Why I am Passionate about PMJ

Well, we have had a heated debate here about Mark Kinzer’s Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism. I have made some strong statements. Others have made some strong statements. I think I have learned some things from my elders (Dr. Brown, Rich) about scholarly dialogue. Of course, in the beginning it wasn’t all that much about scholarly dialogue — I was simply denouncing a paper which I thought misrepresented Dr. Kinzer and which I thought was too preachy.

I have learned that it is far more important to address the substantive issues than to denounce rhetoric.

Still, one of my critics and friends has made the remark that I seem to be emotionally vested in Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism (PMJ). Well, I am. I thought I might share a few reasons why.

First, I have made the journey from various anti-Torah theologies that see the Bible as a divided book to a holistic Biblical theology of Torah and election and redemption and grace. Even in my early days as a believer at Georgia Tech (I grew up non-religious in a non-Jewish home) I struggled with what I was learning at church. First they told me the Bible was the Word of God, which took me a while to swallow, and then, after I swallowed it, they practically emasculated the Old Testament.

I was not the only one who had trouble understanding the typical anti-Torah theologies (”only the moral law remains,” “all of the law has been done away with,” “only what is repeated in the New Testament counts”). People in my Sunday School classes had difficulty articulating the multiple-personality-disorder view of the Bible because theologically it is a stretch.

I began to be officially educated in an evangelical Bible college where I was taught the theology of dispensationalism (the Old Testament was another dispensation and it does not apply directly to our situation today). For a long time I hung on to this theology which divided my Bible based on invisible boundaries my teachers assured me were valid. At least it made more sense that Reformed theology, dividing the law haphazardly into categories.

Still, I was uncomfortable. It was hard for me to relegate the Old Testament to the back shelf. It was theologically inconsistent for me to believe that God used to think dietary law was important, but somehow in Mark 7, Yeshua taught this was a primitive earlier stage of revelation. Why would God bring up a topic like dietary law and then repeal it as primitive and unworthy? Furthermore, why did evangelicals take words like “forever” very seriously when it proved a pet doctrine but completely disregard the word when it was used of God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai? While we’re on the subject, why did churches reject the Torah but preach tithing right out of Deuteronomy and Malachi?

Eventually, I picked up a copy of a Hasidic book called Taryag Mitzvot. Taryag is a Hebrew acronym for a number, 613, the number of commandments as the rabbis enumerate them in the Torah. I discovered that rabbinic Judaism had some good solutions to many of the problems with the Torah, such as, how can Torah be valid when many of its law cannot be literally kept today? I began to think more critically about the Torah. It was not what my evangelical teachers had assured me it was. I learned about case law and developed a new hermeneutic (for myself) in interpreting Torah.

I found that Yeshua’s teaching and practice upheld the Torah (Matt 5:17-19). I decided that “fulfill” cannot mean the same thing as “abolish,” though many theologies fail to account for this. I even found that Paul’s statements about the Torah were taken out of context and misapplied. I realized the truth of Romans 7:14.

The people who are criticizing PMJ on this blog are people still stuck in the old paradigm of Torah rejection. I call this the old paradigm because I believe error gradually, more slowly than I would like, comes to the surface amongst God’s people. I cannot believe the anti-Torah theologies of the churches will last too many more decades. I am an optimist (or simply naive). I think serious scholars more and more will reject seeing the New Testament as an anti-Torah book.

I am also passionate about PMJ because I reject a triumphalist stance in witness. Those who are criticizing PMJ take the position that rabbinic Judaism is a false religion. They have not come to the same conclusions I have.

I used to see it that way. In fact, even as recently as two or three years ago I would say in sermons, “The rabbis say,” and then present the rabbinic position as a false one. I do not mean that now I think rabbinic commentators are always right (any more than Christian ones). But a shift has occurred in my thinking and my rhetoric. The rabbis are not them. They are part of us, part of the conversation of people who believe God’s word and seek its meaning.

The fact is, the image of God resides in all humankind. Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims are not completely without truth. It is possible to speak to a Hindu from a position of commonality instead of immediately emphasizing dissimilarity.

Yet with Judaism, there is more. Judaism shares 80% of the revelatory text of our faith. Judaism gets a lot right. And more than that, Judaism has not been abandoned by God.

