Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Should a Messianic Respond to the Question: "So What Religion Are You"?


Acts 15 Discussion with Local Messianic Congregation

A few days ago, a local Messianic leader invited me to participate in a discussion about Acts 15.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to discuss one of my favorite subjects with this wonderful group of Torah-true brothers and sisters!  Praise G-d!

Please pray for this time of fellowship that G-d will be glorified in our mutual study of His Word.  May there be an outpouring of His Spirit which we so desperately need!


Recovering Judaism: Why Neusner's Book on One Law is the Most Mind-Blowing Book I've Ever Read (CONTAINS EXTENDED EXCERPTS)

This morning I woke up at around 5AM.  I hurried to the computer and began typing.  Because I love all of you, I painstakingly typed out most of the preface and a large portion of Chapter 1 from Neusner's "Recovering Judaism."

Why did I do this?

Because what he presents is simply astounding:  

(1) the reality that the Bible story of Israel's exile and restoration is the story of Adam and Eve's (i.e. humanity's) exile and restoration to "Eden";

(2) a new way of defining our Messianic faith:  WE BELIEVE IN A META-ETHNIC JUDAISM!;

(3) the fullest and best explanation of why ALL of humanity must keep the One Law found in the Torah of Moses.

So what follows is an extremely long excerpt.  In the next few days, there will be additional posts.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

So It Turns Out....NEUSNER WROTE A TREATISE ON ONE-LAW!!!

So I was at the library just now.  And stumbled upon this book:


I kid you not, this is literally a treatise promoting One Law.  I was shocked that THE most prestigious Jewish scholar of our time wrote this.  I'm flipping through, he's talking about how Israel isn't just this ethnic group but it's the segment of humanity that follows G-d and keeps the Torah of Moses.  He expounds this idea in ways I hadn't even considered.

So here's what I'm going to do:  I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning extremely early and actually read through this book, maybe dig up a few reviews online, and I'll share my findings in a post.

Neusner! Of all people.  One Law!

Stay tuned...

Rabbi Alan Brill's Full Summary of His Book "Judaism and Other Religions"

CLICK HERE FOR LINK

A Book I'll Be Reading Later Today: Rabbi Alan Brill's "Judaism and Other Religions"

So I know very little about this book.  But, judging from the table of contents and several online reviews, it looks interesting.  Here's the table of contents:

Preface

1 Beginning the Conversation

2 Theological Categories

3 Biblical and Talmudic Texts

4 The Inclusivist Tradition

5 The Universalist Tradition

6 Pluralism

7 The Exclusivist Tradition

8 Gentiles

9 The Phenomena of Religion

10 At the Dawn of a New Century

McCarn Responds to My Review of "Give Me a Place Where I May Dwell"


You can see the response HERE.  As I anticipated, McCarn is a reasonable man and open to refining his views when necessary.  While we may not see eye to eye on everything, the following common ground is sufficient for now.  In his response, he says:
"By overemphasizing physical descent I have obscured two important points...the nation includes many who likely have no physical descent from any of the Twelve Tribes, and for that reason the primary criterion for inclusion in the nation is covenantal."
Good, productive conversation.  Many thanks to McCarn for being open to an exchange of ideas!

Shalom,

Peter

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Individualism in Messianic Ministries is Hurting Us as a Movement and a QUESTION

Not too long ago, there was a video put out by some Jewish Christians who apparently lived in Israel.  As is typical of Christians, they attacked Judaism by attacking the Rabbis.  The thing that bothered me most, even more than the unfair attacks, was the arrogance behind it.

And then a member of a well-known One Law ministry made some public comments that expressed approval for the awful video and I called this person out.

Oops.

The readership to this blog plummeted (it has since recovered).  The person in question quickly de-friended me on Facebook (which in Medieval times would be like slapping someone with a glove).

Now, I'm not bringing this up to cast any blame--I'm sure I deserve most of the blame, not being the most diplomatic person in the world.  I'm bringing this up because it highlights a faulty value system in our Messianic movement:

It seems that most ministries prize individualism (independence) over holism (interdependence).

