Afraid of Church

leaving-the-churchNot a word is said in the “olive tree” passage (see Romans 11:11-24) or anywhere else in Scripture about splitting the promises into earthly ones for the Jews and heavenly ones for the Church. However, God has made two kinds of promises. In regard to the promises which relate to individual salvation, there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28), no distinction between them (Romans 10:12), no dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-19). On the other hand, there remain promises to national Israel, the Jewish people, in which Gentile nations corporately and Gentile believers individually have no direct share – although it is worth noting that there are also promises to certain Gentile nations…

-David H. Stern, Ph.D
Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message for Christians
Chapter 2: “Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel,” pg 25.

The only reason I’m reading this book is because one of the Associate Pastors at my church asked me to read it and evaluate it for him. He’s obviously read it a number of times himself, because there is evidence of a great deal of note taking and underlining in its pages, so he must know its contents well. And yet, this charming, older gentleman from Oklahoma asked me if I’d read Stern’s small book and give him my opinion on how we can restore the Jewishness of the Gospel. Of course, I told him I’d be glad to.

But I was a little worried. My first introduction to Dr. David Stern was through his best known work, The Complete Jewish Bible and it was presented to me as a “real” Jewish Bible (New Testament, actually) within a Hebrew Roots (advertising itself as Messianic Judaism) congregation. I didn’t know any better and so I was thoroughly enthralled with what I read. Real “Hebrew” words were sprinkled among the English. Later, I found some Yiddish also anachronistically inserted within its pages. Ultimately though, I discovered that I desired a Bible that focused on accurate translation with no specific audience in mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand what Dr. Stern was trying to do, but there were already a number of New Testaments translated into Hebrew and many other Christian Bibles in English that would have served as well. Also, since I have separated myself from the “One Law” expression of the Hebrew Roots movement, Stern’s “Complete Jewish Bible” is a painful reminder of how incredibly naive I was once upon a time.

So in approaching Restoring, I was a little timid and figured what I was going to be reading would be “old school” Hebrew Roots at its finest.

Wow, was I surprised. The book is about 76 pages long, minus an appendix or two and I’m just on page 26 so far, but I was completely impressed. The writing and teaching is basic (but after all, Stern was trying to reach the widest possible Christian audience), but the ideas he documents are very close to what I’ve been trying to express. Given that I associate him with “One Law” and that his New Testament translation is still well-regarded in some Hebrew Roots circles, I just naturally believed his stance was in support of Hebrew Roots Christians rather than Messianic Jews.

Man, was I wrong.

I’m not writing this in any way as my response to the aforementioned Pastor, since he probably isn’t interested in this aspect of Stern’s book, but in recent conversations on Acts 15 commentary and why I go to church, I’ve entered a debate or two on why I believe (though it’s not as if I haven’t stated my reasoning many times before) that there are fundamental differences between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ relative to identity and covenant obligation.

But theologically, the Jews are unique because God chose them as the vehicle for bringing salvation to the world. The entire Hebrew Bible attests to that, as does the New Testament (see Yochanan [John] 4:22; Romans 3:2, 9:4-5). The Jews are God’s people in a sense that applies to no other people on earth. Because of this, the New Testament abounds with theological Scyllas and Charybdis rocky places that offer dangerous passage. What other people is faced with Galatians 3:28 (“there is neither Jew nor Greek”) or Ephesians 2:11-22 (“the middle wall of the partition”)?

-Stern, pp 12-13

praying_jewNotice what Stern doesn’t say. He doesn’t say that the Jews are theologically unique and identical to the Gentile Christians who have joined their ranks. He doesn’t obliterate Jewish identity and, from the quote above, Stern supports a view that God made unique promises to the Jews that are not shared with Gentile believers just because Christ performed a unique service in the plan of God and allowed the Gentiles to also be saved.

Some of the debates I’ve been having in the comments sections of some of my other blog posts lately have to do with the following:

But many believers feel uneasy about restoring Jewishness to the Gospel and encouraging Messianic Jews to express their Jewish identity. They fear an elitism will arise in which Gentile Christians will be made to feel like second-class citizens of the Kingdom. This is a real pitfall, and Scripture warns against division between Jew and Gentile in the Body of the Messiah. However, the New Testament also gives assurance that both are one in Yeshua, serving one God by one Spirit. Therefore, let all believers, both Jewish and Gentile, work together to avoid invidious comparisons, which only serve the Adversary. Let every Messianic Jew and every Gentile Christian demonstrate in his own life those elements of Jewishness which arise from his own spiritual consciousness and identity, without feeling condemned for expressing either too much or too little.