If you look at God’s promises to preserve Israel and at history since the time of the New Testament an interesting thing happens. You have to ask, what has held Jewish people together? What has kept the Jewish people from assimilating, like so many other peoples and religions? The answer is not ethnicity. Ethnicity is not a strong bond. Ethnic peoples assimilate and mingle and lose their identity. The answer is Judaism, especially the teachings of the rabbis. Even the most secular Jew in the world today defines him or herself by the teachings of the rabbis (unconsciously, of course).

Some say, “But God could have used anything to preserve his people!” Sure, but I’m not talking about alternative realities. I am talking about actuality. God used rabbinic Judaism.

More than that, God has not left his people. The elect people of God, through whom his entire plan to redeem creation is based, are still the Jewish people (even in unbelief, Rom 11:28).

In my journey, I decided to work with God and not against him. I decided that rejecting rabbinic Judaism was kicking against the pricks. Matthew 23:1-3 makes perfect sense to me. It does not make sense to the critics of PMJ.

There are other reasons I am passionate about PMJ.
1. I have found Jewish prayer to be a spiritual discipline of great depth.
2. I believe that only PMJ finally rids the body of supersessionism (replacement theology, read R. Kendall Soulen or at least some posts on this blog about him and the canonical narrative).
3. I believe that dispensationalism and Reformed theology are fading paradigms.
4. I believe that representing Yeshua from within Judaism is biblical.
5. I understand that Torah must be kept communally, as part of Klal Yisrael, and is not subject to thousands of private halakhot.
6. I believe that PMJ, properly interpreted, recovers the entire counsel of God’s word.
7. I believe that PMJ raises Messianic Judaism out from being either a protest against the church or an assimilation into the church and recovers a proper relationship between the Jewish members of Messiah’s body and the non-Jewish members of Messiah’s body.
8. I believe that PMJ finally finds the appropriate reason for Torah and Jewish life, not to bait and switch Jews into assimilating into Christian identity, but to serve God as he commanded and create the community he designed to draw Israel to Messiah.

This is my challenge to critics of PMJ. If your paradigm is so God-centered, scripturally correct, and missiologically sound, then:
1. Why use Jewish practices at all when you do not believe them to be normative or even appropriate to the spirit of New Testament freedom?
2. Why use Jewish symbols and culture to draw Jewish people in when you have no intention of encouraging them to keep God’s covenant (Torah) and retain Jewish identity through the only proven source of Jewish identity?
3. What sort of Jewish communities of faith are you building? Aren’t you just practicing the same assimilationist methods of the dark ages of Christianity (you were a Jew, now you are something else, a Christian)?
4. How is the Bible the Word of God to you? How are you honoring God with theologies that imply he first gave a primitive, unworthy revelation perfected only in the New Testament?
5. How is your pick and choose Torah observance consistent at all and how can you imagine God’s plan was for every man to do what is right in his own eyes instead of following communal standards?
6. How is your message to Jewish people good news? Aren’t you denying the humanity of the Jews you assimilate into the church? Aren’t you saying, “In order to be saved, you must realize that keeping God’s commandments to Israel is not required”? Aren’t you asking Jews to say no to God in order to say yes to Yeshua?

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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 Mark Kinzer, Messianic Jewish, Michael Brown, Theology, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Why I am Passionate about PMJ

  1. While I’m putting together my own statement for the blog here (at Derek’s invitation), let me remind Derek and the other readers that Yeshua told us we could judge the tree by its fruit, and I know of no PMJ congregation — Derek’s included — that is successfully winning Jewish people to the Lord in any substantial numbers, whereas there are congregations in Israel today (just to give one example) that are decidedly NOT PMJ and are flourishing because of the exalation of Yeshua, life in the Spirit, and the fearless proclamation of the Messiah.

    Despite my time constraints, I disagree so passionately — for MANY biblical and spiritual reasons — with the approach of PMJ that I will continue to sound the alarm and bring the warning. This is the wrong direction, and time will prove it out. For any readers who have not yet read my paper on this, it is now available on our Jewish outreach website (www.realmessiah.org, under Articles).

    God willing, I’ll post something more substantial on this very soon. For the moment, however, I say again: Stop sign! Warning! The PMJ approach is a decided step backwards, not forwards.

  2. Dr. Brown:

    Your comment is a bit of a judgment, isn’t it? You are saying that Tikvat David (the cong. I lead) is not flourishing or reaching Jewish people in large numbers as opposed to the Israeli congregations you are thinking of, which are.

