Michael Brown, Mark Kinzer, Judaism and Yeshua

I have just become aware of a paper delivered by Michael Brown at the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, a meeting held in North America this April in San Antonio, Texas (lcje.net). I am angry. I would love it if by some chance some who knows Dr. Brown would direct his attention to this blog and I will gladly post a debate with main arguments and rebuttals from both sides.

I will try to keep this post brief, so I will summarize for you the issues. Michael Brown wrote a paper critiquing Mark Kinzer’s book Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism. Right away the title of Dr. Kinzer’s book raises some red flags with people. “Post-missionary” sounds like it means “don’t tell them about Yeshua.” Dr. Kinzer makes it clear this is not what he means. He means that our stance toward Judaism needs to be different. We cannot come into our witness with a stance of superiority or triumphalism. Historically this is exactly how the church, Jewish mission groups, and Messianic Jews have brought the message of Yeshua.

Instead, Kinzer argues that normative Judaism has Yeshua written all over it. Normative Judaism is not a false religion, simply incomplete. Judaism need not be rejected. It must simply be reinterpreted in light of Messiah’s revelation.

Michael Brown is known as a former professor on the seminary of the Brownsville Revival movement and the Answering Jewish Objections series (which has good information but takes a hostile stance toward Judaism).

To put the main point of this post in simple language: Dr. Brown’s diatribe against Dr. Kinzer’s book is pure tripe. If you read Dr. Brown’s paper, it will sound convincing if you have not read and understood Dr. Kinzer’s book.

To put it another way, Dr. Brown’s paper is preaching to the choir, a practice as old as prostitution itself. The choir, in this case the LCJE, is a group of people who largely reject Judaism as a false religion yet who claim to be Jews in many cases.

I know this is the strongest language I have used as yet in my blog. I know new readers will probably be scared off by my rhetoric. But I feel that strongly.

In his paper, Dr. Brown evidences a complete misunderstanding of Judaism and of Dr. Kinzer’s book. For example, he reads Kinzer as saying that Messianic Jews must embrace Orthodox Judaism. This is a juvenile reading of Kinzer, not a mature one. I have to believe that Dr. Brown knows Dr. Kinzer personally. If he does, he must know that there are many areas in which Dr. Kinzer views halakhah differently than Orthodox Judaism.

Then, Dr. Brown evidences a lack of understanding of Judaism. He makes the ridiculous claim that Dr. Kinzer’s embracing of Orthodox Judaism (sic) entails accepting Jewish doctrines such as a denial of the Tri-Une nature of God or the deity of Messiah. This is not only a misunderstanding of Dr. Kinzer, but also a critical error in reading Judaism. Judaism is not so much a doctrinal religion. Unlike Christianity, Judaism is very broad in theology. Dr. Kinzer has called for Messianic Jews to embrace normative Judaism’s practice, not normative Judaism’s theology. There is no theology of normative Judaism.

I question Dr. Brown’s ability to comprehend the religion he allegedly is an expert on. Any student of Judaism should know that the view of God in Judaism varies widely between such diverse movements as: Jewish philosophy, kabbalistic/Lurianic Judaism, non-Hasidic Orthodoxy, Conservative and Reform Judaism, and on and on. Yet Dr. Brown makes the critical error of implying that embracing normative Jewish practice entails embracing a theology (a theology that is found nowhere in any coherent or agreed-upon form).

What does all this mean for the reader who is less familiar with these issues? I encourage you to view Judaism as a God-ordained human institution for preserving Israel. Romans 11:28-29 should say it all. Though normative Judaism represents opposition to the good news of Yeshua, these are nonethless people through whom God is continuing to work. The progress of Judaism for the last 2,000 years is not devoid of God. He is there in the midst of his people in spite of unbelief. This may be hard to believe, but it wasn’t James or Peter who said it. It was Paul.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Gospel, Mark Kinzer, Messianic Jewish, Michael Brown, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Michael Brown, Mark Kinzer, Judaism and Yeshua

  1. Carl says:

    This is an important post. However, it is difficult for me to imagine that Mike Brown knows Mark Kinzer, or, as a presumed lover of truth, he wouldn’t make some of his ridiculous assertions about him.

    Two more points:

    1. Dr. Brown introduces another old (and, by now, rather smelly) red herring: our so-called desire to be accepted by the Jewish community. He speaks of Dr. Kinzer’s and others whose “theology [is] fueled by our efforts to be accepted by man more than by God” (p. 18). This is plain and simple slander. Dr. Brown presumes to know the motives of the heart, to judge them, and to repeat that judgment publicly. This is truly shameful.

    2. Dr. Brown asserts that a “fascination” with Judaism — and thus PostMissionary Judaism — is the road to apostasy. He demonstrates this with anecdotal evidence (the validity of which I don’t contest). Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence can be used to demonstrate almost anything, including the opposite of Dr. Brown’s premise: Jewish believers who have left the faith because of their church’s (or even their Messianic congregation’s!) toxic stigmatization of things Jewish. On this basis, one could assert that the rejection of traditional Judaism is the road to apostasy. In either case, the issues involved are far more complex than Dr. Brown’s simplistic explanations would have us believe.

  2. Stuart says:

    This is all so sad, and yet, it seems, inevitable. Dr. Brown is a good man, but it seems he was brought in to do a hatchet job on Kinzer. He should have demurred.

    I know Mark Kinzer personally and Carl is right that Brown’s conjectural portrayal of him is slanderous in the extreme. Fortunately, Dr. Kinzer is a man of God and not given to retaliation. He has the intellectual acumen and depth of knowledge to return evil for evil and best his adversaries in the shame game–but he will not do that.

