Safeguards – Toward Christians and Jews Partnering Together Under the Mission of God

Last time I promised you that I would give some safeguards to enhance the process of Christians and Jews partnering together under the mission of God. These suggestions are aimed at the Christian partners, but are also of interest to the Jewish partners. Although the material is quite lengthy, I have included all of it here for the sake of continuity and closure. I hope you enjoy this!

If progress is to be made by Christians in considering and theologizing about the role of the Jewish people in the missio dei, there are at least four procedural safeguards that should be implemented.

The first is for Christian leaders and scholars to cultivate openness to a variety of opinions and points of view from within their own circles, opinions on the Jewish people and the Jewish state that have traditionally been institutionally marginalized.  While it may be far easier for authorities to marginalize or to silence dissenting voices, this has not proven to be life-giving.  The Messianic think tank Hashivenu has a core principle which nicely captures a wise ethos on this matter: “Maturation requires a humble openness to discovery within the context of firmly held convictions.”  To the extent such openness is compromised or thwarted, a certain hardening supplants growth.

The second procedural safeguard is to truly dialogue with and learn from the input of Jewish community leaders and scholars. As an example of this process, consider the role Abraham Joshua Heschel of Blessed Memory had in influencing the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council.  In preparation for the Second Vatican Council, Pope John xxIII directed Augustin Cardinal Bea to prepare a draft on the relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish people.  Bea sought advice from the American Jewish Committee (AJC), as well as other Jewish organizations. Abraham Joshua Heschel was the primary theological consultant for the AJC who then became the primary interpreter of Jewish views to the Vatican.  He met with Cardinal Bea and other Church officials for four years, even meeting with Pope Paul VI, and had a considerable influence on the crafting of the extraordinary Nostra Aetate.

In view of the fruit they bore, one can only regard these meetings as having been providential.  Such was the effect of listening to involved outsiders!  May this example light the pathway for many Christians to find the courage and security to listen to Jewish voices.  As the Prophet said, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people” (1 Co 14:31, referencing Isa 28:11).  The prophet went on to say, “and even then they will not hear me.” May such an indictment not fall upon a Church that cannot be bothered to listen to Jews!

A third safeguard is to make room at the table for Messianic Jewish voices.  David Rudolph chronicles how, beginning in the second century, but coalescing in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, the voice and perspective of Messianic Jews living in solidarity with Israel has been marginalized and silenced in the church. The evidence is extensive, and need not be reproduced here. St Jerome’s opinions on the matter are typical, writing of Jewish Christians to St Augustine in 404 CE,  “since they want to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither Jews nor Christians,” indicating that such Jewish Christians were numerous and widespread, “a heresy . . . to be found in all part of the East where Jews have their synagogues.”[1] For Christian theologizing, just being a Jewish believer in Yeshua and living in solidarity with Israel was heretical.

Rudolph substantiates how even today, when Messianic Jews living in solidarity with Israel are more widespread than they have been for centuries, their voice and presence is almost entirely excluded from theological and inter-faith discussion.   In his conclusion, he outlines what is lost due to this exclusion, and therefore what may be gained for our purposes by restoring Messianic Jews to theological discussion in general, and Christian-Jewish discussion in particular.  I have extracted from his conclusion five core ideas to which I have in some cases added my own brief comments:[2]

1.     “There should be a place for the Messianic Jewish perspective in Christian theology. For centuries, many theological questions went unasked because Messianic Jews were not there to ask them.”

2.     “Similarly, many supersessionist readings of the New Testament stood unchallenged because supersessionism conveniently eliminated the ecclesia ex circumcisione.”  Therefore, returning Messianic Jews to the discussion table will serve to alert and warn Christian participants of the supersessionist implications of positions they are proposing or discussing. Mark Kinzer’s experience with Roman Catholic theologians has already corroborated that Messianic Jews detect supersessionist implications unforeseen by well-meaning Christians. Although dialogue partners from the wider Jewish community are also valuable in this respect, because of their Sitz im Leben Messianic Jews are especially sensitized to these issues.

3.     “Contemporary Messianic Jews bring to the table practical theological insights that call into question traditional dogmas, such as the principle that Torah-obedience is antithetical to New Covenant spirituality and unity between Jew and Gentile. The Messianic synagogue is a veritable laboratory of discovery in this regard.”  Such questions go to the heart of supersessionism and cryptosupersessionism, exposing the paternalism, marginalization, and disparagement historically demonstrated against the Jewish voice in the ekklesia and the Jewish people in the mission of God.