-Stern, pg 14

That last paragraph might seem ambiguous in terms of how Stern sees the differences between believing Jews and Gentiles, but put together with the other quotes, we see his opinion develop. Both Jews and Gentiles are unique in God’s plan but not in identical ways. They are united in salvation but do not share a uniform identity. There is danger in forgetting the uniqueness of the Jews, especially in light of how some Christians interpret scriptures such as Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 2:11-22, as if the aforementioned uniqueness of the Jews was cast aside. Jewish believers must be allowed and encouraged to express a wholly lived Jewish identity by we Gentile Christians. To do that, we Christians must set aside our fears that the Jews will “take over” somehow, and cast the Gentiles out of their midst and “back into the churches.” Stern doesn’t seem to object to both Jews and Gentiles expressing “elements of Jewishness” (which should be a given for Jewish believers) but that which arise from “his own spiritual consciousness and identity (emph. mine).”

Recently I was chastised for my support of Boaz Michael’s book Tent of David (TOD), particularly as it inspired my own return to church. One of my (and Boaz Michael’s) especially passionate critics is Judah Himango, a long time blogger in the Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots space.

My interpretation of his response to me and particularly to Michael’s TOD book seems to be precisely what Stern predicts when he says, “…they fear an elitism will arise in which Gentile Christians will be made to feel like second-class citizens of the Kingdom.” Coupling TOD with the philosophy of “bilateral ecclesiology” presented in Mark Kinzer’s book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People, a portrait of a Messianic Judaism that is plotting the expulsion of all Gentile Christians from their ranks disguised as a benign attempt to reconnect “Messianic” non-Jewish believers to their counterparts in the “Church” begins to emerge.

Or is it what Stern wrote about in 1988 and earlier; that the fear of Jewish elitism by Gentile Christians in the Messianic/Hebrew Roots realm, is still very much alive and kicking (and I’ve got the metaphorical boot prints on my backside to prove it)?

But do Hebrew Roots Christians really have anything to be afraid of?

Yes and no.

kinzer-postmissionaryOK, let’s be fair. The people and groups within the expression of Messianic Judaism I’m discussing very much support Jewish unique identity and distinction within the larger body of Messiah. Much of Stern’s book addresses this in an attempt to help its Christian audience understand that when a Jew becomes a disciple of Jesus, they are not only allowed, but obligated to remain a Jew relative to Torah and halachah (although again, to be fair, Stern hasn’t addressed halachah as of page 26). Messianic Judaism walks a fine line in terms of Stern, because on the one hand, he encourages Jews to continue living as Jews and as having the right to be a unique people chosen by God, but on the other hand, he is insistent that uniqueness and distinction absolutely not get in the way of unity between Jewish and Gentile believers.

So far, he hasn’t outlined his vision for how believing Jews and Gentiles are supposed to be separate and unique and yet also united, except to say that we share equality in salvation but the Jews are unique in certain national promises from God.

I’m not offering this as a solution, but as an explanation and a reminder that this problem has been around for at least a few decades and it’s not going away anytime soon. But we are talking about relationships and identity that are based on fear and on who your group is opposed to and struggling against. Both Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism feel victimized by the other. Hebrew Roots fears Jewish elitism and that the Jewish believers will seize sole possession of the Torah mitzvot, and Messianic Jews see the encroachment of Gentile Christians who demand a “Jewish identity” identical to the Jews as a form of replacement resulting in the obliteration of everything it means to be Jewish.

It’s fear that is at the very heart of Hebrew Roots opposition to Michael’s TOD book, as if somehow elitist Messianic Judaism will “force” or “trick” the Hebrew Roots Christians back into their “church ghettos.”

I’m not afraid because I’ve already come to terms with who I am in Christ and what it all means. I have also come to terms with what (to the best of my ability to comprehend) it means for a Jew to possess a unique Jewish identity and role, mainly just because I live with a Jewish wife and have three Jewish children (although their apprehension of their lived Jewish identity varies from one child to the next). I’ve learned what it is to be a Christian living with Jews without having to worry about the distinctions between their identity and mine. I can go to church and not lose anything and in fact, I actually gain quite a bit…and I still get to live with my Jewish family…and they still get to be Jews…and my Christianity doesn’t have to inhibit or interfere with that in any way.

What some of the “fine bloggers” who are deeply concerned with the implication of Michael’s TOD book are missing are the myriads of voices across the Internet who here and there are saying that TOD is changing their lives for the better. TOD is helping people overcome their “fear of church.” People who I’ve known for years and who I never thought would see the inside of a church again are seeking out Christian Bible studies and worship services…largely because they read or are reading TOD and listening to the voice of reconciliation and restoration.