    One more comment. The accusation that people like Kinzer and I do what we do because we want to be accepted by the Jewish community, and that our “theology [is] fueled by our efforts to be accepted by man more than by God,” is manifestly false, if for no other reason than that we have failed to gain the approval which allegedly drives our efforts! However, Dr Brown and his cronies would be wise to never use this approach, because it blade they wield will cut them most deeply. This is because by this line of argumentation, how strong is the case that Jewish Christians in the mission world like my friend Dr. Brown and those who sponsored his response are doing so driven by the desire for the approval and financial support of the Christian community? How many of them have been patted on the head by pastors, laity, and leadership of the Christian world, and how many dollars have they garnered from such. Could one not therefore label them as pandering to the Church?

    However, to make such a case would entail the kind of malice and unkind conjecture which I prefer to avoid, but which pit Dr. Brown has unfortunately fallen into. There is far more evidence against him than against Kinzer: in fact, there is no comparison.

    He knows better and should have done better. His diatribe is shameful and dishonors him more than it does Dr. Kinzer, whom he obviously does not know.

  3. To Derek, Carl, and Stuart,

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my paper, although I am quite distressed by the tone of Derek’s self-described angry post (and the subsequent judgments he makes) I expected more from you, Derek. Do you think I am unaware of the nuances of which you speak? Yet those nuances in no way change a single line in my paper. In point of fact, there are no red herrings in the paper, no misunderstandings of traditional Judaism, and no personal attacks on Dr. Kinzer. (Please read the paper carefully, and where I mention Dr. Kinzer by name, please point out the personal diatribe.)

    I have read his work carefully, including his responses to critics of his writings, I have spoken with students of his, I have interacted in depth with others in the MJ movement who have some issues with the Postmissionary book, I have read carefully other Hashivenu writings, I have read the writings of Derek Leman, and I use accurate quotes of Dr. Kinzer in my writing. My fault is for strongly critiquing the book and the direction it is taking!

    There is a reason that the “choir” to whom I was allegedly preaching warmly received the paper. Could it be that we have the same concerns for a reason? Could it be that what is “fishy” is not my alleged red-herrings but rather the conclusions of the Postmissionary book?

    As for being “brought in” to do a hatchet job — what in the world is this supposed to mean? Is the LCJE some kind of academic mafia? The very accusation reveals a potential insecurity that is quite telling. In point of fact, I have been invited to past LCJE’s and was unable to attend, and I was encouraged to weigh in on the Kinzer-Hashivenu discussion. That was it. I traveled there at my own expense, I received nothing for my contributing, and no asked me what my opinion would be before bringing the paper. I could have championed his cause for all they knew. Really now, the tone of these posts is revealing.

    What is also troubling to me is that those being critiqued don’t see that the shoe fits, and rather than wear it proudly, they are denying the facts. So, by all means, let us bring the issues into a public, in person debate before other MJ scholars and leaders, and if Dr. Kinzer has been misunderstood (which, I alleged, would be the fault of his own writing), then let him repudiate the quotes that led to that misunderstanding. And if I am guilty of misunderstanding, by all means, I will make a public correction.(Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do this by blog, but I believe a public setting in which we could spend several hours going back forth on the issues would be most profitable.)

    A few, further specific responses: 1) Carl, I have tracked this anecdotal evidence for almost thirty years now, and I have seen FAR more backsliding due to the scenario I have described than the one you have described. 2) Stuart, I have been told firsthand by various MJ leaders that they are seeking to be accepted by the Jewish community. I analyze this one way spiritually and state it as such in my paper. As for pandering to the Church, if you mean Messiah’s Body, I am part of that Body and do not pander to it. Do you really think you have made a strong point here?

    I urge Derek, Stuart, Carl, and other readers of this blog to step back and prayerfully ask the Lord if there is any truth to what I have written, any needed corrective, any wise word of warning. I appreciate some saying that I’m a good man that should have known better. Perhaps I do know something that you need to hear? I learned much from the Kinzer book yet felt to sound the alarm. Could it be an alarm you and others need to hear? I have benefited by such words of warning in the past. Perhaps it’s time for me to repay the favor.

  4. Rich says:

    Having re-read Michael Brown’s paper to be sure I wasn’t missing something, I found it irenic and more respectful towards rabbinic Judaism than many Jewish believers in Jesus would be. (Disclaimer in the interests of putting my cards on the table: I tend to agree far more with Brown’s assessment of Kinzer’s thought than with the advocates of Kinzer’s approach.) Derek Leman’s volcano of a response is rather disproprotionate, to say the least. (Is “pure tripe” and one of the respondent’s “hatchet job” for which Brown was allegedly “brought in” on the same courteous level as Brown’s rhetoric? Let the reader judge.)

    But two words on the content of Leman’s remarks. He writes:

    “‘Post-missionary’ sounds like it means ‘don’t tell them about Yeshua.’ Dr. Kinzer makes it clear this is not what he means. He means that our stance toward Judaism needs to be different. We cannot come into our witness with a stance of superiority or triumphalism.”

    If that were all Kinzer were saying, it would be nothing new. In fact, Kinzer effectively redefines what “telling them about Yeshua” means, such that the different “stance” involves one or more of: affirming the “legitimacy” (whatever that exactly entails) of rabbinic Judaism; affirming that somehow the historic “no” to Jesus was really a “yes”; affirming that explicit conscious faith in Yeshua is good but not always necessary. This, whether said in arrogance or in humility, is not the gospel message as most have understood it from Scripture. Interestingly, we have here a parallel to the postmodern insistence that articulating truth and daring to say that something (e.g., rabbinic Judaism, as a religious system) can be wrong are tantamount to feelings of superiority, triumphalism, and theological imperialism – the first two phrases being Leman’s.

