In a couple of months, I will be speaking in Chicago to a group of sophisticated Christians, Jews who believe in Jesus, and some curious Jewish people. My topic will be, “Is Your Gospel Good News for the Jews?”
As I demonstrate conclusively in my forthcoming book, “Converging Destinies: Jews, Christians, and the Mission of God,” coming out within the next month of so, my answer to that question is “No. The gospel as normally construed and presented is not good news for the Jews."
Here is but one example of why I say that the gospel as normally construed is not good news for the Jews.
Let’s say you have a Jewish friend before you. Call her Marcia. Here is the gospel as normally conceived of, but not really honestly presented to Marcia. This is the message. “Of theological necessity, your entire departed family, your grandma and grandpa, your great grandparents, departed cousins, uncles, and aunts, all your relatives, and the vast majority of your Jewish people for 40 generations, 2000 years, are all being tormented forever and ever in a Lake of Fire. But you will get to go to heaven to be with the redeemed and with Yeshua the Messiah if you will believe and receive my message. Isn’t that good news?”
I trust that with very few exceptions, all reading this will agree with me when I say that is only good news for Jewish narcissists who care only for themselves. No, my friends, this is the worst possible news for the Jews as a people.
When I go to Chicago, one of the things I am going to talk about is having a Jewish-Friendly and even Judaism-Friendly Gospel. Hardly anyone at all has that right now. Instead, you will hear people concerned to win Jews to the gospel speaking of “the religion of the rabbis” as a sort of rhetorical swear word predicated on the assumption that Judaism is an ersatz religion, and that its custodians are phonies and usurpers. The gospel as normally presented is NOT a Judaism-friendly message. Such a message tells Jews that the religion that their ancestors lived by and died for for countless generations is a worthless lie. I even remember reading how one prominent Jewish mission leader said that the rabbis are not interested in promoting their congregants' relationship with God but only with keeping them from believing in Jesus.
Go ahead. Try and find a nastier comment. It will be hard to do.
No, the gospel as normally construed and presented is not good news for the Jews, nor good news about the Jews. It is only good news for those Jews who are prepared to turn away from and even against their people and their way of life.
It doesn’t have to be that way, you know. There is a way of conceiving of the gospel which is not just user-friendly but Judaism-friendly and Jewish-friendly. But first we will have to realize there is a problem.
One of the places I talk about this problem is in the second chapter of my forthcoming book, Converging Destinies: Jews, Christians, and the Mission of God. The second chapter of that book is titled, “Do You See What I See? Western Christian Theologizing as a Skewed Tradition.” And the chapter, and the rest of the book, says much that needs to be said on these matters.
For now, here is how Chapter Two ends. I trust many of you will buy and read the book when it comes out.
If we are to redirect our path, we must identify where we have gone astray. This is what I have sought to do in this chapter, and recapitulate here.
As I read Christian theology, I see another Jesus than I see in Scripture. The church has transformed Jesus the Seed of Abraham, who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David and the ultimate King of Israel and the nations into a generic Christ, a cosmic Christ, a metaphysical ahistorical figure. Christendom has made the Son of David into the “Son-of-Man-Without-a-Country.” Do see what I see?
As I read Christian theology, I see another people of God than I see in Scripture. I see the church as the Borg, devouring cultures and assimilating people into a multi-individual entity which presses people toward uniformity—everyone being the same, rather than what the Scripture holds out to us—that unity whereby God is glorified people and people groups remaining different yet living in peace. Do you see what I see?
As I read Christian theology, I see the church arrogating to itself the status of being the New Israel, having succumbed to the arrogance which Paul warned about, a church which has forgotten it is a guest in the Jewish house of salvation, grafted into a Jewish olive tree, co-heirs with the Jews who were are, and evermore shall me the foundational people of God. Do you see what I see?
As I read Christian theology, I see another consummation than I see in Scripture. I see spiritual vision eschatology with its assumption of a dehistoricized, depoliticized, actually dehumanized humanity comprised of countless individuals who now have nothing in common except their redeemed and glorified status. And their eternal occupation of transfixed adoration. In contrast to this prevailing paradigm of spiritual-vision eschatology, I see an eternal state in which all of us are fully human, with resurrected bodies and ethnic identities intact, rejoicing not simply as nationals but as peoples in the presence of the One True God in all the beauty of cultural and ethnic differentiation. In such a vision of the eternal state we will not be less different but more so. As discrete redeemed peoples, tongues, tribes and nations, we will be utterly diverse. We will all appreciate, rejoice in, and understand totally the richness of each people’s uniqueness. We will be gathered together, united but not uniform—all of us redeemed, all of us glorified, and all of us living in peace and unity. In place of a spiritual vision eschatology and supersessionism predicated on a gospel of non-differentiated uniformity, I see the God of Israel and the church as the author of a gospel of differentiated unity. I see a converging destiny for Israel and the nations. Do you see what I see?
I see the outworking of what Yeshua told the Samaritan woman, that salvation is from the Jews. I see a church drinking living water from the same well as the Samaritan woman, a well the church did not herself dig, a well of living water that is first and foremost Jacob’s well. And it still is Jacob’s well, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29).