    I guess you say that because you asked me how many people come to Tikvat David and how many are Jewish.

    Well, most of the congregations in Israel are smaller than Tivat David. I guess “flourish” is subjective.

    I know of a flourishing PMJ congregation in the U.S. with more members and attenders than almost any congregation in Israel. I also know that 75-80% of the members at this PMJ congregation are Jews. I hesitate to mention this congregation on the public blog lest I bring embarrassment or make some mistake.

    Meanwhile, Tikvat David is only six years old; it was started by an incompetent leader (me) who has only in the last two years begun to figure out what MJ should mean.

    By the way, in the first four years of our congregation we operated with more of a missionary model. In fact, for a brief time I had two staff members attempting street outreach. It had the same lack of effect that street outreach had when I worked for a Jewish mission.

    My point, anecdotally, is that Missionary Messianic Judaism is not a formula for success and neither is PMJ. It matters what is right.

    Meanwhile, I think Tikvat David is flourishing in a humble sort of way. I reject your assertion to the contrary. And it just so happens that we exalt Yeshua and the Spirit too at Tikvat David. We even boldly proclaim the good news of Yeshua. I don’t know why you thought otherwise.

    Derek

  3. Derek,

    I was basing my statement on a number of conversations with leaders in the MJ movement, all of whom provided the same information to me.

    As for congregational size, bear in mind that many of the Israeli congregations are largely Jewish (in some cases, almost entirely), whereas the vast majority of those attending MJ congregations in the States are not Jewish.

    As for the “flourishing PMJ congregation in the U.S. with more members and attenders than almost any congregation in Israel,” please share that info with me via email, since you feel it’s not best to share that info publicly. My key question, of course, would be in terms of Jewish people coming into a vibrant relationship with the Lord as opposed to total numbers of Jews attending, since many of them could have been saved previously.

    Please also let me know what you mean by “exalt the Spirit” in your congregation when you get a moment.

    One final question(and please do not take it in a condescending way, since all of us are on a journey of sorts, including me): You state that you have only figured out what MJ is in the last two years. Could it be that many of your current posts reflect just another step on your journey and that, say, five years from now, you could no longer embrace PMJ?

    May God’s smile be on your services this weekend.

    Dr. Brown

  4. Derek, and Dr. Brown,

    I have great respect for both of you, as you both know from personal experience with me. However, in this case, I must take exception to Dr. Brown’s well-intentioned, passionate, but puzzling conclusions which he appears to base on his personal experience and observations.

    It intrigues me that Scripture clearly states that in eschatological times, the following will be true of the Jewish people: Ezek. 37:21 . . . I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land; (the Jewish people will be regathered to the Land–therefore we should support Aliyah and engage in it whenever possible); 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; (therefore we should pursue Jewish unity and not make divisions between ourselves and “unsaved Jews”); and one king shall be king over them all (this is of course, Hashem Himself, apparently through the person of Messiah–see later here); and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. (Jewish unity again); 23 They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (They shall be spiritually renewed–therefore we should pursue Jewish spiritual renewal); 24 “My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. (Therefore we should proclaim Yeshua the Son of David to our people, anticipating the day when He shall be manifestly our King) They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. (therefore we should promote and practice Torah observance. It is strange hermeutics to imagine that Ezekiel is speaking here of anything other than Jewish covenant faithfulness. And of course there are many other supportive passages, for those with eyes to see). 25 They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever (repeating the emphasis of unity, Aliyah, etc.) ; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. (Again, the Messiah) 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore.” (This kind of Messianic Judaism is the kind of Judaism which ultimately will bring honor to Hashem.

    Dr. Brown, probably the chief reason I embrace the kind of Post Missionary Messianic Judaism I do is because it makes better sense out of Scripture–the whole counsel of God. You are free to disagree, but please, don’t make egregious assumptions about people’s motives. For me, it is a matter of Scripture.

    And if you want anecdotal evidence, know this: I have seen more Jews come to Yeshua faith in my fifteen years at my Post Missionary Messianic Jewish congregation than in 17 years with a prominent Jewish mission. But again, the reason I do what I do is that I believe it is the pathway of obedience. My vision for Messianic Judaism involves honoring the past and serving the future, in Yeshua’s Name. in the power of the Spirit, and in covenant solidarity with the descendants of Jacob.