    And then:
    “In his paper, Dr. Brown evidences a complete misunderstanding of Judaism and of Dr. Kinzer’s book. For example, he reads Kinzer as saying that Messianic Jews must embrace Orthodox Judaism. This is a juvenile reading of Kinzer, not a mature one.”

    About Judaism, “There is no theology of normative Judaism.” Judaism, we are assured by Leman, is a religion of practice, not creed. To this one can only bleat out, “Bubkes!” The reason various practices are involved is because traditional Jews *believe* that God gave an Oral Law mandating those practices, and *believe* that the rabbinic institution has the authority to interpret the Written and Oral Law, and, if they follow Jewish thinking from Maimonides one, *believe* that God is singularly one, etc. etc.

    And then about whether Kinzer is advocating an embrace of Orthodox Judaism. Well, actually some other observers feel Kinzer is more about embracing Conservative Judaism, or some variety thereof. Whether his views on Jewish tradition and the place of the Jewish community as decision-makers is closer to Conservative or Orthodox I will leave to others to decide. But it’s surely not a “juvenile” observation, but a correct one. As to the word “mature,” suffice it to say that this word has become the description de jour in some circles to characterize Kinzer’s thinking, with the implication that all else is not. But as always, when people self-designate their modes of thought as “mature,” “advanced,” “civilized,” or what have you, they often end up guilty of the very stance of superiority that they find in others.

    May that turn out to not be so here. “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case – things that accompany salvation” (Hebrews 6:9)

  5. Chayamindle says:

    Derek/

    The courageous stance you have undertaken to expose and willingness to debate Dr. Brown’s insidious diatribe against the position of Dr. Kinzer and numerous other like-minded messianics is a sure indication of the real menschlichkeit you possess. (To be called a “mensch” is the ultimate compliment! Googling the term will quickly reveal the meaning of this mult-wonderful Yiddish word to any unfamiliar readers.

    But that being said with all heartfelt sincerity, I still feel compelled to caution that the theology of exclusvism, (which you & Dr.Brown actually have in common), is one that will force you to interpret and to a certain extent manipulate Biblical texts to fall in alignment with the position you wish to defend unless you vow to keep and open mind and spirit,(which I trust you will).. Conversely of course inclusivists will also prooftext to defend their position as will anybody wishing to use the Bible to “prove” their position on almost any issue..

    Indeed, we all resort to the “prooftext” in order to advance our causes and bolster our agendas. And in of itself it is a good thing to delve & “toil in Torah” as long as we are are humble & respectful of those who do likewise but still come to differing conclusions on varying issues..Those who love G-d, (Jewish & non-Jewish, Yeshua believers or not– are not and probably have never been theologically uniform.

    How then dare we have the chutzpah to impose limitations on G-d’s ability to extend His compassion,mercy, & forgiveness to anyone He chooses to apply Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice–albeit in co-ordination with His judgement and punishment for individual & corporate evil)? Is it even within a scholarly & righteous Yeshua believer’s interpretive capabilities and G-d assigned jurisdiction to pronounce with uncompromising absolute certitude the eternal destiny of Hell for each individual,(past, present & future) who has failed to pass a theology test?

    Let us rejoice in our Mashiach and proclaim in love and sensitivity the One whom we believe is the Way, the Truth & the Life and G-d’s Door of of Salvation to the Jew first & then to all of humanity! Let us strive daily to more faithfully obey the Mitzvot of His Torah and pray in ernest for those who have fallen off or never walked along the HaShem’s Derech(no pun intended). .

    But for HaShem’s sake let G-d be G-d and leave the judging to Him.. He will do right. Surely on that we can all agree.

    For another insightful, compassionate perspective on G-d’s plan in the past & current majority Jewish rejection of Yeshua as Messiah check out the book, Israel–G-d’s Key to World Redemption by the late Gentile Christian minister & lover of and advocate for Israel, Elmer Josephson. A sample chapter can be found at
    http://www.bible-light.com/Products/Books/World_Redemption/WorldRedemption.htm

  6. Rich:

    If Dr. Brown had read a paper critically evaluating Dr. Kinzer’s ideas, correctly interpreted, as you did at last year’s meeting, I would not have been angry. Your paper on Dr. Kinzer’s book was thoughtful and mostly about the ideas. Dr. Brown’s paper is insulting.

    As you know, there are areas where you and I disagree. There are also areas where you and I agree, differing from Dr. Kinzer. Yet all I ask is that people critique theology with theology.

    As for my angry words in response to Dr. Brown’s paper (calling it pure tripe), I was not critiquing theology, unfortunately, but a very bad sermon.

    Derek

  7. Chayamindle:

    Thanks for the compliment.

    As for my belief that the mercy of God has strict limits, I understand you do not agree. Yet when you ask, “How dare we have the chutzpah to impose limitations on God’s ability to extend his compassion?” you get off track. I do not dare to impose limitations on God. I am attempting to interpret what God has taught us about this issue. If I am right, then God has taught us his ways (not limitations of ability, but limitations of his mercy).

    I will have a paper in the upcoming Kesher Journal in which I get 2,000 words to explain why God is exclusive and not inclusive (why faith in Yeshua is God’s only way). I will welcome your critique at that time.