David Stern speaks of restoring the original Jewishness of the Gospel so that both Jews and Christians can hear the voice of the Jewish Messiah King. Boaz Michael speaks of healing the vision of the “Messianic Gentile” or the Christian who has become or is in the process of becoming aware of the “Jewishness of the Gospel;” Stern’s primary message to us. Michael may as well have written the sub-title of his book as restoring the vision of the Christian and the Church. If minds and hearts and relationships really, really are being healed because of this book and the overarching vision it presents, who are you or I to say that’s a bad idea. People are perfectly free to reject the message of healing if they so choose because of fear, because of prejudice against Christians (and sometimes against Jews), or for whatever reason.

But for every blogger who protests, how many people who we may never see or hear from are beginning a journey that will transform isolation, loneliness, broken fellowship, and sometimes, broken families, into a path leading to reunification and reconciliation? Most likely (though I only have anecdotal information to go by), a lot more of them are out there than there are bloggers who oppose those Christians and their mission.

dont-go-to-churchI’ve said this before, but I’ve seen that it’s gone unnoticed, so I’ll repeat the message. Author Boaz Michael and his wife Amber are “walking the walk,” so to speak. For the past several years, Boaz and Amber have been attending a small Baptist church in their community in Missouri. To the best of my knowledge, this church is their only regular worship venue, so they infrequently are able to visit a Messianic (or otherwise) Jewish synagogue. Again, to the best of my knowledge, Boaz and Amber haven’t lost a thing by attending this church, and in fact they’ve gained fellowship and belonging and have shared their unique vision with the Church.

If they aren’t afraid of losing who they are by “going to church,” how should the rest of us feel? I suppose anyway we want. But if we are afraid of church, then we should be honest and ask ourselves why. I was certainly afraid of what returning to church would mean to me, but with a lot of help, I set those feelings aside. And in returning to church, I found that I could also encounter God within its walls and with other Christians. That doesn’t have to be you if you don’t want it to be, but please, don’t let it be fear, animosity, or hostility that stops you from walking that path or causes you to disdain those of us who do.

If you are confident that G‑d will help you, why is anxiety written all across your face? If you are truly confident, show it and celebrate!

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Celebrate”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Oh, and I’ll let you know how the rest of Stern’s book turns out.

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32 thoughts on “Afraid of Church”

  1. Thanks for the link, Boaz.

    But the Gospel for Jews works differently. It’s the same Gospel, but because the Jews are already God’s people, the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah comes in a different way. It is still the case that through the Messiah, and only through Him, individual Jews receive atonement and forgiveness of sin – “For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved!” (Acts 4:12). But Jews are not alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, they are the commonwealth of Israel! They already have the covenants and the promises; and therefore in a communal sense they already have hope and “have” God. Before accepting Yeshua, Jews do not “have” God and His hope in the same sense as after accepting Him. After accepting Yeshua they have hope and God in an individual, salvific sense – they have forgiveness of their sins, God sees them as righteous because of Yeshua’s atoning death, and they have the certain hope of eternal life with God. Before accepting Yeshua a Jew does not have the certain hope of eternal life with God, but he does share in the communal promises to the Jewish people as a whole – for example, a share in the Land of Israel. A Jew needs God in both the communal and individual senses because this is how God has ordained that it should be.

    The Christian attitude toward the Jewish people should be, “The Jews are my home, my family.” Whether the Jewish people will accept Christians as family will depend on how the Gospel is presented to them, and it is the task of Christians and Messianic Jews to find the right way. But an essential aspect of this presentation will be defining the Gentile Christian in the way I have done – rather than in the way Christians have, by their words and deeds, defined themselves: either as enemies of the Jewish people, alienated from their national life, or as people who have no connection with the Jews and can be oblivious to them, or even as outsiders who respect and love the Jews a lot. These definitions not only contradict texts Christians claim to believe, but often foster behavior toward the Jewish people that is sinful, behavior which distances Jewish people from the Gospel and from the Gentile branch of the People of God.

    Christians need to redefine who they are in relation to the Jewish people – and then act on the consequences of that redefinition with a renewed commitment to bringing the gospel to Jews. This is the biggest challenge facing the Church.

    -Stern

    True words.

  2. David Stern is a wonderful man. I had the pleasure of running into him by accident in Jerusalem last summer. We spoke for over an hour. He’s getting very old, but is still very sharp.

    Surprisingly, his wife I think is even sharper than he is!

    Fear isn’t the issue, James. It’s just a matter of learning from history. Jewish Christianity — Messianic Jews in the Church — has lead to dimming of Torah lifestyle. We believe the same will happen for Messianic gentiles.