4.       “In addition to the active contribution of Messianic Jews to scholarship, the guild’s simple awareness of the Messianic Jewish community leads to fresh reassessments. Engagement of this kind is healthy and long overdue.”  The presence of Messianic Jews at the table represents ecclesiological, theological and historical realities, just as their absence reveals ecclesiological and historical, theological and historical omissions.

5.       “Perhaps the most pivotal question is the ecclesiological one: Are Messianic Jews a tertium datur or tertium non datur?” In other words, are Messianic Jews a logical necessity or a logical obstacle? “Mark Kinzer, . . . echoes Osten-Sacken in suggesting that Messianic Jews are the ecclesiological bridge between the church and Israel: ‘Without Messianic Jews and Messianic Judaism, the ekklesia is not truly and fully itself.’ . . .  An all- Gentile church is an aberration, a deformity never envisioned by Jesus and his shelichim (apostles). Moreover, a tertium genus (third race) ekklesia is foreign to the New Testament. For Paul, Jesus-believing Jews and Jesus-believing Gentiles together, in ’echad-like unity and diversity, form the body of Messiah. Israel’s irrevocable calling validates and necessitates this ecclesiological model.” And if the Messianic Jews living in solidarity with Israel are a logical necessity for the very exisitence of the ekklesia, they must have a place at the table if healthy and balanced theological and ecclesiological discussion is to occur.

Rudolph summarizes reasons why he contends “that nothing fully substitutes for the inclusion of Messianic Jewish scholars in theological forums and colloquia.”  His sentiments fully accord with sentiments I have interleaved with his prior statements:

Their (Messianic Jews’) episemology is informed by living at the junction between church and synagogue, and by life in the Messianic synagogue. Their tangible presence in theological circles fosters a consciousness of Messianic Jews. Individually, theologians can develop broader epistemologies by contemplating how various readings and doctrines will impact twenty-first century Messianic Jews and Messianic synagogues. They can ask, “Does my treatment of Israel and Jewish Law ultimately displace, erase or patronize the Messianic Jewish community? Or does it affirm, sustain and show concern for the Jewish wing of the church?” By raising such critical questions about Messianic Jews, and including Messianic Jewish scholars in the conversation, Christian theology restores an historic voice to the contemporary discussion.“[3]

Yes, I concur with Rudolph.  And in all of the research summarized in this current series, it has become clear that the schism between the church and the Jewish people is but a widening of the tearing in the ekklesia that occurred when the Jewish Christian/Messianic Jewish voice and presence living in solidarity with Israel was stilled and expelled.  This expulsion and delegitimization is the site of the wound, and it is here that healing must begin.[4]

A final safeguard is an appropriate adoption of the practice of Scriptural Reasoning. According to a website devoted to the practice,

Scriptural Reasoning (SR) is an open-ended practice of reading- and reasoning-in-dialogue among scholars of the three Abrahamic traditions. There are no set doctrines or rules of SR, since the rules are embedded in the texts of scripture and their relation to those who study and reason together. Individual practitioners of SR do find it useful, however, to reflect occasionally on their group practice and identify its leading tendencies. Such reflections differ from individual to individual and from time to time, but there are overlaps, and both the overlaps and the differences stimulate groups of SR reasoners to talk about, debate, and refine their practices.[5]

I am convinced that some version of this procedure can be a crucial channel for divine light to illumine Christian and Jewish contemplation of what one source nicely terms “moving together as partners in God’s unfolding plans,”[6] which is what we mean by being jointly involved in the mission of God. I am reminded of the passage from the prophet Malachi (3:16) which says, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.”  This passage speaks of human participants who fear the LORD and esteem Him Name, who speak with one another and who are treasured by God, before whom their names are written in a book of remembrance. Such listening to one another is precious to God, and something holy.

