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.