Saturday, December 08, 2007

Messianic Jews Respond to Hagee

As a follow up to my previous post about John Hagee's new book, In Defense of Israel, I offer a few thoughts from the realm of Messianic Judaism. A friend, who is a Jewish believer, sent me a link to a statement put out by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) regarding the book, in which he argues that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah for the Jewish people, only the Savior of the world (the world excluding the Jewish people, presumably). It's no surprise that they do not find his views favorable; I thought they did an admirable job of shooting his claims down (which is not hard to do, hence the short space it took them to do so).

But I found their final paragraph enlightening:

To teach that Jesus did not come as the Messiah for the Jews is ultimately anti-Jewish. Jesus becomes the savior of the world, but with no particular relationship to the Jewish people. If Jews want to respond to him as savior they have to leave Israel and its messianic hope and become part of something universal. In contrast, when we declare Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, we do not invalidate Israel or the Jewish people. Yes, Jews need to respond to Jesus, as do all people, yet in this response they discover that he is distinctly Jewish, distinctly relevant to them, and very much a part of the Jewish story.

This was something I had not thought about, but is completely true if one takes Hagee's viewpoint. If Jesus did not offer salvation to the Jews, but only to the rest of the world, then for a Jewish person to follow Jesus, they would have to renounce Judaism, since Jesus never offered them salvation. They'd have to become a Gentile in order to follow Jesus. After all, as Hagee says in his promotional video, "how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered?" (For the record, I am against "blaming the Jews" on some corporate level for rejecting Jesus, that's not the point I'm arguing). Turning Hagee's thought on its head, how can the Jews accept what was never offered? The answer (as the UMJC points out): cease to be Jewish.

I encourage you to read the fuller response written by Rabbi Russell Resnik, who handles a few more issues of interest.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I don't like to make the claim of heresy, but...

it's hard to be kinder when watching this advertisement.

This is a man who pastors a church of almost 20,000 people. Thousands more watch his television programs, who knows how many people read his books. This isn't dispensationalism, this is outright denial of who Jesus is and claimed to be. Scary stuff.

He makes a couple true statements, or at least half true. I agree, it's hard to make the claim that the Jewish people "as a whole" denied Jesus as the Messiah, since the majority of the earliest Christians were Jewish. But really, that depends on how you define "as a whole" anyway.

And I agree that there was a "conspiracy" to kill Jesus, though I wouldn't include Rome within that conspiracy. The conspiracy more likely involved individuals within differing sects of Judaism (Pharisees and Sadducees) and even some of Herod's followers (Mark 3:6, 12:13). I'm not sure you can call Rome a co-conspirator, though clearly responsible for the death of Jesus (which admittedly gets underplayed in many circles).

But to claim that Jesus never claimed by word or deed to be the Messiah, well, that's outright unbiblical. In fact, I wonder if Hagee will come out with a book denying the divinity of Jesus as well, since that is even "harder" to argue from Jesus' teachings and actions (mind you, I don't think it's all that hard, but it's even less explicit than his Messiahship). I wonder what Hagee thinks the word "Christ" means. I was under the assumption that most know it is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah (Anointed One). I suppose he could argue that Christ claimed to be the Anointed One, but not the awaited Messiah. However, it would be awfully hard to argue that a Jewish person in the 1st century would differentiate.

So, I leave you with the words of John (1 John 5:1):

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

a newlywed Christmas lesson

The other night, Lisa and I set up and decorated our first Christmas tree as a married couple. After we strung the lights and took out the box of ornaments (thank you, Bruce and Morgan), Lisa was about to put a random, non-descript ball on the tree. I stopped her and said, "wait, since this is our first Christmas tree, shouldn't we put a special ornament on first?"

"Great idea!" she responded. We both reached for what we considered a "special" ornament.

She proceeded to grab an ornament that was given to us as a gift by a family member for our first tree (it has "The Pierces" and various glittery things on it).

I, on the other hand, had a slightly different definition of "special" and proceeded to grab my new Red Sox ornament.

Guess who got their ornament put on first? I have much to learn.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I've died and gone to heaven

This week was a monumental time for me, one that will go down in history as the week of 2 unexpected, life changing surprises (if I may use a little hyperbole, though not too much).

First, on Sunday, I received my favorite wedding gift of all, Gordon Fee's new (destined-to-become-a-classic) book, Pauline Christology. I love it so much, I'm giving you a picture:

Fee, as many of you know, is my favorite Bible scholar. God's Empowering Presence (on the Holy Spirit in Paul's writings) is my favorite biblical studies book, by a large margin. One point of interest for me in both of these books is that they were written largely because no one else has covered these subjects. Fee, while working on other projects, noticed that few, if anyone at all, have actually sat down to write books on these two topics, which is astonishing considered the centrality of Christ and the life in the Spirit in Paul's life and ministry (biblical studies has become such a "niche discipline" that the main points often get overlooked). I'm really looking forward to diving into this book (I've read the first 30 pages or so, which were enough to cause me to sit around and day dream about becoming a Bible scholar again).

So, thanks to my good friend who bought this book for me as a wedding gift (you know who you are). If salvation were obtained by good works, your ticket would be purchased and heavenly passport stamped.

My second unexpected blessing was the discovery of This is a site meant to provide opportunities for those who do not (or cannot) attend seminary to listen to classes given by scholars and professors. A number of my former profs are on here, including a class or two that I took in seminary. You have to register, but it is free. The classes can be listened to through Windows Media Player or Quicktime (for Mac users), and can be downloaded on MP3 (perfect for our iPod culture). Many of the classes have the lectures transcribed and outlined. They are adding more classes soon (I can't wait for some more Craig Blomberg).

I'd highly recommend Douglas Stuart's Old Testament Survey. I did not take this class in seminary, but I knew a few folks who said that this was their favorite class in their years at school, so I look forward to checking them out. Honestly, OT Survey wouldn't rank on too many people's list of anticipated classes, so if it this highly regarded, you know it has to be good. Also, I also want to give a plug for Tim Tennent's missions classes (there are more to be put up, hopefully soon). Tennent is, quite simply, one of the best professors and lecturers I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. You will be richer for listening to them.

As someone who teaches Bible classes in the local church, I've been looking for good online resources I can recommend to my classes (I teach 2 nights a week). For various reasons (maybe to be discussed in another post on another day), there has been a long standing rift between the church and the academy, one that I think is to the serious detriment of both. I seek to bridge that gap as best I can when I teach. More often than not, those in my class (I can't really call them my "students", that sounds way too formal for my teaching) have to rely on my own personal anecdotes and take my word for it that these scholars are not stuffy, ivory tower types (Doug Stuart is a great example of a world-class scholar who is anything but stuffy). This online resource enables me to point members of my church to specific lectures and classes to get a "scholar's take" on a topic. Some of the classes are even condensed to shorter classes (called "Foundations" on the site), so they don't have to listen to the full 30 hour version (though they may want to).

One feature I hope to utilize when I have more time is the "custom class" feature. I can pick lectures and classes that I want and set up a "class" for folks to log on to and listen. I may be able to supplement much of my own teaching (or am I supplementing them?). I can have a "listen to this" portion of a class, enabling folks to download them to their iPods and listen on their own time, and we can discuss the content in class. At any rate, I can't stop thinking about it and I'm beginning to become obsessed.

Yes, Christmas came a few weeks early for me this year.