Judaism and Christianity

A Partnership of Christianity and Orthodox Judaism?

A group of prominent Orthodox rabbis in Israel, the United States and Europe have issued a historic public statement affirming that Christianity is “the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations” and urging Jews and Christians to “work together as partners to address the moral challenges of our era.”

-Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D
“Orthodox Rabbis Issue Groundbreaking Declaration of Affirming ‘Partnership’ with Christianity”
BreitBart.com

Actually, I heard about this a few days ago but according to one Jewish source, this is to be dismissed as a “bunch of interfaith liberal rabbis” attempting to mollify Christians (and Muslims) by (hopefully) having everyone “make nice” wi one another.

I didn’t think anymore about it until I saw the BreitBart.com article on Facebook, however, since BreitBart isn’t known to be unbiased, I thought I’d look for other news sources covering the story.

pope francis
2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea

Apparently, this is associated with something I wrote recently regarding how the Vatican has changed it’s stance on converting Jews. It’s not that the Roman Catholic church has ceased all efforts to share their version of Jesus Christ with Jewish people, it’s simply that they state they no longer have a specific mission to the Jews. They also (apparently) now believe that Jews have a covenant relationship with God without first having to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Messiah.

Anyway, I found a couple of other sources, one being The Times of Israel and the other being Christianity Today.

The Times of Israel story says in part:

In its statement, “To Do the Will of Our Father in Heaven: Toward a Partnership between Jews and Christians,” the rabbis who signed the statement “seek to do the will of our Father in Heaven by accepting the hand offered to us by our Christian brothers and sisters.”

“It is a groundbreaking statement,” Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn said. “It’s the only statement I know of by an international Orthodox body that talks about the practical and theological relationship with the Roman Catholic church after Nostra Aetate.”

Rabbi Korn, who lives in Teaneck and Jerusalem, was one of the drafters of the statement, which was published by the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, an interfaith center in Israel founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. Rabbi Korn is the center’s academic director.

Of course, an organization called The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) would have a vested interest in promoting good Jewish-Christian relations, so this statement can’t be a complete surprise.

epelman rosen
Image: Alessandra Tarantino / AP Images / Rabbi Claudio Epelman and Rabbi David Rosen

But just as the Catholic statement previously issued does not represent formal policy of the Vatican, the Christianity Today (CT) story made this observation:

While the Jewish statement is a signpost of improving Jewish-Christian relationships, it shouldn’t be interpreted as a consensus among Jewish rabbis, Orthodox rabbi Yehiel Poupko told CT.

“No major Jewish Halachic (Jewish legal) authority has signed the statement,” he said. “And Jewish thought has, for centuries, emerged not from individuals signing letters but from a long, slow process of scholarship that builds communal consensus. This statement did not do that. In addition, complex theological issues do not readily lend themselves to full expression in short sentences presented in brief public statements.”

In other words, steps are being taken in the right direction (seemingly), but nothing is official. This won’t change things as much as some folks wish it would. However, the CT story added:

But it isn’t meaningless.

“The statement is a very real indication that the Orthodox rabbinate is grappling with how to understand Christianity in an era when Christianity is reaching out to Judaism and has repented of its sins against us,” he said.

The warm relationship between Jews and evangelicals is still in its infancy, Poupko said. “We are feeling our way, and this statement should not be viewed as a consensus, let alone a final statement. Rather, it’s an indication of the theological and intellectual ferment in the Orthodox rabbinate about Christianity.”

Christianity—and Islam, for that matter—are actually Jewish success stories, he said, “because Christianity and Islam use the Torah, and as a consequence, people who would now be pagans have knowledge of and are in relationship with the one God.”

I suppose this goes along with something I quoted yesterday from this source:

By the way, Maimonides states that the popularity of Christianity and Islam is part of God’s plan to spread the ideals of Torah throughout the world. This moves society closer to a perfected state of morality and toward a greater understanding of God. All this is in preparation for the Messianic age.

But as the CT article points out:

Experts told CT that neither statement wipes out the significant theological differences between Christians and Jews.

brickner
David Brickner – Jews for Jesus

Not only that, but as you might imagine, a number of Christian evangelical organizations are rather put out by both the Vatican’s statement and that of (possibly) CJCUC:

Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner was more forceful, calling the Vatican’s position “egregious.”

And…

Jim Melnick, international coordinator of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE), agreed.

However, the CT article ended with a quote from Jason Poling, a “co-convener of the national Evangelical-Jewish Conversation:”

But the theological divide shouldn’t stop the Jewish-Christian conversation, he said. “Jewish-Christian relations can only be enriched by the participation of colleagues like these Orthodox rabbis who recognize theological pluralism as a phenomenon without embracing it as doctrine.”

Curious, I went to the CJCUC site to read the actual statement. The statement includes seven somewhat lengthy points so I won’t quote them here. You can click the link and read them for yourself, along with a list of the Orthodox Rabbis who signed it (electronically).

The bottom line? I’m not sure there is one, at least nothing particularly dramatic. At best, I’d have to say this is part of the slow evolution the Christian and Jewish worlds are experiencing as we enter into the “birthpangs of the Messiah,” anticipating the events that will lead to war and destruction which will bring Israel to the brink of non-existence before the Messiah returns to bring victory, redemption, restoration, and justice.

