The Vatican says the Catholic Church must not try to convert Jews to Christianity.
Instead, the Catholic Church must work with Jews and Jewish institutions to further dialogue and mutually understand and fight anti-Semitism, according to the Vatican, which pledged “to do all that is possible with our Jewish friends to repel anti-Semitic tendencies.”
It [the document “The Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable”] added, “In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”
Goals in Jewish-Catholic dialogue, according to the document, include “joint engagement throughout the world for justice, peace, conservation of creation, and reconciliation” in a way that would make the religious contribute toward world peace. “Religious freedom guaranteed by civil authority is the prerequisite for such dialogue and peace,” it said.
“In Jewish-Christian dialogue the situation of Christian communities in the state of Israel is of great relevance, since there — as nowhere else in the world — a Christian minority faces a Jewish majority,” the document said. “Peace in the Holy Land — lacking and constantly prayed for — plays a major role in dialogue between Jews and Christians.”
from the article “Vatican Says Jews Don’t Need Christ to be Saved”
Well, that’s quite the revelation.
I’m sure anti-missionary groups such as Jews for Judaism will be happy to hear they won’t have to worry about Roman Catholics trying to convert Jews anymore.
I do agree that, as much as evangelism is a priority for the Christian Church, most Christians seem to think of converting Jews in a different light than any other people group. Maybe they think they get extra “points” from God when they convert a Jew (not that most Jewish people would feel good about this).
According to an Arutz Sheva story on the same matter, the authors of the aforementioned paper state:
How Jews being saved while not believing in Christ “can be possible remains an unfathomable mystery in the salvific plan of God,” they say.
I tried to find Christian reactions to this situation, but the closest thing I could find was at Rapture Forums (the name already has my spider-sense tingling).
One person wrote:
Clearly, they don’t believe the Bible…Acts 4:12.
The word MUST, must be emphasised.
Another person commented:
So much for John 14:6.
Don’t need that anymore.
Another referenced Matthew 23:37:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”
The news is pretty new, so a lot of folks may not have weighed in with their opinions yet.
I turned to Facebook and something called The Truth is Viral displayed the most comments of anyone posting this story, at least as far as my short search could find.
Of 27 comments, the first two that appeared were:
Ronald: The Babylon Whore that rides on the Beast and commits fornication with the kings of the Earth . The Anti-Messiah who is drunk with the blood of the saints.
Matt: There was a Twilight Zone like this, the whole world had to change and we thought it was to get along but the reality was to see who was strongest and we destroyed ourselves.
Others accused the Pope of worshiping Satan, that Mohammad was a false prophet (though Mohammad and Islam have nothing to do with this as far as I can tell), and other similar statements.
I decided to return to an old source for a more sane perspective:
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.
-Dr. David H. Stern
taken from his book Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel
as quoted at Tikkun Ministries
I’ve heard it said, according to a source I quoted over eighteen months ago, that one of the primary functions of Yeshua’s first coming was to provide proof that God’s New Covenant promises to the Jewish people were true.
For instance, the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36) promises a universal resurrection from the dead. Yeshua was the first person resurrected from the dead, also called “the firstborn of the dead” (Colossians 1:18). He’s the first, but certainly not the last. His resurrection establishes proof that God will resurrect all of the dead in time.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to the point where even the least among humanity will have an apprehension of God greater than the prophets of old, was also established, first by Yeshua (Matthew 3:13:17), then by the Jewish apostles (Acts 2:1-4), and finally even coming to the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46).
The New Covenant states that God will forgive the sins of all Israel, which is restated in Romans 11:25-27, and Yeshua forgave the sins of many due to their faith in Hashem and his ability to do so.
Thus Yeshua made a partial delivery on God’s promises and he will complete his mission fulfilling all that Messiah is to do upon his return.
You can click this link to read my thoughts on an insightful comparison between those Jews who have accepted the revelation of Yeshua as Messiah and those who haven’t. In essence, it seems to partly agree with the Pope that the Jewish people are already born into a covenant relationship with Hashem, so that even those who reject Yeshua are not excluded from the Sinai covenant or necessarily from the New Covenant, even though Messiah is the arbiter of that covenant.
I also have to agree somewhat with this latest assessment by the Catholic Church that we do not fully understand the exact mechanism by which Hashem will accomplish all these things. We do know from the New Covenant language that He has promised to do it, and so He will.
Yeshua points Israel back to Hashem and His promises to them. For the rest of us, who were born with no covenant relationship with God whatsoever (unless you accept what is written in Genesis 9 as the Noahide covenant which is binding on us), God, through His mercy and grace, is willing to include us in many of the blessings of the New Covenant, even though we are not named participants, and for the sake of His prophets who declared that every knee will bow (Psalm 72:11; Isaiah 45:22-25; Romans 14:11).
So it’s not like Yeshua is a moot point to the Jewish people or Israel. But Israel’s status in relation to Hashem is somewhat different from that of the Gentile believers because they have a pre-established relationship with God that the rest of the world lacks. Yeshua is the lynchpin, but as Stern pointed out, that works out somewhat differently for the Jewish people than it does for everyone else.
I think I understand, at least a tiny bit, what the Pope is trying to do, relative to establishing better relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, but how he delivered his information, or at least how it’s been covered in the media, is probably going to kick up a major dust storm in the Christian world, particularly with conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists.
Christians, in general, believe the New Covenant fully replaced all prior covenants God made, and so they believe that God’s relationship with everyone, including Jews, is identical and that the Jews have no special status. Until the Church learns to accept that Israel remains in covenant relationship with God, they will continue to woefully misunderstand the Jewish people and God’s plan of redemption.
I can only imagine that this blog post could be read with considerable “annoyance” by some Jewish people as well as some Christians, and believe me, I did not write this to offend. I did want to explain (and obviously, I’ve written on similar matters previously) that what the Pope’s comments touched upon is a highly complex situation that is poorly understood by the vast majority of believers, including Christian clergy and scholars.
For that matter, the role of Yeshua as the forerunner of the completed New Covenant promises is poorly understood by both Christians and Jews. Again, I say this not to offend, but to illustrate that what we think we know from the Bible is a highly nuanced and subtle set of messages that requires careful unpacking and analysis. This is difficult for most people because long-established traditions on both sides of the aisle have been constructed to obscure this perspective.
If anyone is tempted to complain to me about this, I ask that you first consider these words:
Instead of complaining about someone’s behavior toward you, it is more constructive to work on your own behavior toward him.
Ignore another person’s grouchiness and anger, and speak cheerfully and with compassion. If you find this difficult, pretend that you are an actor on stage. Adopting this attitude can keep people from much needless quarreling and suffering. Do it consistently and you will see major improvements in their behavior toward you.
Be flexible. People differ greatly on what they evaluate as “positive,” and it is necessary to understand the unique needs of each person you’re dealing with. If one approach is unsuccessful, try other approaches. But keep trying.
-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Put On Your Best Act”
from the Rabbi’s book Gateway to Happiness, p. 137
quoted at Aish.com
As I mentioned a few days ago, in a difficult situation, it is best to seek that small encouraging light in otherwise dark and foreboding surroundings. A fitting sentiment for the current season.