Are messianics missionaries? We asked the experts

The August edition of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition has an article by Rabbi Riskin entitled “the Messianic movement” (Update: available online as Jpost article Dialogue: The Messianic Movement - August 28th).

Rabbi Riskin comes off as a bit of an apologist for the messianic movement. While he clearly indicates that Jewish believers in Jesus have taken themselves out of Judaism and are in error, he does express an understanding for those who need “ to retain the Jewish identity while maintaining a belief in Jesus”.

Rabbi Riskin seems to feel that messianic Christians, for the most part, do not have a missionizing agenda and want to “practice their faith” in peace.

While Rabbi Riskin is firmly opposed to the term “persecution” when describing the reactions experienced by the messianic community in Israel, he does confirm as truth that the messianics in Israel have experienced “discrimination” and face “prejudices”.

Jewish Israel, feels that Rabbi Riskin’s attitude and approach lend legitimacy to, and strengthens, evangelizing Christians as a community in Israel.

Our academic advisor, Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf, feels that “Christianity is, by definition, a missionizing faith. Hence, Rabbi Riskin’s assumption that messianics simply wish to follow their faith and abjure missionizing is highly problematic. The fact that we have a common foe in jihadi Islam does not mitigate the serious differences between Judaism and Christianity.”

We showed a number of counter-missionary professionals excerpts from Rabbi Riskin’s article, and the opinions of Rabbi Stuart Federow, Professor Uri Yosef, and Mark Powers have been posted here

We also turned to former Christian bible teacher, evangelical missionary and “messianic Jew”, Penina Taylor for her take on some of the things Rabbi Riskin penned in August's Jpost Christian Edition. Penina returned to Judaism and now serves as the Executive Director at Shomrei Emet Institute for Counter-Missionary Studies.

[Note: At the beginning of the article Rabbi Riskin does make it clear that, “Mainstream Jewish thought and law do not subscribe to the belief in Jesus or the sacredness of the Christian Testament. If a Jew believes in Jesus as divine and savior, he has taken himself out of Judaism and is in error. While I may understand the need to retain Jewish identity while maintaining a belief in Jesus, in no way can one dilute the law to be part of Judaism.”]

RABBI RISKIN: “It is easy to say the Messianic community is a monolith and they all wish to bring the Gospel to every Jew. The truth is many just want to practice their faith in private and have no active agenda in missionizing other Jews. However there is a minority who use deceptive proselytizing practices to win Jewish converts.”

PENINA TAYLOR: “This statement is ill-informed. For all messianics will agree that the New Testament, or Brit Chadasha as they will call it, is the infallible, inerrant Word of God. They will all agree that the New Testament is authoritative and that its instructions are to be carried out by all believers. That being the case, then, they must all agree that they are required by God to fulfill the Great Commission.”

“Additionally, all messianics will agree that the New Testament is clear that without a belief in Jesus, we are condemned to Hell. This belief is what gives fuel to carry out the great commission to preach and convert.”

“While it can certainly be argued that not all messianics use deceptive techniques, it cannot be argued that messianics have no agenda to missionize other Jews. To say that Messianic Judaism is not monolithic and to imply that it has changed is to challenge the messianic belief in the unchanging “Word of God” (namely, the New Testament). Anyone making such a claim has no understanding of the depth of faith of the messianic in his Bible.”

RABBI RISKIN: “The religious conversation between Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians is a new endeavor, and there are forces that want to stop this sacred work by stating that any connection to Christians adds fuel to the Messianic movement and puts Jewish souls at risk.”

PENINA TAYLOR: “The only thing new regarding the religious conversation between Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians is that for the first time in history, the Jews are willing participants in the conversation. The Christian has always endeavored to engage the Jew in such conversation, convinced that the authenticity of his argument is so strong that anyone willing to truly listen will become convinced in its veracity. The fact that this new conversation puts Jewish souls at risk is confirmed in the statement by messianic Scott Sekulow who stated that more Jews believe in Jesus today than in all of history combined. This new conversation is directly to blame for the phenomenon.”

RABBI RISKIN: “As pioneers, we are taking the brunt of criticism from Jewish and Christian circles. Our intention is pure, and we understand that a partnership with the Christian world is a necessity and a duty as a nation state. Both our faith communities are challenged by radical Islam on one side and secular materialistic culture on the other.”

PENINA TAYLOR: “There is a fine line between purity and naiveté. While a joint enemy may be cause for alliance, it does not justify cohabitation. Such actions will, while attempting to protect the Nation from the outside, ultimately result in its destruction from the inside out. The ones that G-d will hold accountable for such destruction will be those who fought hardest for this new reality.”

Jewish Israel encourages Rabbi Riskin and Penina Taylor to continue the debate on this issue in a real forum, as interfaith relations in this day and age are a matter of concern for all Jews and beg clarification and guidelines.

Please take the time to read additional counter-missionary opinions related to this post.

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Comment by Jewish Israel on August 7, 2010 at 11:59pm
Few people have the vision and capability to understand how friendly missionaries and brutal terrorists both simultaneously pose serious existential threats to the Jewish people at this time. It appears that in a quest for physical survival, we Jews have put our spiritual continuity at risk. But any attempts to legitmize and bring "Jewish believers in Jesus" into the realm of normative Judaism would utterly destroy our foundations, and could ultimately cause more damage to the Jewish people than anything Ahmadinejad has up his sleeve.
Comment by Jake Jacobs on August 7, 2010 at 10:53pm
Rabbi Riskin and Israeli politicians who believe that we can have peace with the Arabs have one thing in common, they see the world from their own make believe tunnel vision and WANT TO BELIEVE that the other side is as good as they are, when it's quite clear that the "other side" have their own agenda, which is common to them both, ie the end of the Jewish people.
We should stop believing that the Arabs & the Messianics just want to "live in Peace". Their actions -or lack of action in stopping terrorism and missionaries- speak louder than words. But there are none so deaf as those who will not hear, and none so blind as those who refuse to see.

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