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13 thoughts on “A Partnership of Christianity and Orthodox Judaism?”

  1. My wife showed me this statement, and my reply to her was as follows:

    Well, it appears to be very much a hope-filled and optimistic statement that attempts to focus solely on a positive outlook and generalities and opportunities for common-cause efforts while turning a very blind eye toward any of the problematic issues that distinguish and separate these two major religious categories. But, as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”; and it remains to be seen what happens when one scratches the surface and explores any depth of interaction. But certainly it is a statement that reciprocates the Roman Catholic statement “Nostra Aetate” and a variety of Christian Zionist expressions of support for Jews and Israel and common interactions between Christians and Jews. I foresee yet a bit of stumbling ahead over the meaning that each side is willing to pour into statement 6: “Our partnership in no way minimizes the ongoing differences between the two communities and two religions…”, because its inherent validation of Jewish distinctiveness and particularism challenges directly the inherent non-Jewish universalism that Christianity cemented into place at the Council of Nicaea. On the other hand, it is effectively an affirmation of the decision of the Jerusalem Council of Emissaries in Acts 15. Then again, while statements of general principle may be wonderful, unless all interacting individuals incorporate them into their specific behaviors and attitudes the statements are moot. It remains to be seen also just how many or how few orthodox rabbis are willing to commit their reputations to this statement, including those in more “ultra-orthodox” camps. Percentages matter when one is looking to influence large bodies of people in this manner. Moreover, if we ask what effect any of this might have on Jewish messianists, and on gentiles aligned with us in common cause, we also must face the challenge of Messianic Jews dedicated to HaRav Yeshua ben-Yosef maintaining Jewish covenantal responsibilities for distinctiveness in our religious behavior vis-à-vis these and other gentiles, and commonality and unity with other Jews. If we do not so, we may expect continuing opposition from the well-meaning Jews who subscribe to this statement as well as from those who do not subscribe to this optimistic statement.

  2. My opinion is that these “make nice” statements are largely symbolic and, as I mentioned in the blog post, probably don’t amount to much more than a step in the right direction. True peace between us all will be enacted by Messiah.

  3. True, but as we consider the social mechanisms by which he may accomplish that goal, human cooperation will be required. Statements of this sort indicate a degree of willingness to cooperate, even though it is unlikely that they will be especially effective before he arrives to add his impetus to the process.

  4. I suspect that, as we near the endgame of history and approach the Messianic age, there will be less cooperation, not more. Only a remnant among the nations will remain loyal to Israel and faithful to Hashem.

  5. I read the entirety of both statements. There is some pretty big stuff there coming from the Catholic world: repudiation of replacement theology and the notion that the Torah is done away with. These have been axiomatic in the Christian world for centuries.

  6. I just read this blog post at The Rosh Pina Project which addresses these recent issues but adding their interpretation of a brief commentary made by Mark Kinzer.

    In watching the Kinzer video (only about three minutes long), I didn’t interpret it in the same way as it’s characterized on the RPP article, but then again, I don’t know everything. Any ideas on this, folks?

  7. I agree that the RPP article did not represent Dr.Kinzer accurately. Dudi viewed the matter through a Protestant Christian lens, and he seems also to presume that MJ is a Protestant expression of faith. I’ve done my best, via my reply posts, to challenge such notions.

  8. Looking back at your article above, James, Lausanne (at least a representative of which objected) has a heritage of promoting “Kingdom Now” and “seven mountain” attitudes and activisms in society, right? To take over in sectors and all of every day life. I suppose “Evangelicals” have to go through a stage of this kind of arrogance, as daughters of the Catholic/Orthodox Church, thinking they should rule even though they may not think Catholicism should have done any such thing.

  9. Kinzer became a believer via the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement and has been involved dialogue with leaders in the Catholic Church for many years.Why should we be surprised he believes ‘the church’ is Catholicism.

  10. I think a similar comment was made on the RPP blog post and the debate continues there. I know next to nothing about Dr. Kinzer so I don’t have a vested interests in establishing an opinion. I just thought that it would be difficult to extract all of that information from a three-minute video.

  11. I would add that historically (that is, based in fact or real occurrences), the church IS Catholicism (or — depending on the timeline and preference of supremacy — Orthodoxy) and the subsequent offshoots and rebellions (or reforms and so forth). “The Church” (like Catholicism more specifically or any other branch) is not in the Bible (not even the apostolic writings or newer testimonies or whatever nomenclature is desired). The word “church” is used for expediency in current terminology, but this hardly makes it so that Paul or anyone else we refer to, nor God through their work, established the church. Church is a later phenomenon and does (as well as did), in various forms of it, some good (and obviously some not so good and even a lot bad). The c/Church is almost anything and in a way nothing. As some solid subject or entity of theology or truth, it can be the variable X and only exist theoretically; discuss as the value for x is given or postulated. Determine what you will do with your life based on the power you give it or — as it is [or they are] a phenomenon in our existence — can’t escape. But really, there is no church foundationally.

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