    If this be something about which you must warn others, so be it. I know you have deep reverence for God and for Scripture, Dr. Brown. But I would gently challenge you to become more aware of how much your cultural presuppositions and ecclesiastical context are conditioning your conclusions.

    One further very ironic point. Critics of Post Missionary Messianic Judaism fault people like myself for seeking to form congregations which are almost entirely Jewish. Outside my congregation, the sigbboard reads, “A congregation of Jews and Intermarrieds that honors Yeshua.” We are criticized by some in the mission culture and some others for thus contradicting the unity of the Body of Messiah. Then, as in your letter, we are criticized by the same people for having congregations with to many Gentiles. So we are wrong for seeking to have a Jewish demographic majority and base, and likewise criticized if our demographic base has too many Gentiles. This is a pincer movement that, in my worst moments seems, Machievellian.

    I leave it to our detrators to pick which position they will criticize us for, but from now on, no fair choosing both!

    As for me and my friends, we choose our understanding of Scripture, and of God’s will for Israel and the nations.

    Shalom.

    Stuart

  5. Dr. Dauerman,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond at length. Just last night, I read your paper in the Hashivenu forum where you raised some of these very issues, and I was about to email you but did not have your current e-address. So, thanks for writing so respectfully, despite our differences and despite your concerns with what you believe are the shortcomings of my approach.

    Allow me a few responses to your points, with one immediate correction: The vast majority of my conclusions are based on my study of Scripture over the last thirty-five years (along with related studies). Where my experiences confirm those conclusions, I offer those as well. In my LCJE paper, I primarily pointed to scripture; in some of my recent posts, I have made reference to anecdotal evidence as well.

    Now, to your key points. You quote Ezek 36 at length here, as you do in your Hashivneu paper, pointing to our people’s return to Torah obedience in the Messianic age. Of course, questions could be raised about exactly what that will entail, since there will certainly be changes in the world at that time and the applicability of certain Torah laws can easily be questioned.

    But let’s just take the text as face value without raising this issue, and with appreciation for your well-reasoned parenthetical comments. What is certain is that the NT imagery points to believers in Yeshua enjoying the firstfruits of this promise (see, e.g, Rom 8:1-4; 2 Cor 6:14-17; Heb 8:7-13, quoting Jer 31:31-34). Why then, following PMJ, should we submit to rabbinic halakha?

    If it is for the purpose of Jewish outreach, simply to identify with a particular part of the Jewish community, that’s one thing, but that is something that Dr. Kinzer decidedly rejects. In reality, either traditional Judaism is currently experiencing the realities of Ezek 36:21ff. – in which case they do not need Yeshua – or we are, we who know Yeshua and have the life of the Spirit and the Torah written on our hearts, in which case we should not follow traditional Judaism’s non-Messianic, non-Holy Spirit halakha.

    Now, if you’re like me, you will immediately formulate a response to this point – you may not be a public debater like me, but you are a formidable Messianic Jewish thinker and scholar – in which case you might miss the force of my argument. But please step back and consider my point.

    As you know, I contend that Talmudic Judaism and Messianic Judaism are two distinct religious faiths (with much obvious overlap, but otherwise two distinct faiths), something with which you would differ. But will you completely differ with me when I say that the real challenge for the Messianic Jewish movement is to discover a truly Messianic halakha, a life in the Spirit approach to Torah, one that follows the signals of Rabbi Yeshua and recognizes that the age to come has already broken in?

    I have tried to look at this issue from every angle, and I cannot reconcile the NT adaptation of Ezek 36 (and other passages) with the call to submit to rabbinic halakha – which means immersion in the Talmud and Law Codes, not to mention submission to living rabbis today. (This last point has been underscored to me strongly by an Orthodox rabbi – and dear friend – who emphasized to me that submission to rabbinic halakha means submission to living Orthodox rabbis.)

    Dr. Dauerman, do you honestly find the same approach to Torah in the NT and in the Shulchan Aruch? And, following PMJ, do you believe that it is God’s will that I and other Jewish believers worldwide submit to rabbinic halakha? In my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that you would answer yes to these questions – and that’s one of the reasons I take such strong exception to PMJ: Dr. Kinzer feels that he knows God’s will for at least the great majority of Jewish believers today, and that will is submission to rabbinic halakha. Impossible!