    Shalom.
    -Your biggest critic 😀

  3. Dear “biggest critic,” uh…Judah, 😉

    Fear may not be your issue, but I think it is for a lot of people. Fear that Messianic Judaism has a “hidden agenda” and some means of carrying it out. I’m just trying to show that “Tent of David” isn’t a threat to any non-Jewish person who has a conviction to live a more “Jewish” lifestyle. You’ve said that you go to church regularly with your wife, and yet I can only assume that you maintain your “Torah lifestyle.” For that matter, Boaz and Amber attend church regularly and yet, I don’t see any “dimming” of Boaz’s convictions.

    If anyone is concerned that going to church will change them into a person they don’t want to be, then they don’t have to go to church.

    I know that once upon a time, FFOZ was one of the strongest messengers of the One Law perspective in Hebrew Roots and the “promise” that every Christian could take on the Torah mitzvot and yet not convert to Judaism became attractive to many. When FFOZ changed their stance as a matter of conscience, a lot of people (originally, including me) felt hurt and betrayed. There was also an underlying fear that “the Jews” were taking back what many of us had become accustomed to…a sort of “freedom” inside of Torah observance.

    I’ve talked to people who have experienced fear, frustration, anger, and hurt about these very issues. I think Dr. Stern was absolutely correct about the impact of Jews within the Messianic movement asserting their “Jewishness,” and particularly in terms of those Jews saying they require and are entitled to a unique Jewish identity.

    All I’m saying is that what we’re afraid of depends on how we see the world, our faith, and our place within it all. As a good friend of mine told me some weeks ago, don’t seek Christianity (as an institution) and don’t seek Judaism (as a way of life). Seek an encounter with God. For me, after reading and applying much of what TOD presents, I am having those encounters. I don’t regret it.

    But again, like I said…it’s not for everyone.

  4. James, you claim going to church won’t lead to assimilation, but where are the descendants of the Jewish Christian pioneers of the last century? Where are they? Are they not assimilated?

    The descendants of P.P. Levertoff, for instance, are Roman Catholics, a gentile religious group that would sooner pray to dead saints than sanctify shabbat.

    Boaz and myself go to a church, sure, but it is not our primary or only religious community. Even so, there is still a danger of assimilation, as my children are surrounded by people who think sanctifying shabbat is a silly religious observance from a by-gone era.

  5. James… I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Stern in Los Angeles in the late ’80’s when “The Jewish New Testament” had just been published. I was attending both a large, active evangelical church and a Messianic synagogue each weekend at the time, attending workshops at the synagogue, not long after coming to know the Lord. One of the reasons I still hold his “Restoring” so dearly in my heart—and the reason why I found it so “credible,” as well—was its honesty in dealing in a forthright way with the critical importance of Jewish believers maintaining their identity. Dr. Stern’s “defense” of unique identities for Jew and Gentile struck me as being true to the outworking of HaShem’s character as the God who does not change. It was at that Messianic synagogue—under the counsel of wise and good Messianic Jewish mentors—that I was taught “I should be who God made me to be” and that the predominantly Jewish membership should be “who God made them to be.” Interestingly, I recall being encouraged to read books about Gentiles who helped the Jewish people throughout history, specifically during the 1948 War of Independence in Israel—American Air Force pilots, as I recall—as a means of discovering and defining my role as a Gentile coming into fellowship with believing Jews. There was no designation of “Messianic Gentile” at the time. I found the attitude of preserving the precious nature of both identities strengthening, empowering, and true. Boaz Michael’s message of “Tent of David” to me, personally, is a firm and highly encouraging reinforcement of the same message that my very first, highly-regarded, Messianic Jewish mentors taught me when I first threw my hat in with the Jewish people as a believer: to each be true to who God made us to be; that this is the “engineering principle,” the spiritual dynamic, driving the fulfillment of His plan of redemption for mankind. Dr. David Stern had a great influence on me from the very beginning. As it turns out, I may not be an IAF pilot, but my life’s commitment to defending the memory of the Shoah has come about in direct relation to the sage counsel I received thirty years or so ago from my wise Messianic Jewish mentors. It is not right, for instance, that the Jewish people should bear the whole burden to remember and memorialize the Holocaust alone; it is we, as believing Gentiles, strong in our identity of who we are in the larger schematic of HaShem’s plan, who have a critical role to play, as Gentiles, in not just the defense of Holocaust memory but also the ultimate administration of His plan for the redemption of mankind. Thanks so much for this post. It has served as a timely reminder to continue to be who I am in relation to the person He created me to be. In this way, I honor both the God who made me and the good Messianic Jewish mentors who set me on the straight path right from the start.

  6. Boaz and myself go to a church, sure, but it is not our primary or only religious community. Even so, there is still a danger of assimilation, as my children are surrounded by people who think sanctifying shabbat is a silly religious observance from a by-gone era.