The Converging Destinies paradigm (which I will outline in a forthcoming book) anticipates a Day when the Jewish and Christian worlds will given an account of themselves to God in the presence of each other.  Each community will receive a mixture of reassurance and rebuke.  The kind of Scriptural Reasoning contemplated within this model is an anticipation of this final Day. Participants will gather together, in the presence of God, to receive from Scripture a mixture of reassurance and rebuke. This is a level playing field on which community members from neither side claim to be there to teach, but all come to learn, and yes, in the process, to be God’s instruments in teaching one another under the authority of that word which is read and discussed. Foundational to this process is a settled awareness that none of us know all the answers, that all of us believe we are right even when we are wrong, that each of us needs to learn from another, and that all of us need to be humble in the sight of the God who speaks in the midst.  Most soberly, this enterprise is always a preparation for that Day when we will all give an account of ourselves to God.


[1] (Ep. 112.13). A. F. J. Klijn and G. J. Reinink, Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects (Leiden: Brill, 1973), p. 201, quoted in Rudolph, Messianic Jews, 19, and footnote 80.

[2] All quotations from David J. Rudolph, “Messianic Jews and Christian Theology: Restoring an Historical Voice to the Contemporary Discussion,” Pro Ecclesia,Vol. XIV, No. 1, 25-27.

[3] Rudolph, “Messianic Jews,” 27.

[4] There have been a number of initiatives seeking just such a reconciliation.  Among them is “Toward Jerusalem Council II,” which identifies itself as “ an initiative of repentance and reconciliation between the Jewish and Gentile segments of the Church . .  that one day there will be a second Council of Jerusalem that will be, in an important respect, the inverse of the first Council described in Acts 15. Whereas the first Council was made up of Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus), who decided not to impose on the Gentiles the requirements of the Jewish Law, so the second Council would be made up of Gentile church leaders who would recognize and welcome Jewish believers in Yeshua back into the Body of Messiah without requiring them to abandon their Jewish identity and practice.”  “What is TJCII?” [cited 26 February 2012] on line at http://www.tjcii.org/what-is-toward-jerusalem-council-ii.htm. Other initiatives in which Messianic Jews are likewise involved include the Helsinki Conferences on Jewish Continuity in the Church. The first was held June 14-15, 2010, and the second, June 24-25, 2012. These meetings included Jewish scholars from Franch, Germany, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States m Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Messianic Jewish. A press release for the 2010 conference may be found at http://istina.eu/uploads/MJTI-Press%20Release%20Stadium%20Catholicum.pdf, and for the 2011 conference at http://aronbengilad.blogspot.com/2011/08/second-helsinki-conference.html.  There are other initiatives as well that have not been publicized.

[5] “What is Scriptural Reasoning: Gateways to Scriptural Reasoning” in Journal of Scriptural Reasoning. Accessed 14 February 2012. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/jsrforum/gateways.html

[6] Philip A. Cunningham, et al., Introduction to Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today, xxvi.

 

About Stuart Dauermann

The blog of Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, teacher, mentor, radio talk show host, denizen of Los Angeles, and a visionary with a long career in Messianic Jewish activism. You can hear Rabbi Dauermann as he hosts Shalom Talk, a weekly radio show, and even listen online at ShalomTalk.com. Rabbi Dauermann spends time traveling nationally and internationally, and throughout the year is in Israel as a Scholar in Residence at the MJTI Jerusalem Center. He has plenty to say about Jewish-Christian relations, the need for shalom in the world, and the agenda of Messiah, the Son of David.
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5 Responses to Safeguards – Toward Christians and Jews Partnering Together Under the Mission of God

  1. Pingback: christianoutreachnow.com - Safeguards – Toward Christians and Jews Partnering Together …

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  3. Boaz Michael says:

    Most Excellent! Thank you for all your vision.

    • Thank you, Boaz. I very much appreciate that you read the blog, that you bothered to write, and that you affirmed what I am doing here. Most people don’t write but assume someone else will. You did!

  4. Boaz Michael says:

    I sent your blog to a pastor friend of mine and here is his response in short:

    As for controversy in the church, I am not concerned. I am very glad to be stretching the minds of this small group and pray that it opens more dialogue and teaching for others as well. I feel like we are on the cutting edge of what God wants to do, not just in our church family, but in the Church as a whole. I enjoyed the blog link you gave me. I will go back and digest that some more. Very helpful for us who are open and learning about Messianic thought and leading our churches to a genuine understanding of our place in the covenants and promises. Thank you so much for your willingness and patience with us and for how God is using you in our midst. This is becoming more exciting to me all the time. I look forward to visiting on Wednesday morning.

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