Prominent Messianic scholar Michael L. Brown and Jews For Judaism rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal are keen to stress that they are friends. They are full of compliments of each other, as good friends should be.
Rabbi Blumenthal recognises Dr Brown’s powerful oratory skills, and – like Moses and Paul before him – bemoans that he is a better writer than a public speaker.
Rabbi Blumenthal challenges Dr Brown to a written debate, not a spoken debate. This way, both sides get to analyse the evidence and consider the facts in their own time. In a written debate, it’s not about who can think fast or speak convincingly. Just the facts.
So Rabbi Blumenthal has started a blog, writing in an entry about “works“:
Christianity teaches that no good works of men are counted as righteous before God. It is difficult to think of a concept that is more contrary to the Jewish scriptures.
That’s not exactly the case – I pointed out in a comment that Christianity actually places a high value on good works, which should be inspired by grace and motivated by faith in Yeshua.
I wrote that Martin Luther hated the book of James, because he considered it to be obsessed with law and works, so clearly a forgery.
However, Luther was not an apostle and James was.
James’ epistle is still considered as Holy Scripture, and Luther’s commentaries are not.
So the New Testament clearly teaches that good works before God are commendable.
Here’s a quote from James 2, verse 14 onwards:
My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!
Suppose someone disagrees and says, “It is possible to have faith without doing kind deeds.”
I would answer, “Prove that you have faith without doing kind deeds, and I will prove that I have faith by doing them.” You surely believe there is only one God. That’s fine. Even demons believe this, and it makes them shake with fear.
Does some stupid person want proof that faith without deeds is useless? Well, our ancestor Abraham pleased God by putting his son Isaac on the altar to sacrifice him. Now you see how Abraham’s faith and deeds worked together. He proved that his faith was real by what he did. This is what the Scriptures mean by saying, “Abraham had faith in God, and God was pleased with him.” That’s how Abraham became God’s friend.
You can now see that we please God by what we do and not only by what we believe. For example, Rahab had been a prostitute. But she pleased God when she welcomed the spies and sent them home by another way. Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead!
Now, I understand how this passage may be hard to deal with for an anti-missionary. If it’s your job to show how Christianity is so opposed to good works, and someone points out to you that good works are commended in the New Testament, then it makes your job a bit awkward.
Ironically, it might be in the anti-missionaries interest to paint a portrait of the New Testament most hostile to Jewish ethics, in order to convince other Jews that the NT isn’t Jewish.
So, despite posting my comment about the book of James on Rabbi Blumenthal’s blog twice, it still hasn’t appeared. I appreciate how WordPress can be hugely fiddly, and I understand it can be tricky to manage comments, especially at the beginning.
If this is the case, that’s perfectly understandable. But if Rabbi Blumenthal has begun deleting comments, it rather questions his commitment to a fair and honest written debate.
(Update: R Blumenthal writes in:
First of all – if you have any accusations against me – and you are serious about the truth – then please write to my personal e-mail which you now have as an administrator of this website – otherwise – I may not find out about your accusation at all – I just happened to chance on this one.
I did not delete any comments from my blog)
And, more importantly, do you agree with Martin Luther that the Book of James has no place in the New Testament?