I seem to recall that there was a scholar named Hofstede who wrote extensively about the differences between Eastern and Western culture.  I'm probably not going to get this exactly right but I believe he explained that there exists a continuum of values between the opposite poles of individualism and collectivism that might look something like this:

Individualist values:  self-sufficiency, independence, non-conformism, role aversion, individual decision making, independent living, self-guided

Collectivist values:  cooperation, interdependence, role acceptance, group decision making, group living, group-guided

The idea was that Western countries, because of affluence and modernism, place more value on the individualist values.  Be true to yourself, do what feels good, don't listen to "authority", let's all promote equality because everyone is absolutely the same--let's even have gender neutral bathrooms.  And in the Eastern countries, people actually listen to their elders, they are true to their group at the cost of personal desires.

The ideal is probably somewhere in the middle of the continuum, where value is placed on both the individual and group--I would call this holism (from the Greek holos for "whole, entire").  Holism respects the needs of the whole entity and the needs of the individual, attempting to find a balance between the two different sets of needs.

An example would be marriage.  My wife and I are equals.  She has elected me, in a way, to be a leader in the functional sense.  I'm the "head" but I don't act without her approval--decisions are arrived at mutually.  This is dynamic is a blend of individualism and collectivism, an attempt to balance the needs of the collective (marital unit) and the needs of the 2 (extremely different) individuals that form the "whole".

But in a marriage there's great incentive to work together.  We see each other every day.  We share the same goal of raising a wonderful daughter to live as a Daughter of the King.  The needs of our "collective" are very real and immediate to us.

But unfortunately these collectivist needs are ignored by most independent Messianic ministries.  They are autonomous, self-sufficient, independent, self-guiding, accountable to no one but themselves.

Even this blog could be considered individualist!  I do try to minimize individualism however by encouraging dialogue.

But there you have it.  We Messianics have a little problem with too much individualism and not even collectivism.  In short, we're not operating holistically.

My question for you, Dear Reader, is simple:

What's the solution?

Because we desperately need a solution!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How Not to Write a Messianic Nationalist Manifesto [SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS]

INTRODUCTION

What would happen if tomorrow all the nations of the world went to war against the People of G-d?

Most Believers in Yeshua (a.k.a. Jesus), upon hearing such a strange question, would be dismissive.

The typical thinking might go something like this:

it's very unlikely that anyone would try to systematically destroy all of the Believers in the world--indeed, there are many pluralistic nations who value and support religious freedom.  Not gonna happen.  And even if Satan did somehow manage to marshal all the nations of the world against the People of G-d, what could be done?  We're not called to defend a literal fatherland.  Our home is in heaven, not on earth.  If we are called to suffer persecution, we will suffer it gladly--even if it means surrendering our very lives.  We are a dispersed and scattered people.  That is our lot.  G-d never intended for His followers to unite and form their own country.  Yes, it's true that G-d intended for the Jews to unite and re-form Israel.  But that's because (1) the Jews inherited the Land of Israel from Abraham their father; (2) the Jews believe they have to keep the Law (but we Gentiles are not under the Law) and; (3) the Jews, having suffered tremendous persecution, must have a homeland in order to survive.  In short, G-d intends for the Jews to function as a nation descended from a common father (Abraham), comprised of a common family (the Jewish family), living in common fatherland (Israel).  But G-d does not intend for Gentiles to view Abraham as their father, or to view themselves as being welcome in the Abrahamic fatherland (what business does a Gentile have being anywhere near Israel?), and He certainly doesn't want Gentiles to think that they should be keeping the Law of the Jews.  

But what if these sentiments are wrong?  What if rejecting the instructions, family, and homeland of the father only leads down a path to destruction?  What if the opposite is true?  What if national survival depends on:

(1) recognition of a common "father's instructions";

(2) recognition of a common family descended from that father;

(3) recognition of a fatherland.

DISAMBIGUATING MESSIANIC NATIONALISM

Nationalism is simultaneously one of the most important aspects of existence and one of the trickiest concepts to define.  It has been described as an "imaginary community" in the sense that national identification requires you to imagine yourself belonging to a vast nation which consists largely of people you've never met--you must imagine these people as your community or family.  Yet there's so much more to nationalism than that.  It affects everything about you:  your worldview (including your beliefs about what forms of state government your nationalism should take), your way of life (e.g. the way an American should behave), and the group for which you are prepared to give your life.  So it's a pretty big deal.