    Now, I don’t doubt that you embrace PMJ out of scriptural convictions, but I am not making egregious assumptions about people’s motives since: 1) I have been told by some MJ leaders who embrace PMJ that they believe they will eventually be accepted as legitimate Jews by the Jewish community; 2) the very posture of PMJ is for MJ’s to be positioned as “insiders,” which implies some level of either recognition or acceptance by the Jewish community; 3) in my LCJE paper, I raise some strong concerns at the end, saying that “perhaps” this is the case with those in the PMJ camp.

    So, yes, I do feel convicted by God to sound the alarm, and I appreciate your recognition of that conviction (not your endorsement or agreement, of course). Since, however, you ask me to “become more aware of how much [my] cultural presuppositions and ecclesiastical context are conditioning [my] conclusions,” I can only ask you to do the same. I was quite surprised last year to read a quote from you in the Messianic Times stating that Jewish people don’t come to the Lord through debates in these postmodern days (in an article talking about my debates with my friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach). In point of fact, I have seen consistent good fruit through these debates over the last twenty years, not the least of which is Jewish people coming to faith in Yeshua. If anything, the fruit has increased rather than decreased in recent years. Could it be that you have misread the times in which we live as well?

    I’m blessed to hear that you have seen more Jews come to the Lord in your years as a PMJ congregational leader (as opposed to your years as a missionary), but I would hope that that would be the case with every congregational leader, since we all know that the great majority of people come to the Lord through personal witness, whereas organizations like Jews for Jesus tend to be more seed-sowers than harvesters.

    One last request (to this long post): You speak of Dr. Kinzer as one of your closest friends, whereas I have never met him and can only go by his writings, and it is those writings which cause me such grave concern. As you will see from my LCJE paper, I profited much from his PMJ book and I certainly respect his scholarship. But is it too much to ask him to state unequivocally his repudiation of any hint of two-covenant theology, to repudiate any inclusivistic (or, “wider hope”) belief for Jews who have heard the gospel, and to state clearly that our people are lost without explicit faith in Yeshua? Is this too much to ask?

    Shalom,

    Michael

  6. (Part one of my response to Stuart Dauerman)

    Dr. Dauerman,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond at length. Just last night, I read your paper in the Hashivenu forum where you raised some of these very issues, and I was about to email you but did not have your current e-address. So, thanks for writing so respectfully, despite our differences and despite your concerns with what you believe are the shortcomings of my approach.

    Allow me a few responses to your points, with one immediate correction: The vast majority of my conclusions are based on my study of Scripture over the last thirty-five years (along with related studies). Where my experiences confirm those conclusions, I offer those as well. In my LCJE paper, I primarily pointed to scripture; in some of my recent posts, I have made reference to anecdotal evidence as well.

    Now, to your key points. You quote Ezek 36 at length here, as you do in your Hashivneu paper, pointing to our people’s return to Torah obedience in the Messianic age. Of course, questions could be raised about exactly what that will entail, since there will certainly be changes in the world at that time and the applicability of certain Torah laws can easily be questioned.

    But let’s just take the text as face value without raising this issue, and with appreciation for your well-reasoned parenthetical comments. What is certain is that the NT imagery points to believers in Yeshua enjoying the firstfruits of this promise (see, e.g, Rom 8:1-4; 2 Cor 6:14-17; Heb 8:7-13, quoting Jer 31:31-34). Why then, following PMJ, should we submit to rabbinic halakha?

    If it is for the purpose of Jewish outreach, simply to identify with a particular part of the Jewish community, that’s one thing, but that is something that Dr. Kinzer decidedly rejects. In reality, either traditional Judaism is currently experiencing the realities of Ezek 36:21ff. – in which case they do not need Yeshua – or we are, we who know Yeshua and have the life of the Spirit and the Torah written on our hearts, in which case we should not follow traditional Judaism’s non-Messianic, non-Holy Spirit halakha.

    Now, if you’re like me, you will immediately formulate a response to this point – you may not be a public debater like me, but you are a formidable Messianic Jewish thinker and scholar – in which case you might miss the force of my argument. But please step back and consider my point.

    As you know, I contend that Talmudic Judaism and Messianic Judaism are two distinct religious faiths (with much obvious overlap, but otherwise two distinct faiths), something with which you would differ. But will you completely differ with me when I say that the real challenge for the Messianic Jewish movement is to discover a truly Messianic halakha, a life in the Spirit approach to Torah, one that follows the signals of Rabbi Yeshua and recognizes that the age to come has already broken in?

