Constantine and claim that Messianic Judaism is a return to pure Yeshua-faith.

I don’t feel this way at all. I am part of the church. “Church” is not the term I prefer (it is an Old English word and has no relationship to biblical terminology–it has plenty of wrong connotations). There is in the Bible an entity known as “the congregation” (Matt. 16:18). There is also the “body of Christ/Messiah” (Eph. 4:12). Other names include “the congregation of God” (1 Cor. 11:22).

I prefer the term “the congregation of Yeshua.” What many call “the church” is the timeless community of the redeemed. Israel and the church overlap. Jews and Gentiles together are in the church–one faith, one Lord, one baptism. I affirm all this.

I believe the Jewish and Gentile missions of the church are distinct, but with much overlap. I believe the apostles intended for the Jewish and Gentile mission to remain distinct, though there would always be Jews in Gentile congregations and vice-versa. I do not believe in one generic church culture that all men are supposed to meld into. I certainly do not believe in Jews abandoning their Jewish identity, including Torah-observance.

Meanwhile, I love the church. I love various forms of worship. I can be moved not only by the intonation of the Kaddish, but also by a soulful “Amazing Grace” or a meditative communion service. I love to read some theologians who were terrible on the subject of the Jews, but wonderful in other ways (I am a major fan of Augustine, though we disagree about many things).

Yet even though I love the church, or perhaps especially because of it, I am critical of various issued and trends in the church. I dislike the shallowness of modern evangelicalism. I abhor the formulaic revival of the revivalist movement. I distrust the self-defined miracles of the charismatic movement. I loathe supersessionism (replacement theology) and negativity toward the Torah is most churches. Hey, I don’t have to just pick on the Gentile churches. I also have disdain for many things I have seen in Messianic Judaism. I dislike a superior attitude sometimes seen in Messianic Judaism. I prefer love and unity to superiority.

So, I will critique sectors of the church. I do so in order to prick the conscience and stimulate the brain. I do so in order to represent what I love–God, Messiah, Israel, and the Torah.

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About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Messianic Jewish, Replacement Theology, Supersessionism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Fine Art of Church-Bashing

  1. Chad says:

    Derek,

    Thanks for this thoughtful, humble, and honest posting. Out of curiousity, may I inquire what are some of the “many things” you disdain in Messianic Judaism?

  2. Chad:

    Great question. I have disdain for a number of things that sometimes occur in Messianic Judaism:

    1. Wishy-washy positions on Torah and tradition–let’s get with it and be a Judaism.

    2. Pseudo-Messianic groups who promote sensationalistic “Jewish roots” ideas without being serious about Judaism.

    3. Christian churches masquerading as Messianic congregations (the Protestant service with a Jewish veneer).

    4. Smug superiority as though getting Torah right would make our movement superior to the churches who have written and done so much more than us over the centuries.

    5. Seeking growth by attracting people with no interest in being a Yeshua-centered Judaism.

    6. Occasionally I see what I consider church-bashing and not loving critique from within the body of Messiah.

    Derek

  3. You state:
    “Some want the church to start keeping the Sabbath and dietary law.”

    Well, is it commanded or is it not?

    “Some say the church was corrupted by Constantine and claim that Messianic Judaism is a return to pure Yeshua-faith.”

    Well, is it or is it not?

    If the answer to either of these questions is “not,” then the Messianic “movement” has no purpose in existence and we might as well all join Sunday churches and start eating pork again. Otherwise, there’s just no point.

  4. Chris Smith says:

    To: Rabbi Adam J. Bernay, MRbs
    You seem to be setting a snare with your words. You quote, “Some want the church to start keeping the Sabbath and dietary law,” and then ask, “Well, is it commanded or is it not?” as if yes or no are the only options. If Derek says no, then he’s as nutty as a hickory orchard. Obviously the laws were commanded by God. If Derek says yes they were commanded, then you say Aha!

    There are theological viewpoints other than One Law and Pork Barbeque. Consider that the Sabbath and Dietary laws are given as a sign to distinguish Israel from the nations. Though there is no difference in the spirit between Jew and Gentile, other differences yet remain (just like male and female). Perhaps God still cares to distinguish between Gentile believers whom he loves dearly, and believers who, as Jews, have a religious,cultural,and/or ethnic connection to the people who have served the living God as a cultural heritage for millenia.

  5. Adam Bernay:

    Thanks for providing a perfect foil for my post on church-bashing.

    You said if Gentiles are not supposed to be Torah-observant and if the church isn’t a Constantinian corruption then there is no basis for Messianic Judaism–we might as well all go to “Sunday church” and eat pork barbecue.

    I couldn’t have asked for a better demonstration of what I disdain in some groups that call themselves Messianic Jewish (but are not).

    While you are busy having Hebrew roots services in protest of the corrupt church, I am busy leading a synagogue that is about the Jewish people and Messiah. I am not in protest against the church. I cooperate with churches and see mutual blessing.

    What possible point could there be in Messianic Judaism if the church is not corrupt? How about making a place for Jews to worship in a Jewish way while believing in Yeshua as Messiah?

    Derek

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