    I never said there was absolutely no danger of assimilation. In fact, Boaz talks about that problem in his book. If a person re-enters church and fears it will alter their basic convictions, they will likely need to have a method of re-enforcing who they are. For you, that’s having your primary worship venue being in Hebrew Roots. For Boaz (and I’m assuming this because I don’t really know), it’s his personal sense of being Jewish as well as the overwhelming presence of his day-to-day ministry. For me, it’s being intermarried with a Jewish wife and frankly, the discussions I have on a regular basis with the head Pastor at my church.

    It may not be apparent, but the primary audience of the TOD book isn’t me and thee. It’s people who are currently in the church with a committed relationship to Christianity who are also becoming “judaically-aware” and who would like to share that awareness within their Christian framework. People don’t (or shouldn’t) feel they have to leave church to find the Torah. That may sound strange, but the “weightier matters of Torah,” feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, comforting the grieving, are regularly practiced in many, many churches. They just don’t call it “Torah.”

    I briefly flirted with the worry that I too would “lose myself” in church (and I wrote about it: https://mymorningmeditations.com/2012/11/06/55-days-being-me-in-church/) and thought if I ever felt that happening, that I would have to leave, but the opposite is happening. By my relationships and interactions with the people at church, I have become more aware of my convictions and am seeking a deeper relationship with God than I have before (or at least in a long time).

    If I can ever convince Boaz to write a sequel to TOD or an expanded second edition, I would love to see it contain testimonies from people like me and him about what we really have experienced on our journey back to church. Even those people for whom the journey doesn’t work out should share their voice. We can learn so much be re-engaging the church and supporting the “Jewishness of the Gospel.” I believe that this is the service Christianity is meant to perform.

    1. Great, so we agree that assimilation is a real possibility.

      How much more so, then, for those who are only just becoming “Judaically-aware”? How much more easily will they be swayed by those who speak against sanctifying shabbat? It’s all the more reason for them to join likeminded individuals in a Torah-practicing community.

  7. It’s all the more reason for them to join likeminded individuals in a Torah-practicing community.

    This has two problems. One is that there may not be a “likeminded Torah-practicing community” available (or if one is available, it’s “fringe-y” enough that it should be avoided…and I’ve seen a few in my area). Two is that particular philosophy requires more or less depopulating “the church” rather than helping them to comprehend and appreciate “the Jewishness of the Gospel.”

    The goal here isn’t to create a separate community of “Torah-practicing” Gentiles and isolate them from the rest of Christianity. That’s been done and you have “Christians” and “Messianic Gentiles” living and worshiping in separate silos, behaving as if they have nothing in common, and saying that no part of the “Messianic” message has value to the church.

    It idea is communication, sharing, and education. We can all learn from one another, but if absolutely no “judaically aware” people stay in the church, then the church will have no people in it who can get past the history of supersessionism and learn a new perspective on Christianity’s relationship to Judaism and Israel. Hebrew Roots complains about the church but is unwilling or unable to do anything about it except to abandon the church.

    I’ve said this before, but if you want the church to change and improve, the best way to do that is to be the change you want to see in the church.

    1. When I came to know Yeshua as my Redeemer I wanted to know everything about Him that was humanly possible: His language, His “religion,” His culture, the kind of clothes He wore, His land, people, His thoughts, and if possible, the pulse-beat of His heart. Having been of a Messianic mindset now for some twenty-five years, all but four of them in residence within a traditional Evangelical church setting, I can say, at least for myself, that with this as the ontological essence of my being–to personally follow Him intimately, on His terms, not the terms of anyone else, to include the Church Fathers, et al–to move from a Yeshua-centered, Spirit-led existential place of being to any other is fairly independent of setting. There may be those who are not called to bear witness, so to speak, of Yeshua’s Jewishness to the church from within the church. Perhaps the message of TOD may be like unto a shofar blast of assembly and deployment into the heart of the church for some, not all; for a remnant, so to speak; a band of brothers. As for me and my house, we put inestimable value on enriching the lives of traditional Christians for the sake of the inner integrity of the Kingdom and for the peaceful confrontation of anti-Judaism wherever it appears. I get a sense of strategic importance from the premise of TOD. In this sense, I agree completely with Boaz Michael when he writes in such tactical terms as these: “Judaism does not need Gentiles coming to synagogue. What Judaism really needs is billions of friends to help prevent another Holocaust, not facilitate one by encouraging assimilation and conformity.” (TOD, p. 181) A very profound idea, indeed. The memory of the Shoah is being eradicated internally, through denial, and externally, through lack of educational priority. This seems to be, perhaps, in a way, a kind of “special ops” enterprise. If every church were to have a Torah Club group within it, studying and bearing witness together, it would be not unlike a residential cell of resistance fighting anti-Judaism/anti-Semitism/anti-Israel-ism from within the traditional Christian element of the body of Messiah. To fear or not to fear? That, to me, is not the question. It increasingly seems to me that we must intentionally, boldly risk assimilation, fully armored, for the sake of Jerusalem, for the sake of Israel and in the Name of the King, whether it be a legitimate fear or not.