Because nationalism is so powerful, it has been used for both tremendous good and terrible evil.  We're all aware of the evils of German national socialism.  The Germans took a nationalist idea that could've been used for good--for the self-protection of the German people for example--and they infused it with a sense of ethnic superiority and entitlement to territory belonging to other nations.  Because the infrastructure of their "imagined community" was wrong, built on a false foundation, the consequences were catastrophic.

The Germans are not the first to have committed atrocities due to a misguided sense of nationalism.

Yet nationalism can also be a force for good.  King David was faced with a divided kingdom.  But he encouraged the various tribes to view one another as members of a single nation.  He encouraged the tribes to unify their focus, to center upon Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant--and the Law it contained, so that they would see themselves not as two separate houses (nations) but rather as a single, unified Kingdom (and family).

This is the ideal of nationalism:  turning all of the peoples toward the G-d of Israel, to the Holy City, and to the Messianic King who will eventually establish His earthly rule there amongst His People--all of the People of G-d.  In short, Messianic Nationalism at its best is the belief that there is only one family of G-d, that we share a common father (Abraham), and, thus, a common worldview, way of life, and fatherland.

PROPER AND IMPROPER EXPRESSIONS OF MESSIANIC NATIONALISM

What should Messianic Nationalism look like?  We have folks like Dan Benzvi who say that Gentiles essentially have no business being anywhere near the Land of Israel (despite Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 2, Micah 4, Zechariah 2, 14, etc).  We have folks like James Pyles who say that Gentiles Believers are destined to belong to "vassal states" excluded from the nation (i.e. family) of Israel.  This fits well with his Bilateral Ecclesiology (Dual Family Theology).  Perhaps James sees the suzerain-vassal relationship between Davidic Israel and Moab and Edom as ideal?  But those states kept their own gods, their own way of life (i.e. their own laws), and rather than identifying as "Sons of Abraham", chose to identify as Sons of Moab and Sons of Edom (with all the separatism and antagonism that implied).  We have folks like certain segments of the Two House movement who would have Gentiles formally and publicly identify as being physically descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel and base their entire sense of nationalism on that supposed ancestry.  But that requires believing in something that may or may not be true.  And since nationalism, as explained before, affects everything in our existence, do we really want to base it on something that may or may not be true?  Also, are we really certain that we want to intentionally resurrect the Two House model as though it is some sort of ideal to be attained?  Did not the Two House model result in the destruction of the United Kingdom of Israel?

But here's an even trickier question:

Zionism offers one form of nationalism to Messianic Jews.  Is this the only viable nationalist option for ethnic Jews in the Body of Messiah?  And, if all of the ethnic Jews in the Body of Messiah suddenly decide to accept the Zionist form of nationalism and make aliyah to Israel, would this not result in a de facto Bilateral Ecclesiology?

So as we keep in mind that our nationalism will affect our sense of family (ecclesiology), the individual we identify as a common father, and the way of life and worldview inherited from said father, we must begin to eliminate nationalist options that would conflict with sound Theology or that might endanger the Modern State of Israel.  How not to write a Messianic Nationalist Manifesto? I think if we keep in mind the following principles then we will avoid a misguided sense of nationalism:

(In no particular order)


  • We must respect the Jewish claim to the Land--all of it, not just the ancestral tribal allotment given to the tribe of Judah.  Jews have the priority because they are the only identifiable, ethnic descendants of Abraham.  Furthermore, they may actually need to claim the entire Abraham Territory of Israel for the purposes of self-protection of global Jewry.
  • We, Gentile and Jewish Believers, must identify as being "Sons of Abraham" but in different ways, Gentiles being grafted in or "adopted" into the family.  Gentiles must recognize this adopted status so that they remain humble.  A Gentile must never usurp but rather approach with a servant's heart.  


Well, I suppose there's more to add but those are the basics.

Does anyone have any thoughts about what forms Messianic Nationalism should (or shouldn't) take?










Friday, April 3, 2015

Super Sports Fans and Nationalism: A Question for James Pyles and Dan Benzvi




I'll never forget listening to my dad as he watched sports games on tv.  If the team he was rooting for made an unforgivable mistake, you would hear, "Aw, MAN!!!"  But if they did something right, you would hear, "ALL RIGHT!!!"


