Rich Robinson on PMJ, Pt 3

Here is Rich Robinson’s final posting on Mark Kinzer Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism. If you’ve been following the blog for the last few weeks, you know that I largely support the ideas in Dr. Kinzer’s book. Rich Robinson largely disagrees with Dr. Kinzer’s book . . .

This is my final long post on PMJ, with thanks to Derek for allowing the forum. While there are many topics that could be addressed, let me single out just one more: the nature of the role of the Jewish people in this present age. According to PMJ (or to some PMJers, anyway), those who suggest that the Torah (in the shape of the 613 commandments) is not a current covenantal obligation for Jewish people, are guilty of a “structural” form of supersessionism. That terminology derives from R. Kendall Soulen, who identified three kinds of supersessionism. The structural form sees no current positive role for the Jewish people in God’s plan, regardless of whatever high views one might otherwise take towards the Jewish people. The Christian reading of redemptive history puts the Jewish people “on the shelf” for the present time period, effectively assigning the church the active role in God’s redemptive history.

That’s a huge topic, so just a few thoughts for now. Let’s start with an analogy, or rather with a look at the people of God in the Old Testament. It is clear that we, the Jewish people, were created for a purpose – to be priests to God to the rest of the world (Exodus terminology) and a light to the nations (Isaiah terminology). It is also clear that throughout much of that history, we failed in the task to the point of bringing judgment and exile. If we ask what positive role the Jewish people played during that time, the answer is not immediately apparent. The “remnant” within Israel certainly continued to function as a light not only to the nations but to the rest of their own Jewish people. That function took many forms, including but not limited to prophetic rebuke when the nation became consumed by its sins. A continual concern was that God Himself would be dishonored in the eyes of the nations by the sinfulness of Israel. Did the non-remnant part of the nation serve in a positive role in these times? It would appear that this was not the case when they failed to fulfill their mandate; a role was, however, served in showing the justice of God when sin reigned, namely by exiling the people. Yet even then in captivity, the remnant such as Daniel continued to exercise the more positive role.

If we now see the current age and the Church as an expansion of OT Israel (Eph. – the gentiles have now come alongside the commonwealth of Israel) – we find the same situation and the same questions and problems as in the OT, now expanded to include the gentiles. There remains a remnant of both Jews and gentiles who follow the God of Israel (which I believe, but cannot argue for here, means following Jesus, not following Judaism-without-Jesus). The role of the rest of the nation of Israel remains as it was in OT times – holy, potentially a light to the world, but not fulfilling that function when not following God’s covenant. If I understand PMJ, most PMJers will argue at this point that this is exactly what those who follow rabbinic Judaism are doing: fulfilling God’s covenant obligations. However, this raises the question: what then is the current positive role for the bulk of Jews who are neither Orthodox nor Conservative but secular, Reform, Reconstructionist, etc. If there is a “structural supersessionism” to those of us who believe the Mosaic Law in the form of 613 commandments is not obligatory today, then what does PMJ say about the bulk of the Jewish people today who do not observe the Law? What is the positive role of those Jews in God’s redemptive plan today? Does PMJ believe that the “No” of secular/Reform Jews to the Law also hides a “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.
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