  8. Faithful Torah living requires community.

    Your objection that forming our own communities depopulates the church is no less true when applied to Messianic Jews. The Protestant Reformation also depopulated the Church, yet was one of the greatest moves of God in the Church’s history.

    We are willing to be the change of the Church by living Torah-faithful lives in a community of like-minded believers and calling people in the Church towards this same lifestyle. That has happened and continues to happen, and I think the Messianic Judaism world doesn’t know what to do about it, so they’ve responded by creating divisive theologies and telling us to grow where we’re planted.

    Even so, we’ll continue to pursue our Torah lifestyles and build up one another in our own communities, despite those naysayers on the outside who wish to tell us where to worship and with whom.

  9. We are willing to be the change of the Church by living Torah-faithful lives in a community of like-minded believers and calling people in the Church towards this same lifestyle.

    Which means that the people in the churches you are attempting to educate must, by definition, leave church, which does nothing for the way the people who remain in church think about Jews and Judaism. It’s OK for those Christians who want to live a “Torah lifestyle” or believe that it is the only way for them to serve God, but it communicates nothing to the rest of the Christian church except that Hebrew Roots congregations probably disapprove of them for not believing the same thing about Torah performance as HR does.

    I’m not saying that people can’t or shouldn’t join Hebrew Roots congregations if that’s how they feel led, but it’s not the only possible option for people who lean in a “Hebraic” or “Jewish” direction (me, for instance). Given that I’m intermarried and that my wife is a Jewish non-believer, I used to think my first, best option was leaving Hebrew Roots (which she said in retrospect, was embarrassing for her) and joining a Jewish (non-Messianic) with my wife.

    When that didn’t work out, lots of stuff happened, but while I didn’t get what I wanted (to be able to worship with my wife regularly), I did get what I believe God wanted, which was for me to reconnect to the church and find a role there. Interestingly enough, I think it’s much more comfortable for my wife now that I’m in a church rather than in Hebrew Roots for a number of reasons.

    The option you and a number of non-Jewish people have chosen as far as joining Hebrew Roots is one choice given your preferences and where you feel God is taking you. It’s just not the only choice.

    Oh, and the fact that I don’t believe that I am obligated to perform all of the Torah mitzvot affects my opinion and vision of what I believe God expects of me. I understand that you and others don’t agree with my perspective.

  10. Joining Hebrew Roots may mean leaving the Church, sure. The Reformation required bold men to leave the Roman Catholic Church in order to reform Christianity. I believe the same is true of Hebrew Roots.

  11. This is where you and I part company as far as our opinions go, Judah. Christianity isn’t the enemy. For that matter, Martin Luther didn’t call for as much change in the church as most people believe, and in the end, he died as a man terribly angry at the Jewish people for not reacting to “the reformation” by joining the ranks of his church.

    Messianic Judaism is called “exclusivist” because it advocates total Torah observance for Jews only with voluntary observance for Gentile believers in accordance to their (our) desires and capacities. But once Hebrew Roots says that it has “the better way” and that the only way to save the church is by leaving it, who ends up being excluded? The Christians who don’t adopt a stance that Christians must be compliant with 100% of the Torah mitzvot.

    You go to church. I go to church. Boaz goes to church. Even your friends Peter and Zion go to church. If the church is so bad and the only option for Christians is to leave church, why are so many Hebrew Roots people going to church?

    I’m not saying you can’t have your opinion and I’m not saying that Hebrew Roots Christians can’t worship at a Hebrew Roots congregation. I’m just saying that Hebrew Roots isn’t the only way to fly…at least for some of us (you…them).

  12. The church does need reforming. The best way to accomplish that reformation is not assimilation back into the church. Our precedence is the Protestant Reformation, which did see people leaving the Church, with much positive fruit as the result.

    In fact, the very church you attend, James, exists because its founders had the courage to leave the Church and move towards where God was calling them.

    So it is with Hebrew Roots and the Church.

    One last thing. You continue to exaggerate our position, James. I did not say the Church is the enemy. I did not say the church must be 100% Torah observant compliant. I did not say Hebrew Roots is the only way. This is what I mean when I say you and your peers continue to make a caricature of our beliefs. Hyperbole hurts your credibility.

  13. One last thing. You continue to exaggerate our position, James. I did not say the Church is the enemy. I did not say the church must be 100% Torah observant compliant. I did not say Hebrew Roots is the only way.

    OK. If the church doesn’t have to be all those exaggerated things, and you agree that the church should be reformed (as opposed to abandoned), then make a suggestion. What do you propose?

