We’re continuing to discuss and critique one Christian’s critical comments about Messianic Judaism. As we get into the last four or five items on Charles’ list, I think his comments are more problematic. They are even a bit offensive. This will especially be apparent in tomorrow’s segment where I’ll discuss Charles’ comments to the effect that Israel blew it. (I can’t but preview my response to that with two points: (1) Israel could not blow it because God made it foolproof and (2) yeah, Church History sure does look better than Jewish history on the morality and ethics scale!).
Anyway, here are my thoughts on Charles’ arguments 9 and 10.
9) I believe in moving forward rather than backward. I honour those of the past who are worthy of honour just like Hebrews 11 does. And of course, we include all those after Hebrews was written as heroes of the faith, although imperfect the way David or Rahab was, if they believe in and follow the Messiah to the best of their understanding, I do not believe they are under condemnation but under grace.
10) I honour Jesus as the author of the first Torah who IS THE LIVING TORAH, more than I honour the first Torah given to the Israelites wandering in the desert.
“Moving forward rather than backward.” What does Charles mean by moving backward? He is referencing the notion of evolutionary progress in religion. Perhaps he might put it more politely as progressive revelation. Here are my definitions of these terms:
EVOLUTIONARY PROGRESS IN RELIGION: The idea that primitive man had primitive notions of the cosmos and deity. Through the ages man’s ideas about religion have become more sophisticated. Thus, earlier ideas of religion tend to be inferior.
PROGRESSIVE REVELATION: The idea, which is upheld in Hebrews 1, that God’s self-revelation through the inspired writings we call the Bible, develops ideas in a chronological progression. That is, some concepts in the early books develop and grow into new or expanded concepts in later books.
A SIMPLE SUMMARY OF CHARLES’ REASONING:
1. Things like temple worship, dietary law, and sacred times and seasons are from the early books of the Bible.
2. Progressive revelation renders early concepts obsolete.
3. Therefore, many Torah concepts have become obsolete.
THE FLAW IN CHARLES’ REASONING: Step #2 is invalid. Progressive revelation does not necessarily mean that later concepts render earlier ones obsolete. In fact, quite often the early concepts are perfectly consistent with the later ones.
What I am saying is this: temple worship is not primitive or unsophisticated. It is glorious and it is coming back. Get ready, because Jews and Christians will be worshipping at said temple after Yeshua comes. All the prophetic pictures of the Age to Come include the statutes and ordinances of the Torah. Would anyone like to debate about that?
The truth is, the doctrine of progressive revelation has nothing to do with Charles’ point that he prefers to move forward and not backward. Really Charles’ position is closer to the idea of evolutionary progress in religion: the Israelites were primitive so God gave them an unsophisticated religion. Let’s not go back to that bygone era. Well, I can’t wait to see some serious temple worship and to experience the joys of God’s name being one and everything in Jerusalem being holy. I’m ready to go back and forward at the same time.
As for point #10, trying to determine an exact meaning for Charles’ words is no easy matter. He says that Jesus is the author of the First Torah who is the Living Torah. Does he mean that Jesus is both the author of the First Torah and in himself the Living Torah? I’ll assume that as it would be very confusing to figure out how Jesus could be the author of another being who is the Living Torah.
Jesus is called the word. He is said to exegete or manifest the Father. He was with God in the beginning and he is God. God revealed the Torah and perhaps this is what Charles means by Jesus being the author of Torah.
Yet here the logic escapes me. Let me spell out what Charles is saying:
1. MJ honors the Torah of Moses too much and Jesus not enough.
2. Jesus is the ultimate author of the Torah of Moses.
3. Therefore, jettison the Torah of Moses and honor Jesus.
Charles, I write books. If you were to burn one of my books or say that it was primitive or overrated, I would not be honored, but offended. Jesus, as God, inspired Torah. That calls for us to see Jesus in light of the truth of Torah and not as opposed to Torah.
Now it is possible Charles’ reasoning was intended to follow a different course, something more complicated:
1. There are two Torahs: the inferior one of Moses and the superior one of Jesus which is unwritten and can be called the Law of Christ.
2. MJ honors the Moses-Torah too much and should turn to the Law of Christ, the Living Torah.
I’ll gladly do that as soon as someone shows me a Law of Christ that supersedes the Torah of Moses. I will not be waiting with anticipation as no such Law of Christ exists (see “The Law of Christ” on this blog to understand what Paul means by the term).
It is simply demeaning to the very idea of God’s infallible revelation to suggest that early parts of God’s word are inferior and we should move forward and not backward. That is not a fair understanding of progressive revelation. The beginning is true, but is less developed. Yet in development, the beginning continues to be true. We’ll experience that firsthand when we all find out how much more exciting a temple worship service in Jerusalem is than a Protestant church service!
It is also a red herring to set Jesus as the Living Torah against the written Torah of Moses. The Torah was Jesus’ idea, you might say, and not Moses’. So let’s just believe the whole thing and see it as a progressive unity, not a polar disunity. The word of God stands forever.