    I have tried to look at this issue from every angle, and I cannot reconcile the NT adaptation of Ezek 36 (and other passages) with the call to submit to rabbinic halakha – which means immersion in the Talmud and Law Codes, not to mention submission to living rabbis today. (This last point has been underscored to me strongly by an Orthodox rabbi – and dear friend – who emphasized to me that submission to rabbinic halakha means submission to living Orthodox rabbis.)

    Dr. Dauerman, do you honestly find the same approach to Torah in the NT and in the Shulchan Aruch? And, following PMJ, do you believe that it is God’s will that I and other Jewish believers worldwide submit to rabbinic halakha? In my wildest dreams, I could not imagine that you would answer yes to these questions – and that’s one of the reasons I take such strong exception to PMJ: Dr. Kinzer feels that he knows God’s will for at least the great majority of Jewish believers today, and that will is submission to rabbinic halakha. Impossible!

  7. (Part two of my response to Stuart Dauerman)

    Now, I don’t doubt that you embrace PMJ out of scriptural convictions, but I am not making egregious assumptions about people’s motives since: 1) I have been told by some MJ leaders who embrace PMJ that they believe they will eventually be accepted as legitimate Jews by the Jewish community; 2) the very posture of PMJ is for MJ’s to be positioned as “insiders,” which implies some level of either recognition or acceptance by the Jewish community; 3) in my LCJE paper, I raise some strong concerns at the end, saying that “perhaps” this is the case with those in the PMJ camp.

    So, yes, I do feel convicted by God to sound the alarm, and I appreciate your recognition of that conviction (not your endorsement or agreement, of course). Since, however, you ask me to “become more aware of how much [my] cultural presuppositions and ecclesiastical context are conditioning [my] conclusions,” I can only ask you to do the same. I was quite surprised last year to read a quote from you in the Messianic Times stating that Jewish people don’t come to the Lord through debates in these postmodern days (in an article talking about my debates with my friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach). In point of fact, I have seen consistent good fruit through these debates over the last twenty years, not the least of which is Jewish people coming to faith in Yeshua. If anything, the fruit has increased rather than decreased in recent years. Could it be that you have misread the times in which we live as well?

    I’m blessed to hear that you have seen more Jews come to the Lord in your years as a PMJ congregational leader (as opposed to your years as a missionary), but I would hope that that would be the case with every congregational leader, since we all know that the great majority of people come to the Lord through personal witness, whereas organizations like Jews for Jesus tend to be more seed-sowers than harvesters.

    One last request (to this long post): You speak of Dr. Kinzer as one of your closest friends, whereas I have never met him and can only go by his writings, and it is those writings which cause me such grave concern. As you will see from my LCJE paper, I profited much from his PMJ book and I certainly respect his scholarship. But is it too much to ask him to state unequivocally his repudiation of any hint of two-covenant theology, to repudiate any inclusivistic (or, “wider hope”) belief for Jews who have heard the gospel, and to state clearly that our people are lost without explicit faith in Yeshua? Is this too much to ask?

    Shalom,

    Michael

  8. Dear Derek and Dr. Dauerman,

    It is now 2:30 AM and I have once again picked up Dr. Kinzer’s PMJ, asking myself once more if I have, indeed, read him rightly. Probably, I have come under the most attack for allegedly judging motives, something addressed in the posts immediately above.

    Well, what are we to make of Dr. Kinzer’s statement on p. 307 that, “Full healing of the schism will occur only when the wider Jewish community accepts the Jewish ekklesia as a legitimate participant in Jewish communal life”? And, according to Dr. Kinzer, this will be the result of “the restored Jewish ekklesia will take its stand as part of the Jewish people” (p. 304).

    How then can I be accused of judging motives — specifically, claiming that it is a goal (or, hope) of PMJ for Torah-observant, MJ’s to be accepted as legitimate by the wider Jewish community — when this is stated expliclity in the pages of PMJ?

    The warnings on the final pages of my paper ring all the more true after re-reading the last chapter of PMJ. I pray that you will step back and consider them before the Lord — whom I know you both love deeply.