    Meanwhile, I hope you keep reading. I think we agree about a great deal. I look forward to hearing from you again.

    Derek

  8. Derek,

    A few further comments:

    1) Upon my first reading of your opening blog, I barely noticed your attack on our school of ministry in Pensacola. Did you attend classes there? Did you know our curriculum? Are you speaking out of factual knowledge or out of supposition? Sadly, this ad hominem attack only highlights how over the top your opening statement was. (Just for the record, students at the school of ministry had sixteen hours of intensive teaching a week, plus were exposed to as much as six-eight additional hours of preaching a week.)

    2) The vigorous commendation you receive from an inclusivist only supports my point, despite your non-inclusive stance. Dr. Kinzer’s work points believers in the wrong direction in this crucially important subject, and it will draw support from misguided souls as well.

    3) You write, “I am attempting to interpret what God has taught us about this issue.” Indeed, that is how I approach the entire subject of Dr. Kinzer’s Postmissionary stance, coming to conclusions that are quite different than yours. Does this merit the kind of angry response you offer?

    Again, let’s set up a public, face to face forum where we can air the issues at length, and let the truth triumph.

  9. Seth says:

    Derek,

    Having read Dr. Brown’s article carefully (and having read Dr. Kinzer’s book this past summer), I’m wondering why you at least didn’t interact with the 5 key points of Dr. Brown’s arguments. He presented a biblical case for each of those 5 points with many legitimate concerns. It’s sad that your response was not more carefully thought out. Why don’t you at least interact with Dr. Brown’s criticisms from the Scriptures? It seems that the only advice you give your readers is not, “carefully search the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings; carefully search the Apostolic Witness.” Rather, you write: “What does all this mean for the reader who is less familiar with these issues? I encourage you to view Judaism as a God-ordained human institution for preserving Israel. Romans 11:28-29 should say it all.” What is the “all” you expect your readers to understand by this? Can you give us textual reasons why we should follow your advice to “view Judaism as a God-ordained human institution for preserving Israel?” Dr. Brown’s article deserves more than ad hominem attacks on his character, his school, his friends at LCJE, etc.
    As far as I can tell, you have not given your uninitiated readers any “God-ordained” reasons why these points aren’t essentially correct:
    1. Our calling as Jewish believers in Yeshua requires us to be active witnesses
    2. Jewish rejection of Yeshua is related to a rejection of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings, both now, and in the first century
    3. The apostolic witness and Moses’ testimony is clear: when God raises up a prophet from among your brethren, the Messiah, YOU MUST LISTEN TO HIM! If our people choose not to follow HIM they are turning their backs on Moses’ very clear words
    4. The emphasis in Scripture (not just the Apostolic testimony) is Yeshua, not Judaism
    5. Post-missionary Messianic Judaism leads down a slippery slope.

    Your angry attacks of Dr. Brown rather than Dr. Brown’s arguments strongly suggest to me that you are unable to interact with, and refute Dr. Brown’s points from the Scriptures. And I know not where else to seek G-d’s wisdom the in His Word.

  10. Seth:

    I am curious if you are one of the Seth’s that I know. I know several. Tried to email you personally, but your spam filter bounced it back to me.

    At any rate, I don’t blame you for thinking I might be incapable of refuting Dr. Brown on the substance of his paper. After all, he is a well-known scholar of immense learning and so far, I agree, I have not reacted to the substance of his argument.

    I have reacted to the more personal issues because tbose are what I am angry about. I love to debate theology rationally (though you might not know it from this thread, I admit).

    At any rate, I hope you will read other items in my blog and realize I am not always an angry guy. Usually I have more positive things to
    say.

    Derek

  11. Carl says:

    Mike, my point about anecdotal evidence is that it’s value is in the eye of the beholder. People tend to credit anecdotes that support their own positions. No credible scholar uses such an approach.

    You have stated in print that rabbinic practices should have little or no place in our private practice or public services. To put it bluntly, why should anyone accept your anecdotal evidence when you are so clearly antagonistic toward traditional Jewish practices?

    Your claims that PMJ urges that “Jewish believers should embrace Orthodox Judaism”and that Dr. Kinzer calls us “to embrace rabbinic Judaism” are at best careless scholarship and at worst they are irresponsibly inflammatory statements. I call you to revisit those remarks and follow Derek’s example by correcting them in a timely manner.

  12. Seth says:

    Derek,

    I appreciate your prompt response and I did receive your email as well. It was unfair of me to say you are “unable” to refute; and I’m sure you are a very intelligent and capable brother. But I think “venting anger” on a blog does not in any way shine the light of Messiah to our people. And, “angry reactions” don’t equate with sound and biblical responses. Again, Dr. Brown’s article is passionate, but not in any way personally attacking Mark Kinzer’s character. If I (and Dr. Brown) have misunderstood Kinzer’s book, I truly want to know in what ways I have. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say about Dr. Brown’s concerns.

  13. Carl,

    I am quite baffled by your comments.

    1) Anecodotal evidence, compiled over decades, certainly has value, and I offer it as such. That evidence, coupled with similar evidence from many other leaders in the movement, carries weight. Perhaps my point here is more pastoral than academic, but no one has academic evidence compiled over decades that refutes mine, and the pastoral concerns certainly reflect the heart of our great Shepherd.

