I am early on an airplane tomorrow. Thus, two posts in one day because I will get back late tomorrow night.

Our study group met with Rabbi Jeff last week. Rabbi Jeff is a conservative Jew, not a messianic Jew. He is Hasidic by background, a descendant of rabbis for generations. He reads the New Testament in Greek, carries a copy of it in his shirt pocket. He is also a musician (rock and roll mostly) and one of the funniest guys I have ever met.

This was a get acquainted meeting. Part of his ministry is bridge building with other faiths. He has no problem presenting his faith or listening to you talk about yours. He gives permission to all of us to repeat his teachings, so I am not violating any confidences.

Among other things we talked about his belief in reincarnation, which he finds in Judaism. This is a logical conclusion from his belief that, as he says, God has made us flawed. We are flawed by God’s design. As we work our way to goodness, the world is prepared for Messiah. Messiah will come when you and I have progressed to the point where we have made the world good enough for God (or God’s representative, as Rabbi holds that Messiah is a position, rather than a specific person. He has the same contention about the Satan, which he feels is a position designated to various created beings from time to time.).

Now, I felt it necessary to contend with the rabbi at the point of Jewish perfectionism. Christians believe in grace (unmerited favor). We believe that God made us innocent and sin made us flawed. We do not believe that we are going to make the world so good that God will want to come but that God has come, time and again, but never more clearly than in the God-Man Jesus Christ.

So, three hours were taken up with spirited discussion on the goodness of man over against the sanctity and holiness of God (to which we both hold but in different ways.). Our group agreed that Jeff must come again. He is eager to do so.

One truly provacative point came when one of our fellows asked about Jesus’s contention that he came to fulfill the law. Jeff translates the word we translate “fulfill” as “practice.” That is, Jesus is saying he just came to practice the Old Covenant Law, not to fulfll it. My contention there is that context argues against such a translation because Jesus quotes the Old Covenant law and then extends it to thought and intention, rather than mere actions.

In short, this time Jeff did not make me a Jew and I did not make him a Christian. I did tell him I want to spend eternity with someone who is so funny and easy to like. When we argued over perfectability, I told him I do not believe we are perfectable (in this life) but that we are resurrectable. He delighted me by saying he believed that Jews are resurrectable as well. He believes in a heaven but not a hell, which he claims comes only from the captivity period in Jewish teaching and is based on the Zoroasterian theology of durative conflict between good and evil, with the outcome always in the balance. Brian McClaren has some thoughts on that subject as well.

Friends, it is good to be in love with the process of helping people come to Christ. We can enjoy leaving the outcome to God who neither fails nor makes mistakes.


5 thoughts on “rabbi”

  1. Brother Rick,
    I enjoyed meeting with Jeff and talking with him. He appears to be very knowledgable in the Hebrew faith and is able to break down the Hebrew language. It is also evident that he is well versed in ‘New Age’ religion and its pantheistic views. He seemed to believe in reincarnation, yet he never actually discussed it.
    I would have no problem in debating a person like him, but I believe it is ill-advised to let someone like him have an open forum to explain his views before us. He is starting an inter-faith group which speaks volumes to me. As he stated, peace is his main thrust and “why can’t we all live in peace.”
    Throughout the world, most religion are acceptable with the exception of Christianity and Judaism.
    We’re not to be mesmerized by an ‘angel of light’; his doctrine is in opposition to what a Christian believes. I have witnessed to many people like him and I will continue to do so, but I do not plan on listening to someone like him on his relgious philosophies.
    In all candor, I’m not interested in hearing from him again.
    Dr. John Brooks

  2. Dr. John Brooks writes:
    I would have no problem in debating a person like him, but I believe it is ill-advised to let someone like him have an open forum to explain his views before us.
    Obviously I wasn’t there, but it doesn’t sound to me like he had an “open forum”. He had a place to air his views, yes, but they did not go unchallenged, nor where they before an uninformed, ill-equipped audience. It sounds to me like the discussion could only serve to equip those present in being able to better share their faith. And if we are going to expect people such as this Rabbi to listen to our views, shouldn’t we also be prepared to listen to theirs?

  3. By nature a conversation is a two-way thing. When I proposed to my wife I hung around for a response. We have had many conversations about having and raising our children. These are some of the vital topics of life. Why would we desire that THE vital topic of life – new life – be a monologue?
    I think one reason a lost world isn’t willing to listen to us is because we aren’t willing to extend the same favor. By the way…there are lots of people I love who think and are different than me and frankly I’d rather sit down for a conversation with them than debate them.
    Anyway, thanks, Rick, for the example! May the conversation continue.

  4. John,
    Why are you comfortable debating Rabbi Jeff but uncomfortable having a conversation? Rick seemed to say it well, neither of them were persuaded to abandon their beliefs but both gain perspective, patience, and a confidence in their beliefs as they dialogue. I was able to sit in on the conversation for a few minutes and found it stimulating. This is our challenge to be comfortable with midrash (an open forum where we do not have control). If we are going to be Christian in our current culture we must abandon control and learn to listen!
    Chris Seay

  5. I find it important to make a few more comments and then I’ll let it pass. Jeff is resigning from his position as a Jewish Rabbi and is starting an interfaith ministry. I believe that the points of view mentioned are primarily taken from listening to many secular views. What is taking place here is in harmony with the ecumenical view point. Present-day ecumenism is no longer concerned with mission, but dialogue, according to the motto: “You believe in my faith and I will believe in yours.” Other adherents of ecumenism say,” We want to build bridges and not walls.” Still others think that peace and harmony are the main things to strive towards.
    Jesus came to bring a sword to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let us not be blind-sided by smooth sounding talk. Jeff, from his comments, does not believe in the God of the Bible, according to the Bible. He says that he teaches both the Old Testament and New Testament yet does not believe that either one is the inerrant word of God. 2 John 9 says “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11 Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
    If you would like more information on Judaism, I suggest that we invite people (believers) who can address this subject. And yes, this was principally a closed form to his thought and Ideas. A few comments of disagreement were made, but mostly we listened to him.
    Paul wrote in response to my comment that: “I think one reason a lost world isn’t willing to listen to us is because we aren’t willing to extend the same favor.” I witness on the streets of Dallas weekly and have found the main reason that people don’t listen is because many ‘professed Christians’ are nominal in their views, statements and principally in their actions.
    Chris, I never said that I felt uncomfortable debating Rabbi Jeff. For a professed preacher and follower of Christ, the truth must be maintained and taught. We didn’t teach him anything, he was doing more of it than we were.
    Dialogue changes people’s views, like it or not. The news media has proven this over and over again.
    In closing, witnessing is a life-style and not a debate. A little bit of yeast, in this case, a point of view that is diametrically opposed to what Jesus taught can affect everyone that is exposed.

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