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”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.