    2) You state that I am antagonistic to traditional Jewish practices and cannot therefore be believed when I supply anecdotal evidence about Messianic Jews backsliding into traditional Judaism. First, I find much beauty in these practices but do not believe they should have a prominent place in Messianc congregations. In my paper I wrote this: “To be sure, my hundreds of hours of dialogue and discussion with the rabbinic community – especially, Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis – have produced in me a profound respect for traditional Judaism, an appreciation for the beauty and spirituality of many of our traditions . . . . To me, traditional Judaism is the most beautiful and comprehensive religion made by man, yet it remains so near and yet so far.” Perhaps you need to re-read what I have written here and in my book Our Hands Are Stained with Blood. An Orthodox rabbi told me that after reading the chapters on Judaism in that book, he was more inspired to pray the traditional prayers! Second, following your logic, someone who feels that cigar smoking is dangerous (not to compare this with rabbinic traditions) cannot be trusted when speaking about the dangerous effects of smoking. What kind of skewed logic is this? You ask, “To put it bluntly, why should anyone accept your anecdotal evidence when you are so clearly antagonistic toward traditional Jewish practices?” Quite simply, because I an honest observer and honest scholar, completely willing to change my views when the facts call me to, and the facts remain regardless of my own viewpoint. People ignore my cautions to their own detriment.

    3) You write, “Your claims that PMJ urges that ‘Jewish believers should embrace Orthodox Judaism’ and that Dr. Kinzer calls us ‘to embrace rabbinic Judaism’ are at best careless scholarship and at worst they are irresponsibly inflammatory statements. I call you to revisit those remarks and follow Derek’s example by correcting them in a timely manner. First, there is no comparison here between my comments and Derek’s, which he quickly retracted after our private email interaction. I assured him that I would do the same should I stand corrected on any point. In any case, he spoke out of ignorance about something; no one has yet shown me where I have done the same in my paper. Second, I have simply read Dr. Kinzer’s book carefully, I have read his responses to critics elsewhere, and I have taken him at face value. Those who know him personally say, “He is not saying what I think he is saying.” Well then, the ball in his court. Let him repudiate statements such as, ““Our thesis – the legitimacy, value, and importance of rabbinic Judaism – remains intact. That thesis is crucial. If rabbinic Judaism is not valid, then no Judaism is valid.” Perhaps I have the advantage of speaking regularly to Orthodox rabbis; perhaps I view the word “valid” more holistically than you do. In any case, I differ with this thesis and lay out my differences plainly. To date, no one has offered a syllable of refutation of the five points I set forth in my paper. Third, your post is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black. Carl, the inflammatory statements come from Dr. Kinzer. The whole purpose of my paper was to wake people up to the reality of the implications of what he wrote. He titled his book the way he did; he jumped from carefully nuanced arguments to astounding conclusions; he called for a change from the NT pattern of witness. As the saying goes, if you don’t like the heat, don’t go into the kitchen. Either Dr. Kinzer retracts and revises his statements or he (and others in his camp) need to step up to the plate and vigorously defend them. If I am guilty of anything, it is putting the issues squarely on the table — and some of these issues, I believe, are of life and death importance. is that irresponsible?

  14. Carl says:

    Mike,

    I don’t think my comments are baffling at all. Anyone’s anecdotal evidence has to be considered in light of their ideas and emotions on a topic. This is not to say that the anecdotes are untrue, just questionable. IMHO, this is both common sense and good scholarship. (Note that there was much anecdotal evidence mustered against the Brownsville revival, which you and I both supported).

    Concerning your attitude toward traditional Jewish practices, you write above that “I find much beauty in these practices but do not believe they should have a prominent place in Messianic congregations.” Do you now believe that traditional Jewish practices should have a greater role though not prominent) than you did when you wrote that “I have come to the conclusion that rabbinic traditions have little or no place in our private lives or public services” (page 1 of “The Place of Rabbinic Tradition in Messianic Judaism”; you also referred to this article in the Lausanne talk)? This is not intended as a provocation, but as a serious question: Do you now see a greater place for traditional practices?

  15. Carl,

    Well, I’m still a bit baffled, but somewhat less so. If, in fact, my emotions were the issue, that would be one thing. But I can’t deny the evidence I’ve seen and continue to see, and I would remiss if I did not sound the alarm.

    As for your serious question, the answer is, no, absolutely not. Rabbinic Judaism is a different religion than the Messianic Jewish faith, and I do not believe that traditional Jewish practices should be dominant in our meetings, as articulate in the paper to which you refer (http://realmessiah.org/tradition.htm). I have not changed that position at all. My appreciation for RJ spirituality has increased thorugh my years of dialogue with Orthodox rabbis, as has my conviction that RJ and MJ are different faiths, fundamentally speaking.

    In any case, I would not have sounded the alarm if the only question was the place of certain RJ traditions in MJ services (or private lives). I honor those who differ with me over this and have not engaged in much interaction over this subject for years now. Certainly, this is not something over which we should divide.

    My goal is to support and help and bless and serve the MJ movement however I can. In the case at hand, that was best done by sounding the alarm and warning of the very dangerous conclusions of Dr. Kinzer’s book.

  16. Rich says:

    I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I think it’s relevant here. Some thoughts on the place of rabbinic tradition in private and public lives – I believe that there is a place to incorporate many traditions if someone so wishes provided that they are reinterpreted as necessary.

    Here’s what I mean – as a *system*, Orthodox Judaism incorporates the idea of the Oral Law, the authority of the rabbis, and so on. It is indeed a package, despite variations among the Orthodox. This is not just true of Judaism; in responding to Elaine Pagels’ books on Gnosticism and on the Gnostic Gospels, Darrell Bock writes:

    *************

    “Early Christians rejected Gnosticism, all right. But what Pagels presents is not the part they rejected. What they rejected, Pagels does not present.” [This is a quote from a review by Frederica Mathewes-Green of Pagels’ book Beyond Belief.]