    1. I propose we lead by example: in both private family life and in public congregational setting, we live the Torah lifestyles that God’s called us to. We should maintain a good relationship with those in the Church. And because faithful Torah life without community is not possible, we should join with like-minded believers.

  14. …the pulse-beat of His heart.

    I’ve always been curious about his DNA myself, Dan. 😉 jk

    Dan, you present a well balanced viewpoint with your own life and history as an example as to how Boaz’s vision in TOD can actually work.

    “Judaism does not need Gentiles coming to synagogue. What Judaism really needs is billions of friends to help prevent another Holocaust, not facilitate one by encouraging assimilation and conformity.” (TOD, p. 181)

    An apt quote and one I see in the church I’m attending.

    My stance on a Gentile Christians involvement with Torah is well documented, so I won’t repeat it again (though I’m sure I will in future blog posts), but relative to that, a Christian doesn’t have to be Torah observant as you might see it in a Hebrew Roots congregation to be supportive of Jews, Judaism, and Israel, and to repair the rift (Tikkun Olam) between Christians and Jews within the Messianic space and across it to the other Judaisms.

    The church, and I use that term now to describe the entire body of non-Jewish believers regardless of denomination, sect, or tradition, is stronger united than fragmented. We are also a stronger ally of Judaism when we’re united, and we are better able to fulfill the unique role given to use by God to “provoke zealousness” (referencing Jordan Levy) in our Jewish brothers and sisters back to the Torah and back to God and the Messiah.

    All of this is my opinion based on just a ton of reading and discussing. Your mileage may vary.

  15. Judah, the loose assortment of Hebrew Roots groups are “denominations” of a Protestantism, of the Sabbatarian sort (of which there are others). Most meet in churches too – the same churches they claim to have left! There are other Protestant groups that appreciate Torah and Sabbath. But don’t feel left out – so is the majority of the mostly non-Jewish Messianic Jewish congregations, especially those founded by the Baptists and Assemblies of G-d. Messianic Jews assimilate and intermarry within those MJ congregations almost at the same rate as they do in churches, just perhaps not as rapidly. The “Hebrew Christians” had it much worse when it came to assimilation, of course – they virtually had no chance. It just the way things are at this stage of history. It takes real effort for a Jewish follower of Jesus not to get lost in Christianity.

  16. Gene said: “It takes real effort for a Jewish follower of Jesus not to get lost in Christianity.”

    Agreed. How much more easily a gentile who is drawn to Torah, Israel, and the Jewishness of Jesus.

  17. I propose we lead by example: in both private family life and in public congregational setting, we live the Torah lifestyles that God’s called us to. We should maintain a good relationship with those in the Church. And because faithful Torah life without community is not possible, we should join with like-minded believers.

    Judah, Hebrew Roots is all but invisible to most churches, therefore, it becomes extremely difficult if not impossible for you to “lead by example.” Also, if Christians do not see the rationale by which you lead a “Torah lifestyle,” they are unlikely to let you “lead” them anywhere. It takes relationship and trust in order to get anyone to seriously consider an exchange of ideas and viewpoints that has any hope in promoting change. I don’t see your model working. I think the best Hebrew Roots can hope to accomplish is to provide a home congregation for those non-Jews who believe as you do.

    If I’m wrong and your model manages to instill widespread change in many churches, I will be surprised, but so be it. That said, my original opinion is unchanged. Dan’s messages above seem to indicate that the threat of assimilation is not a foregone conclusion for all church-based believers who lead “Hebraic” lives.

    1. If numbers are what counts, why talk about Messianic Judaism congregations, which number far fewer than Hebrew Roots congregations? (“Messianic Judaism is all but invisible to most Jews in the Church…”)

      Fine readers, I think more than ever before, more than any time in history, God has awakened gentiles to the Jewishness of Jesus, the righteousness of Torah, and a return to Israel-centric faith. James poo-poos this, and says we won’t be able to change anything. There will always be naysayers on the outside who would tear us down or discourage us. We must carry out despite them.

      I believe in my heart with full conviction that God has greater things for us than going back to the Church, grander things than going back to square one. If God has really done this awakening to Israel, the Jewish Jesus, and to Torah, then let the naysayers be shown to be fighting God’s move among the gentiles.

  18. “Agreed. How much more easily a gentile who is drawn to Torah, Israel, and the Jewishness of Jesus.”

    Judah, there are churches who are drawn to those same things, but in a much more balanced way (read: without imagining themselves as “Israelites”) than your average Hebrew Roots OL or TH congregation.