But the team he was rooting for would depend on that particular game.  In one game, he might be cheering for Virginia Tech to win.  In another game, he would be cheering for UVA (University of Virginia) to beat Virginia Tech.

It was as though each game he would select one team to be his "sports family"--and that of course meant that the other team were the "enemy outsiders."  If the "enemy outsiders" did something to hurt the "sports family", like a foul or whatever, then he would feel something like anger.  And if the "sports family" fought their way back to victory then he would experience something like joy.

In nationalism, like with sports, one imagines his family.  Example 1:  I'm a Virginian.  I don't really know anyone from California.  Yet I feel that Californians belong to my American family.   I imagine them as family.  Why do Americans imagine other Americans as kin?  It's not as though we're related by blood.  Why do we do it?

For one thing, we imagine that we have the same capital--the seat of power for America--which is Washington D.C.  It's impossible for an American to go to Washington and not feel a swell of nationalist pride when we see the various monuments.

For an American, Washington D.C. is the hub that holds our entire country together (unless you're a die-hard Southerner in which case you might still feel some measure of loyalty to Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Southern Nation--the Confederacy).



Quick story:

I'll never forget on 9/11 seeing ominous smoke rising from the Pentagon.  I was particularly concerned because I knew my brother lived in that area.


And I'll never forget driving past the Pentagon a year or so later and how I felt when I saw the rebuilding...


When I thought of those crews working tirelessly to rebuild what the terrorists had destroyed--and when I thought of this important building to our capital, what it's reconstruction signified for all of America...well, I'll tell you I felt a surge of pride for my American family.

Here's my question for James Pyles and Dan Benzvi:

Should Gentiles be angry when Jerusalem is attacked?  When they see the satanic Mosque sitting where the Temple should stand?

Should Gentiles rejoice when Jerusalem rejoices?

In other words, should we not see Jerusalem as the capital of our family?

Or should we Gentiles view ourselves as the "enemy outsiders"?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What Happens to the Messianic Gentiles if All the Messianic Jews Make Aliyah???

"So shall ye divide this land unto you according to the tribes of Israel," Ezekiel 47:21
I have a sincere question.  Anyone feel free to answer.  We in the One Law movement talk about how much we hate "Bilateral Ecclesiology" which is a fancy term that the UMJC came up with for their utopian Messianic Judaism:  separate communities for Jews and Gentiles.  We hate that idea because we love fellowship between Jews and Gentiles.  I love Jews with all my heart!  I hate the idea of separation.  And so I'm forced to wonder...

What would happen to the Gentiles if all the Messianic Jews made Aliyah? 

Believe me I'm not saying they shouldn't return to their ancestral homeland as is their right--I'm just wondering how a mass exodus would affect us Gentiles!

I know most people will say that's a silly question, that there's no chance of that happening...  But we live in a day when G-d is calling Jews back to their homeland as many suffer persecution, as many countries that had once been allies of Israel turn out to be enemies of Israel...

Jerusalem was always a rally point for Believers in the G-d of Israel...  "Next year in Jerusalem."

Is it not a rally point for us Gentiles?

I just recently finished a book that has me doing a lot of thinking.  And, to help answer those questions, I was given another book yesterday that deals with Israel in Prophecy.  I'm going to read it and do some more thinking.  In the mean time, I would appreciate anyone's thoughts on the question:

What would happen to the Gentiles if all the Messianic Jews made Aliyah? 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Most Ambitious Book I've Ever Read

So I just finished reading the most ambitious book I've ever read.

The book entitled, innocuously enough, "Give Me a Place Where I May Dwell" by Albert J. McCarn, attempts to do for the Messianic movement what Theodor Herzl did for the Zionist movement.  In other words:

this book is an attempt to galvanize a global "exodus" in which the Gentile Believers (i.e. the Lost Tribes of the House of Israel) exit their native countries and embark on a mass migration that culminates in a broadened territorial alliance with the modern Jewish State (i.e. the House of Judah).

You know, End Times kind of stuff.  : )

I would love nothing more than to review the book this very morning.  But unfortunately I can't shoot from the hip on this one.  Just to summarize the book adequately will take time--despite it being a relatively short book.  And I also want to include an assessment of the author's claims which will involve unpacking a lot of complex subjects (e.g. nationalist theory as it relates to different versions of Two House theory).

Stay tuned.