    Mathewes-Green says in short form what this chapter has tried to show—that a full consideration of these texts reveals a theology very distinct from the faith in the biblical materials. We cannot be selective in what to highlight from this material. There was a theological package on offer in this material, and we should be aware of all their components. Picking and choosing snippets from this material and quickly passing over the rest of the package leave an imbalance in what was being affirmed by this ancient movement. Modern writings affirming the value of this material are picking and choosing for the most part; they are not giving us the full story. The goal in investigating this code has been to fill in the gaps so that we have the full picture.
    ************

    All systems are ultimately packages.

    Then how and why can I advocate incorporating rabbinic symbolism? Simply this way: reinterpretation of symbols is found in the Bible, in Jewish culture, and in the culture at large.

    1. IN THE BIBLE: Temples, priests and sacrifices existed prior to the creation of the nation of Israel. God took them, reconceptualized them, and sanctified them. In the New Testament, Jesus took extra-biblical customs (cups at Passover, water pouring ceremony at Shavuot) and invested them with new meaning, or at least used them to make a point. Probably also with the apostles in Acts 2, regarding the tradition that the 70 nations of the world heard God offer the Torah in their own languages, and Peter’s sermon playing off the tradition that King David died on Shavuot.

    2. IN JEWISH CULTURE: Non-Orthodox Judaism, particularly Reform, has radically reinterpreted / reapplied the significance of e.g. the holidays. Reform Jews might not believe in a literal Exodus, but Passover can be used to speak of the Exodus of Russian Jewry.

    3. IN THE CULTURE AT LARGE – Bach took drinking songs and turned them into hymns, sanctifying them.

    So reinterpretation of symbols is common. In the cross-pollination of church and synagogue, similar borrowing (in both directions) led to reinterpretation of symbols.

    Therefore I believe it’s legitimate to take rabbinic traditions and reinterpret them. Would I always want to? No. Would I sometimes want to? Yes. Why? Because after all they are the symbols and traditions of my people, a link to my past and to people today. So why abandon them wholesale? Having grown up Reform, I am comfortable with a certain minimum degree of tradition in my life.

    Nevetheless, as a package, I cannot follow *traditional* Judaism (there is of course many *pick and choose* Judaisms that in fact actively reinterpret symbols and traditions). It seems to me that Kinzer is advocating both a somewhat traditional Judaism for lifestyle, as well as advocating that that tradition serves as a vehicle in some degree for Jews relating (salvifically) to God.

    Just a few thoughts. Again, sorry for the length.

  17. Bill says:

    Being a missionary to Jewish people for 25 years (eight years in Tel Aviv), I feel I have paid my dues, and even though a Gentile, I feel I must weigh in on this important debate. I apolgize for the length of this, but felt I must bear my heart to you, my fine Jewish brothers.

    I was saddened by the ad hominum attacks by Derek on Michael Brown….”brought in for a hatchet job,” “juvenile,” “complete misunderstanding of Judaism,” “pure tripe,” “ridiculous”…. and more. !? I have known Michael for 20 years. I have not met Derek, but these personal attacks and accusations sure tell me more about Derek than Michael Brown. They surely do not describe the Michael Brown I know, or his writings which I also know.

    Browm has successfully debated rabbis, at least held his own with them. This would not be possible if Browm has a “complete misunderstanding of Judaism,” as Derek alleges.

    What is behind such an “angry” explosion to a brother in Messiah, Derek? If Sr. Brown’s paper was a “bad sermon” as Derek says (which it was not), Derek’s first blog entry was an emotional screed, mean in character.

    Why not address the substance of Brown’s five points? Just a novel thought! Mike’s five points are abundantly and responsibly supported by New Testament Scripture. His exegetical use of these passages cannot be written off as wild and twisted, or biased proof-texting. They are the plain sense of the text. Having just finished a PhD, I know that we in scholary circles can tend to become “educated beyong our intelligence” and fascinated by erudition like Kinzer’s book. But I find the following sayings about Scripture to be wise in their simplicity – “The main things are the plain things; and the plain things are the main things. And we should keep the main things the main things.”

    When Mike presented the paper at LCJE, I was there. And I can tell you that its Biblical lucidity resonated with many of us who had partially read Kinzer’s book, were wanting to be sympathetic to Kinzer, and out of respect for his scholarship were witholding judgement. Mike’s Biblical freshness and clarity cleared the air and he was given an ovation. And I can tell you that we in the LCJE network are not ignorant Gentiles;those of us who are not Jewish are long time and ardent lovers of the Jewish people, and students of things Jewish. As for the validity of anecdotal evidence. let me give you my first-hand testimony ( testimonies are a form of anecdote). Reading Kinzer’s book as a Gentile Christian, I felt depressed that I was not a Jew, I felt relegated to one half of the “bilateral ecclesiology”, and that as missionary to Jews I should close up shop and go home. After hearing Brown’s paper, I as a Gentile felt rehabilitated again by the transcending centrality of Yeshua who unites us all.