    MLB

  9. Ralph says:

    Derek,

    Is it not reasonable that one can be a critic of PMJ (or should it be PMMJ) and yet not be put into the category of being a torah rejecting, anti-jewish prayer, bait and switch, supersessionist? Is it not possible that someone can maintain that his fellow Jews are us and not them and yet hold a conviction that Rabbinical Judaism, although full of depth and wisdom, is not sufficient in itself to bring it adherents into the salvation that Peter expressed in Acts 4:8-12 (when addressing his fellow Jews that Yeshua is the only name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved)?

    Your post makes it sound like that before the term PMJ was invented, that everyone was a car salesman with no integrity to live a life related to Torah, but only out to sell a car. I first heard and embraced teachings against supersessionism in the early 80’s, over 20 years before PMJ was coined. I heard and embraced teachings about grace that empowers one to be able walk out the righteousness of Torah, the importance of communal life, Yeshua’s identification with Israel and the fidelity of God’s gifts and calling to Israel back then as well. And all of this was taught in a community committed to the mandate that they must go out and proclaim the gospel to the Jew First and also to the nations. A community that held a strong conviction that Jews needed to believe in Yeshua for salvation just like Gentiles did.

    I agree as stated by another on this post that the Ezekial passage sees a revived Israel with Jewish people living out the life of Torah, but as I have asked in other forums, “What do we mean by Torah faithfulness? Do we mean total adherence to Rabbinical Law? Is it possible that the righteousness of Torah that is found in Yeshua may express itself differently and apart from and at times in opposition to Rabbinical interpretation?

    ralph

  10. Rich says:

    I have not been able to read this blog since Friday but want to continue the conversation. As I read through the past posts, the substantial issues that are raised include the following, which I will list out and then expand upon in this and subsequent posts, blog owner permitting. I’m writing this not so much to respond to particular statements but to begin working out my own thoughts on the subject of messianic Jewish theology. It’s still relevant to post here, though as I will be interacting with much of what’s been written on this blog.

    1. Foundational issues: how do people arrive at a theology?
    2. Defining terms
    3. Theological issues including
    (a) the Bible,
    (i) particularly the place of the Old Testament and the Law of Moses in Christian theologies and teaching;
    (ii) authority and decision-making, i.e. who interprets and applies?
    (b) the People of God
    (i) The question of supersessionism and who are the people of God
    (ii) The nature of the Jewish rejection of Jesus
    (iii) The nature of God’s preservation of the Jewish people
    (iv) The nature of post 1st century Judaism
    4. Practical issues, including
    (a) the nature of witness
    (b) assimilation and the next generation

    First some foundational issues. How is it that any of us arrive at a theology? I’m not an expert on the history or philosophy of theological construction. I’m actually just a lower-middle class guy from Brooklyn, New York. But perhaps I will be permitted to venture a few thoughts.

    Theological construction is more than simply exegeting individual passages, and more than just finding a matrix to hold them all together. Probably most of us initially learned a theology from whatever particular group, congregation, or church we came to faith in. Later on, we discovered that there were alternative ways of looking at Scripture and theology, which sometimes dismayed certain ones or perhaps was a breath of fresh air for others.

    Any theological system is a grid through which we see the Scriptures, God, ourselves, salvation, ultimately everything. It is a way of organizing our understanding of reality based upon God’s revelation in the Scriptures. It is also a way of applying that reality to our current situation. In that role, practice and theology mutually influence one another.

    Sometimes someone’s theology may gradually evolve, as they think through the matrix they have held to and make readjustments in light of new understandings of particular verses or of the world in which they live. Other times a theology may be a sudden radical paradigm shift (see Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), as the Reformation was (though some will see more continuity with what preceded it than often recognized).

    Enmeshed as we all are in the culture and modes of thought of our own times and places, our theological thinking, even the way we do theological thinking, the way we think itself, is largely unconscious and un-self-aware. In recent years, with insights from anthropology, missions theology (contextualization), and postmodernism, we have become more aware that there are in fact alternate ways of conceiving things and this means we are at least partly able to self-examine our presuppositions, at least recognize that we have presuppositions.

    Much has been made of the cultural presuppositions we bring to our thinking; less has been made of the fact that we also each bring a psychological disposition to our thinking and hence to our theologizing. (I do not have particular individuals in mind in this section, much less particular ones in the messianic movement; I am speaking in general terms of what informs our theological choices.) So, Reformed theology that is tightly organized may lead someone of a disciplined, intellectual bent to that system; someone inclined to be “free wheeling” may gravitate toward a Charismatic theology. A “black and white person” may feel only one theological system has all the answers; a “shades of grey person” may feel comfortable being more eclectic. And so on.

