Finally, we reach our last installment of answering the critical comments offered by Charles. It has been a lot of fun and, most of all, I hope it has helped people question cherished assumptions. Assumptions can be the greatest enemy of truth.
11) I think the chosen people, the Jews, were given a mission through Abraham and his descendents, to be a light to the world. Because they blew it and starting looking inward at details which were thought to be required to be a good Jew, they could not see beyond their navel, that the world was going to hell in a handbasket. So Jesus cut off some Jewish branches of the vine and grafted in the gentile Christian line. Now we in turn have also many times blown the mission. However if you look at the world today with daily Christian TV, hordes of Christian ministries, Bible translations in many languages, and missionaries giving their all to accomplish the great commission, progress is being made toward that mission.
12) I would find it very difficult to inform all those Christian missions that because they are not studying the Torah enough or eating kosher, they are blowing it. In fact I would not just find it difficult but also ridiculous.
I would welcome your comments Derek because you seem to have a sense of balance. I am not asking you to agree or disagree with ALL my statements but any comments you have would be welcome and considered.
Now, let me deal first with Point #12, that Charles would find it difficult to tell the denominations and missions of the church that they are blowing it because they are not living like Jews.
I hope by now it is obvious that I would not tell the denominations and missions any such thing. The Jewish identity markers of Torah (dietary law, Sabbath, circumcision, fringes, etc.) are not for non-Jews. They never were. God told humankind they could eat all the meats (Gen. 9:3). God told Israelites they could sell unclean meat to non-Jews (Deut. 14:21). God indicated that circumcision was not required even for non-Jews living in the land and enjoying the protection of Israel’s laws (Exod. 12:48).
Thus, it was no surprise when James and Paul agreed that non-Jews in Messiah need not live like Jews (Acts 15).
Still, I would say and do say to churches that there are some changes needed:
1. The church needs to let Jews be Jews and even encourage the Jews who are in churches to live their covenantal calling. That is, the church needs to quit calling the Torah legalism and quit teaching that Jewish followers of Yeshua are Gentiles. The church needs to promote Torah for Jewish believers and encourage Messianic Judaism as a complementary movement alongside the non-Jewish church.
2. The church needs to learn Passover and other Torah traditions that are central to the very identity of the church. Polycarp and Papias were still keeping Passover in the second century (this claim could be disputed, but I think the evidence is there). Certainly the Corinthians, mostly non-Jewish, were keeping Passover. This feast is so central to the church, I think it should be reclaimed. Other examples could emerge as we begin walking down this path.
Then, we come to Charles’ 11th point, that the Jewish people “blew it.” He admits that the church has blown it also, yet he would argue that the church has done far better than Israel ever did. His argument is full of flaws.
1. The church has not done better. I will be brief here, though I’d love to go on at length. First, the church has been confused about what the gospel is. The church would have to include Catholicism and Christian Orthodoxy, which have spread a syncretistic, idolatrous form of worship to the world. Protestants, in my judgment, have done better in some ways, but have proclaimed a very weak gospel. It is all faith and no works, according to the Protestants. Where is James’ emphasis on works? Where is Paul’s emphasis on good deeds? Protestant evangelicalism and the Charismatic wave sweeping the world right now have so diluted the message of Jesus, I can hardly congratulate them. So in what sense has the church done well? It has either spread idol-worship mixed with Jesus faith or a weak, insipid version of the gospel, and by and large has done little or nothing to change the world. It is exactly what you would expect of any human enterprise, so I do not claim I could do better.
2. While we are on to the failings of the church, have you ever considered that church history looks no better than the history of Israel in biblical times? Israel immediately made a Golden Calf. The church immediately started venerating Mary and dead saints. Israel failed to carry out God’s commands. The church slaughtered people, mostly Jews, in the name of Jesus, in a chain of horror leading through the Inquisitions, Crusades, Pogroms, Ghettos of Europe, Blood libels, and to the Holocaust itself, perpetrated in a “Christian” Europe with full theological support from the church. Again, we learn the lesson of history that human enterprises are doomed to terrible failure. I know there are also bright spots, but we are considering the negative right now because the church gets off too easy compared to Israel.
3. Finally, Charles, Israel did not blow it. Israel could not blow it. Israel’s mission to be the priests of the nations was a fool-proof mission. God made it fool-proof. God’s plan was by birth, not by religious assent. That is, a Jew is born into the family and carries on the Abrahamic covenant without regard to choice. God’s plan was to get the Bible and the Messiah into the world through the Jewish people. He did. Can the church point to any success like that? And God is not finished. Israel continues to be THE VENUE through which God works in this world. Messiah will return to Israel. The people are in the land. It will all come down to Jerusalem. And did Israel blow it? No, they couldn’t blow it. God’s plans for Israel do not depend on the human will at all and they are working just fine. The fact that we may long to see Israel following Yeshua is another matter. That too will happen someday, as Paul says in Romans 11:26.