    Brown’s five points are main and plain aposotic teachings: I offer below some of my own thoughts on his five points:

    1) Active witnesses –(Brown supports by five NT passages); not mere proof-texting.
    2) As the the pattern of Jewish rejection of God’s messengers,– read Stephen’s speech again to the Sanhedrin Acts 7), and Yeshua’s passionate hatchet job on the Pharisees (Math 23).
    3) Explicit Faith in Yeshus necessary– Look again at Brown’s use of the Gospel of John on this point. What could be clearer? What could be clearer than Yeshua’s own words to the religious Jews of his day. “Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.” (Jn 8:24).
    4) Emphasis in NT on Yeshua above Judaism – This is unassailably correct.Brown presents upward of eighteen (18) NT references to substantiate this. In fact this is arguably the major theme of the Gospel of John and Book of Hebrews.
    5) That “Postmissionary MJ” is on a trajectory to negation of true apostolic Messianic faith– Having just finished a doctoral disseration in which I used Mark 8:35 as a key interpretive lense in analyzing late modern American cutlure, I concur with Brown. Fallen human nature (which Jews do not escape) is prone to exalt itself..pride of face, pride of race, pride of grace, etc. When it succumbs to that pride, it ironically loses what it is seeking; — “Seeking to save one’s life, one loses it” I call it the Christian/Messianic Paradox. I think Kinzer is close to (not yet there), but setting a trajectory toward advocating SALVATION BY RACE. His book CERTAINLY demotivates apostolic passion for Jewish evangelism.

    If the trajectory continues, the very survial of the Jewish people that Kinzer and associates cherish is in jeopardy of being lost, not only , as Brown suggests, by assimilation to Gentile churches (because we Gentiles called to Jewish missions feel put out of the Jewish faction of the bilateral ecclesiolgy, and so will fold new Jewish believers into churches)….but ALSO because of the self-deception that somehow Jews are OK because Yeshua is mystically always with them, and so why identify with the passion of Paul who lived only to preach Messiah to the Jew first, and would give up his own salvation so his brothers could be saved(which presupposes they are lost, nu?). Paradoxically, “Postmissionary MJ”, in seeking to save its life, will lose the true life that is only in being vitally connected to the True Vine, together with all other branches.

    I urge you, my Jewish brothers, as a lover of the Jewish people,to give up the incessant Jewish identity machinations(Am I Jewish enough? Are you Jewish enough?) Get beyond it. Do you not trust that God will preserve Jewish identity if you put His Messiah first and foremost?? Keep the main and the plain things, the main things…the rest will fall into place.

    Give up your life to Yeshua’s Lordship, supremacy, and centrality (like the apostle Paul did) and you will get Jewishness thrown in with it. Seek first Jewishness, and you will lose both Jewishness and Yeshua’s indwelling life. Stop and listen to the voice of warning from you brother Michael Browm, and be grateful to God he is one of your own.
    Bill Bjoraker

  18. Bill:

    I’m guessing by now you may have read other posts and seen that I have addressed Dr. Brown’s points. (I say this in answer to what you wrote: “Why not address the substance of Brown’s five points? Just a novel thought!”).

    You certainly made an over-the-top accusation when you said, “I think Kinzer is close to (not yet there), but setting a trajectory toward advocating SALVATION BY RACE.”

    Bill, you have no idea what you are talking about. That is slander. You don’t really protect yourself by saying “close to (not there yet).” You’re saying that Dr. Kinzer is on a slippery slope to salvation by ethnicity.

    Well, I will let the readers decide if your angry comment complaining about my angry blog was successful.

    Derek

  19. David Niles Jr says:

    Derek, Shalom to you in Yehsua our Messiah. I have read several of your article with FFOZ. There are excellent. I haven’t read Dr Mark Kinzer’s book, so I can’t judge all that he says. I have however read Dr Michael Brown’s article ” Rabbinic Tradition in Messianic Judaism”. I am a Christian who has studied the Jewish Roots of Christianity for several years now,and have seen some very questionable things said and done in the name of “Torah”. God has called us to “provoke the Jews to jealousy”, but by our loving witness of Y”shua in us. I agree with Michael Brown 100% when he said that some beleivers in the Messianic Jewish Movement have a “Jewish fixation instead of a Jesus fixation”. We all, Jew or Gentile, need to as the writer of Hebrews said “looking unto the author and finisher of our faith, Yeshua (Jesus)”. Many Blessings to you Derek in the Name of Messiah.

  20. Rich says:

    The day people can stop calling disagreements (or misunderstandings) “slander,” will be the day the messianic Jewish movement becomes “mature.”

  21. Rich and Dr. Brown:

    I used the term slander. According to my Oxford dictionary, it means: “the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.”

    I used the term in relation to Bill’s claim that Dr. Kinzer is close to advocating salvation by race.

    Suppose I said, “Rich is close to advocating universalism.” Perhaps the reasoning in my mind might be, “Salvation by grace to Rich means salvation for no reason found in the one saved, which is close to salvation by nothing, and if it takes nothing to be saved, everyone is saved.”

    Well: (a) Calling Rich a universalist is damaging, (b) it is untrue, (c) it is all based on a misunderstanding of his theology.

    By analogy: (a) Calling Dr. Kinzer a racial-soteriologist is akin to racism and is very damaging, (b) it is untrue (I am 100% certain) and (c) it is based on a misunderstanding of Dr. Kinzer’s book.

    So I ask, is it okay for me to accuse people of extreme theology if I can suggest a potential progression from where they are to this extreme theology? I could have lots of fun with it.

    Derek

  22. Derek,

    First, you accuse Bill of being angry in his post, which was a completely subjective judgment. (BTW, the last thing I detected in his post was anger.)

