Christians and Jews

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, has perhaps the best explanation of how Christians should relate to the Jews. It is an older article, The Chosen People Puzzle, but well worth the time. Some summary points:

I have a nonnegotiable commitment to evangelism, and this includes witnessing to Jewish people about my firm conviction that Jesus is the promised Messiah. But I also oppose treating Jews as though they were only “targets” for evangelism. We evangelicals have much to learn from Jews about issues of public life and about deeply religious topics. And we must work alongside members of the Jewish community in striving for justice and righteousness in the larger society.Witnessing to; learning from; cooperating with—this seems to me to be an important threefold Christian agenda for our relationships with the Jewish community. But there don’t seem to be many Christians who are willing to endorse the whole agenda. Those strong on evangelism have often been weak on learning and cooperation; those who have been eager to nurture learning and cooperative relationships have often downplayed the evangelistic mandate.

There is more, much more. Dr. Mouw touches on anti-Semitism, the hazards of unbridled dispensationalism, and the need to treat the Jews with respect as our predecessors and co-salvationists, when Israel, in God’s time, will accept Jesus Christ as the authentic Jewish Messiah.

To those who focus exclusively on the Great Commission, there is this:

…faithfulness to the gospel also requires more than evangelism. We have much to learn from the Jewish people. For one thing, our relationships with messianic Jews, as well as with other Jewish brothers and sisters who have come to faith in Christ, have been precious to many of us and have deepened our understanding of the gospel. But non-Christian Jews also have much to teach us about spiritual matters. Any Christian who thinks otherwise should read Abraham Joshua Heschel on the prophets or the Sabbath, or the fiction of Chaim Potok or even Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small mystery novels. We cannot simply classify Judaism under “Other Religions.” We share with Jewish people a common spiritual heritage grounded in God’s revelation to Moses and the Hebrew prophets.

Witnessing to; learning from; cooperating with, and never forgetting that our One True God is, was, and always will be the same as the God of ethnic Jews.

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3 comments

  1. “Witnessing to; learning from; cooperating with, and never forgetting that our One True God is, was, and always will be the same as the God of ethnic Jews.”

    As to “witnessing to” :

    What classification of Jew are we talking of? If we are talking of Orthodox Jews who read the Hebrew Scriptures and take their faith seriously, I don’t know that we as Christians can really effectively witness until we deal with the issue of trinitarianism. Many non-religious Jews are responsive to witnessing. One doesn’t see many of the Orthodox convert. There is no way you are ever going to convince the Orthodox that there are co-eternal, co-substantial, co-infinite persons alongside of YHWH within something called “the Godhead.” We have got to go back to the Hebrew Scriptures, back to the NT AS INTERPRETED in the light of the Hebrew Scriptures and NOT church councils that were antagonistic toward all things Jewish.

    Blessings,
    Joe
    http://pillowfreechristianity.blogspot

  2. Joe, I’m talking of Jews without regard to the depth of their religious belief. But I must agree with you; one doesn’t see many Orthodox Jews convert.

    I also agree that the Trinity is the single greatest stumbling block. For Orthodox Jews, it is hard to nigh impossible for them to accept that God was incarnate in the person of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

    I’ve had my own problems with this aspect of our Christian faith, but I always come around to the idea that Jesus is both fully God and fully human.

    It ultimately boils down to faith — “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

  3. “I’ve had my own problems with this aspect of our Christian faith, but I always come around to the idea that Jesus is both fully God and fully human.”

    I was a staunch trinitarian for 15+ years, and spent many a woeful session trying to figure out how one person, the Son, could be “fully God and fully human” within the context of trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology…to me, it irrefutably led to the conclusion that the Son must exist as two distinct minds, one omniscient and one finite in knowledge. Thus the trinity expands into a quadrity.

    The solution to me came from understanding John’s Logos as it would’ve been by his 1st century Jewish and greek audience – that the Messiah pre-existed not as a distinct person from another person, but as the word (d’bar in Hebrew, Memra in Aramaic) or wisdom (chokmah in Hebrew) of YHWH. The logos is the visible self-revealing, the living revelation of the invisible God. It perfectly represents Him moment by moment, so in that sense one can call the logos God, in the sense of a visible extension of the identity of an invisible God. He is said by Paul to be the eikon of the invisible God.

    So then, the oneness or unity of the Son with the Father is not on the basis of being/essence/substance. That came in from greek categories of thought, as the greeks were always interested in the stuff of divinity. The Hebrews had a thoroughgoing personalism with regard to deity. First and foremost, when we deal with God we are dealing with a ‘Who.’

    The oneness or unity of the Son with the Father is based on personal identity. The Son is a moment-by-moment living manifestation into human nature of the Father Himself. As to being, Jesus is fully human. As to His essential identity, He is both man AND the visible manifestation of the Father through man-hood. If you’ve seen the Son, you’ve seen the Father.

    The Son is included within the identity of the Father, because the Father is continually “engraving” Himself in and through the person of the Son (the express image (engraving) of His essence (His self), Hebrews 1:3).

    In this way, the contradictions disappear.

    Blessings,
    Joe

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