    As various ones think through a messianic Jewish theology, we ought to at the outset acknowledge that we are products of our time and place and self-examine ourselves. In a postmodern world culturally and as “post-liberal” theology emerges; as the “emerging church” movement grows; as pluralism and multiculturalism continue to define our world; we need to ask whether and to what extent our theology is being informed by these movements. Likewise, we need to ask to what extent our own psychological dispositions may lead us to incline in one direction or another.

    The help in the second area is to interact with other people; the help in the first area is to interact with those of other cultures and generations.

    Having said all that, I wish to say something about the issues of “acceptance” that has come up on this blog. Has the “acceptance” of the Jewish community been at all instrumental as a formative factor in the creation of messianic Jewish theologies? I am not saying yes or no; but I raise the question.

    First of all, there are two meanings of acceptance and I fear that because of that, there has been much talking past one another. “Acceptance” can mean “approval, personal or group validation”. It can also mean “willingness to engage as a conversation partner, the ‘accepting’ of one another as human beings on an equal footing.”

    There can be little doubt that many when they were new Jewish believers in Jesus originally wished to have the approval of Jewish family, friends, and even the larger Jewish community. This would have been especially true when the modern messianic Jewish movement was new, back in the 70s, and when many of us were younger, living home with parents, struggling to make sense of our identity as Jews who were also followers of Jesus. David Stern, himself an advocate for developing a messianic Jewish theology and lifestyle, writes:

    “Messianic Jewish congregations have expended a great deal of energy into developing and refining theological, ceremonial, and practical ways to express Jewishness. This is to be expected, especially in the Diaspora, where Messianic Jews are a double minority—a tiny percentage of Jews and an even tinier percentage of believers in Yeshua. So we find ourselves constantly wanting to prove to Jews that we, too, are Jews, generally by showing that our practices and ceremonies are Jewish in character even though they honor Yeshua, and to Gentile Christians that we, too, believe in Yeshua, generally by showing that our theological positions are sound, even when expressed in Jewish terms. But this effort spent proving ourselves to others—and to ourselves—distorts our lives, our congregations, and our movement! We should not have the goal of becoming acceptable within the non-Messianic Jewish community—because we never will.” (How Jewish Is Christianity? Two Views on the Messianic Movement, ed. Louis Goldberg [Zondervan, 2003], p. 182).

    This was and still is a reality for some Jewish believers. And undoubtedly any such desire for “proving one to be Jewish” would be a factor in developing a lifestyle and theology.

    Then there is the other meaning of “acceptance.” I understand that advocates for PMJ wish to live their understanding of a Jewish life out of their understanding of God’s obligations for Jewish believers in Jesus today. The “acceptance” in this case is hoped for as a by-product of living out this obligation, namely that of the second meaning, to be an equal conversation partner, to come from “within” and not “without.” This also represents a theological viewpoint. How did adherents to PMJ arrive then at this theology? Everyone will have to answer for themselves. It is possible that for some it reflected an after-the-fact theological development in light of an earlier wish to be approved=validated by the Jewish community. For others the influence of postmodernism, postliberal or Barthian theologies and praxis may be instrumental. For others it may have come about as a further examination of Scripture, though as always influenced by the larger cultural matrix. I raise the question here simply in terms of the fact that our theology comes not out of the blue, and not even out of an unbiased objective view of exegetical evidence (total non-bias is not possible), but out of a complex of factors both cultural and personal. This is true for me, for PMJ, and for anyone else doing theology. For example, I used to be more black and white than I am today; my theology today is more eclectic than in the past. Furthermore, I recognize that my approach to doing theology has been largely modernistic in some ways; now allowing myself to be influenced by what can be learned from postmodernism as well.

    So all this is to say: let us look at our influences, at the personal and cultural matrix we are in, as we work out our theologies.

    And finally (for this post) a word on definitions. We need to define terms. What is “Judaism”? What is a “messianic Judaism”? What do we mean by e.g., being “hostile to” Judaism? Or by coming from “within” vs. from “outside”? I am not talking about playing semantics. When people write that we “must be a Judaism” and move in “Jewish space” and come from “within,” they need to pin down just what is meant. Otherwise, I am afraid that our terms will have emotional resonance but will not clarify the discussion.

    MORE TO COME…

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