    Second, what Bill says is carefully worded and gives food for thought. To be sure, Dr. Kinzer’s soteriological views re: Israel sound close to inclusivism or even two-covenant theology and have caused concern in some circles. So, what is wrong with Bill’s point: “I think Kinzer is close to (not yet there), but setting a trajectory toward advocating SALVATION BY RACE. His book CERTAINLY demotivates apostolic passion for Jewish evangelism.” I find nothing slanderous in the statement nor do I find it inaccurate. “. . . close to . . . not yet there . . . setting a trajectory toward . . .” It could well be!

    Dr. Brown

  23. Geoff says:

    28As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

    If I am reading Romans correctly, God elected the Jews to disobedience in order to extend mercy to Gentiles. But part of that plan is the mercy to Gentiles may in turn show mercy to the Jews.

    Given the flow of logic in Romans 10 for sent preachers in order to believe and receive salvation (no “secret believers” or “anonymous Christians”) this sounds like missionaries to me.

  24. Seth says:

    Derek,

    You mentioned to Bill that you have interacted with all 5 points of concern raised by Dr. Brown. You told me, however, that your initial response was in anger and that you have not yet interacted with Dr. Brown’s concerns. Would you mind summarizing your conflict with Dr. Brown’s paper (I’m not sure I have the time to peruse all of your blogs-there are many-to try to tie together your response), directly addressing the 5 issues with the biblical text? I am not trying to antagonize or to exacerbate the issue: but wouldn’t you at least agree that Dr. Brown’s concerns need to be addressed? In fact, it was you who posted the following: “I would love it if by some chance some who knows Dr. Brown would direct his attention to this blog and I will gladly post a debate with main arguments and rebuttals from both sides.” For some reason, I see the debate, but “main arguments” and “rebuttals” are lacking.
    Again, you referred your readers to the end of Romans 11 and told us that this says it all. But you never told us what “all” is and how that addresses the issue at hand.

    Thanks, again.

  25. Seth:

    My critique of Dr. Brown’s five points against PMJ can be found in the post titled, “Michael Brown and Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism.” You can save some time scrolling if you will click on the category Michael Brown on the menu to the right.

    Dr. Brown will send a rebuttal in a few days.

    I do apologize for the large posts and the many words on this topic. I know it is a lot to read. If you will simply read that one post, however, I think you will be adequately caught up.

    I also explained what I think PMJ is in a post called “What is Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism?” Then I explained reasons I believe in PMJ and some challenges to the old paradigm in “Why I am Passionate about PMJ.”

    Derek

  26. Seth says:

    BTW, Derek, I’ve just noticed on another blog “Torah” that you have offered some responses, but you are not at all being fair. Your wrote: “The people who are criticizing PMJ on this blog are people still stuck in the old paradigm of Torah rejection.” This is not the proper way to discuss an issue. You have made a categorical accusation against people who are raising some legitimate concerns, and you’re doing so “behind our backs.” Why not put your responses directly on this blog where the issues can be discussed? Or is it easier just to “accuse” with absolutely no evidence?

    You have mixed apples and oranges. Views on Torah is one thing, views on PMJ and Dr. Brown’s concerns are entirely another.You have accused me (I assume) of “the old paradigm of Torah rejection.” Do you know for sure that I (and others in this blog) have an “old paradigm”? Perhaps there are paradigms that don’t fall into that category, but don’t agree with yours as well. Please, no unfair accusations. Just address the issue at hand.

  27. Seth:

    I have no idea what you are talking about. If I have an old article on the Torah in this blog and I mentioned something about “the old paradigm,” that was not in response to the current debate.

    What is the name of the post in which I made this statement?

    Derek

  28. Seth says:

    It’s titled “Why I’m Passionate about PMJ” posted May 11, 2007 on your “Torah” link. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to Dr. Brown’s points. I think that is important and moves the conversation forward in very positive ways. I look forward to reading your responses.

    But, unless I’ve misunderstood what you have written in the above mentioned blog, it does seem as though you are lumping anyone who disagrees with PMJ as falling into the category of “Torah rejection.” Once again, if I have misjudged or misunderstood you, my profoundest apologies.

  29. Seth:

    I didn’t think there was anything dishonest about answering comments on various posts on my blog. I never intended the entire discussion to take place in comments on this post. There are comments on almost every post of late.

    Again, if you accept the validity of Torah and yet reject PMJ, then you have staked out a position not yet represented in the comments on this blog.

    Perhaps you would like to send me a 1,000 max explanation of why you accept Torah but reject PMJ. Email it to me at derek4messiah@gmail.com and I will gladly post it.

    Derek

  30. Seth says:

    With great pleasure. It will have to wait a couple of days, but I’ll get on it early next week.

  31. Seth says:

    BTW, I didn’t say it was dishonest. I just think it was unfair to make such sweeping generalizations.

    BTW, I also appreciated your admission that you answered Dr. Brown hastily and “in anger” Thanks for being a “gever!”

  32. Ray Gannon says:

    Dear Brothers,

    It seems to me that in light of the utter importance of the topic at hand and its monumental implications for all us devoting our lives to the redemption of “All Israel,” that a one-on-one debate must be arranged between Mark Kinzer and Mike Brown to which Messianic academic and pastoral leadership is invited. Books in print can be misconstrued and one’s true agenda be lost by readership in the haze of inflammatory projections. As a leading Messianic academic involved at the highest levels of Messianic theological education, Mark deserves a legitimate opportunity to disspell any widespread misunderstanding regarding his recent writings and his belief system that might otherwise greatly distress people of Messianic Faith.

    Ray Gannon

  33. Dr Michael L Brown says:

    Ray,

    I think that’s a terrific idea, and I would joyfully participate in it. Can you help to make it happen?

    Blessings,

    Michael

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