    Bottom line – if Hebrew Roots congregations had a healthier perspective on the Gentile Torah obligation and did away with all their current passive-aggressive love-hate relationship with Judaism, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Perhaps in some ways the Hebrew Roots became like the Catholic Church (but in much shorter time), imagining themselves as “Israel”, setting up their own “synagogues sans Jews” etc, and a “Reformation” is needed to change its course toward the abyss (that is being wild donkeys kicking against everyone). Perhaps leaving it altogether for healthier pastures is a good idea for many involved.

  19. Gene,

    You talk about aberrations, when both you and James hold a belief that is considered heresy by Christendom for over a millenia: that Jesus is not deity and should not be worshiped as God.

    When you solve that plank in your own eye, then come talk to me about Torah obligation levels.

  20. They (FFOZ), Preach for Messianic Gentiles to stay in the Churches and not keep the whole Torah and then turn around and running to sell the “Torah Club” to these same Gentiles…And they want people to give them credibility?….I guess money hes no odor….

  21. You talk about aberrations, when both you and James hold a belief that is considered heresy by Christendom for over a millenia: that Jesus is not deity and should not be worshiped as God.

    I don’t know about Gene, but you are certainly mischaracterising me, Judah. That I don’t share every single modification or change in my theological views doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I just don’t tell everything about me on my blog, believe it or not. Not long ago, you accused me of making straw man arguments. Now you’re dragging this old chestnut into your comments to distract from the primary argument.

    Fine readers, I think more than ever before…

    Whenever you wax poetic and address the “Fine readers,” I know you’re about to make your summation, Judah.

    I believe in my heart with full conviction that God has greater things for us than going back to the Church, grander things than going back to square one. If God has really done this awakening to Israel, the Jewish Jesus, and to Torah, then let the naysayers be shown to be fighting God’s move among the gentiles.

    Sorry, Judah. I don’t believe that God has cut off the church in favor of Hebrew Roots anymore than I believe that God has cut of the Jewish people and Israel in favor of the church. You’ve just taken replacement theology to the next level. Now that you’ve presented your views and I’ve presented mine, let the readers decide how best they believe they can serve God. I know you didn’t say it this way, but I’m not prepared to throw the Christian church and everyone faithfully worshiping God within it under a bus.

  22. “You talk about aberrations, when both you and James hold a belief that is considered heresy by Christendom for over a millenia: that Jesus is not deity and should not be worshiped as God. When you solve that plank in your own eye, then come talk to me about Torah obligation levels. ”

    Judah, you chose to make this personal, to attack me and James, instead of addressing the general theology of a group that we may belong to. This is THE definition of seeing a “speck” in your brother’s eye. You don’t know what my exact beliefs are in that regard, because I have never expressed them to you nor am I interested in expressing them just to run myself through your ad-hoc Inquisition.

  23. They (FFOZ), Preach for Messianic Gentiles to stay in the Churches and not keep the whole Torah and then turn around and running to sell the “Torah Club” to these same Gentiles…And they want people to give them credibility?….I guess money hes no odor….

    Oh, hi Dan. Hope your knees are continuing to heal.

    That’s kind of a non sequitur comment, don’t you think? When’s the last time you’ve actually read any of the Torah Club series? It’s changed quite a bit from the original incarnation. I just wrote a detailed, six-part analysis of Torah Club Volume Six and its treatment of Act 15. If you want to get an update on what Torah Club is like today, please start with Part 1 and work your way through the series. I think you’ll find that it has developed significantly.

  24. …nor am I interested in expressing them just to run myself through your ad-hoc Inquisition.

    Actually, I almost blogged on all this (again) to update my stance but was advised against it for the exact reasons you state, Gene. In the end, we’re answerable to God, not the religious blogosphere.

    NOTE: This discussion has taken an undesirable direction and conflict has become personalized, which is exactly what I want to avoid. I’m very close to closing comments. Please be advised that I’ve already made minor edits to comments and am fully prepared to eliminate individual comments altogether or to turn them off for this blog post.

    Thank you.

    Signed, “The Management”

  25. “That’s kind of a non sequitur comment, don’t you think? When’s the last time you’ve actually read any of the Torah Club series? It’s changed quite a bit from the original incarnation. I just wrote a detailed, six-part analysis of Torah Club Volume Six and its treatment of Act 15. If you want to get an update on what Torah Club is like today, please start with Part 1 and work your way through the series. I think you’ll find that it has developed significantly.”

    Good, James. You get an A for using college words (non-sequiter)…As for the rest, you have no idea what I am saying, do you? So here it is one more time:

    Huckstering “Torah Club” to Gentiles and at the same time telling them that the Torah is not for them is the ultimate deception. You need to stop drinking the kool-ade….

  26. The comments have degraded below the level of usefulness. It’s been a good conversation up to this point and I thank everyone for participating. See you in tomorrow’s “morning meditation.”

    Comments Closed.

Comments are closed.